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A Few Video Chat Tips Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

24 March 2020

These days social distancing has been somewhat mitigated by an increase in FaceTiming and Skyping. We may not be able to be in the same room together but we can see each other on our screens, whether it's a monitor, tablet or phone. And that certainly does a body good.

But you can make the experience even more enjoyable for whoever is on the other end of the video chat line by employing a few simple tips gleaned from video production. They are a few very simple things that avoid problems we aren't always aware of.

Most of them deal with the image rather than the audio. Audio will remain clear and pristine but video almost always can use a little enhancement.


Before you make the call, consider your room lighting. Ideally you want the main source of illumination coming at you from a 45 degree angle. But because your phone accentuates contrast, try to get another if further away light coming at you from the other side.

You can kill both of those birds with one stone during the day by sitting at an angle to a window that beams light onto a lightly colored wall on your opposite side. That's easier than it sounds. Just face into a corner with a window on your left side.

And you can always bring your own light. A table lamp, a flashlight, anything you can put where it will beam a spotlight on you.

We reviewed the Chatlight a while ago and it's worth reprinting how even a small, simple light can enhance the appearance even of a crash dummy:







Off Camera



Legend: 0 show Chatlight off; 1/2 shows lower output setting,
1 shows full power setting and 1+ shows full power held off camera.

Just don't put it on the floor, angled upward. You'll scare the kids.


Give a thought to your background. To minimize it, bring your device closer to you.

But because device lenses are wide angle, you can't make the background blurry (except artificially with Skype's AI background blurring option). It will remain sharp. So try to find something that is not distracting.

Which in any cluttered modern room is easier said than done, we know.


One of the most annoying things about video chats is the handheld phone. The person holding the phone doesn't realize how unstable the image is that they are broadcasting.

That's because their preview is tiny. But what you see on your end is greatly enlarged. So as they move their phone around, you get sea sick.

The solution to this isn't necessarily a tripod (although if you have one, go for it). It's as simple as using something to prop up your tablet or phone and keeping your hands off it.

We use a small easel for our phone. For a tablet, we lean it against something on the table. Then we angle it to show us centered in the frame and forget about it.

Sometimes, of course, you want to conduct a tour so the device goes with you handheld. Just don't make it a habit to discombobulate your viewer.


Even if you have to lean your device against something, you are not precluded from adjusting the angle.

Generally, you want the camera to be looking straight at you. Slightly upward for men to make their jaw look more dominant and slightly down for women for the opposite reason has been the portrait photographer's rule for decades.

But what you want to avoid are the extremes of a low angle looking up your nose (as you may have noticed on so many Skyped news interviews lately) or a high angle showing it's time to dye your hair again.


The most important audio consideration to keep in mind is the problem of ambient noise. Turn off the TV or stereo. Find a quiet room, not the living room with a window open to street noise or the kitchen with the stove hood's exhaust fan running.


See, we kept it simple. It should be fun. And it will be if you can keep the technology out of the way.

Now, go call your mother.

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