Have you ever been on a Zoom call where someone’s face was so dark you could barely see them? Or maybe the lighting was so bright behind them that you couldn’t focus on what they were saying? If so, you know how distracting and frustrating it can be.
But why does good lighting matter so much on Zoom calls? Well, for starters, it helps to improve the overall quality of the call. When everyone’s face is well-lit, it’s easier to see and connect with each other. And let’s face it, when we’re on video calls all day, every day, anything we can do to make them feel more like in-person interactions is a plus.
Good lighting also helps to convey professionalism and attention to detail. If you’re on a call with a client, a potential employer, or even just colleagues you don’t know well, you want to make a good impression. Taking the time to set up good lighting shows that you’re serious about the call and that you value the other person’s time.
So, what makes for good lighting on Zoom calls? Ideally, you want to have a soft, even light source in front of you, like a lamp, panel key light, or a ring light. Avoid having bright lights behind you or to the side, as this can create harsh shadows and make it harder for people to see your face.
So, you want to improve your on-camera image by adding lighting, but don’t have any $$ to throw at expensive led key lights or ring lights? Well, I’ve got an incredibly simple solution for you! If you don’t have access to professional lighting equipment, don’t worry. You can still improve your lighting with what you already have in front of you!
Tip 1: The quick and dirty solution to your lighting problems could be the monitor right in front of you…
By opening an empty text file (NOT in dark mode), you have effectively created your own key light right on your monitor. Take it a step further and open 2 or 3 more empty text files and begin playing with positioning on your screen to allow you to both generate enough light as well as see the call participants as well.
Here’s a visual representation of what I’m talking about:
In the image you can see how I’ve set up two documents to frame the edges, and one on the bottom to create an almost ring-light effect. I’ve also added another doc to the left side of my secondary monitor (to my right) which acts as a side-fill light as well. (More details on my whole desk setup can be found here.)
So, those are the basics to create your own key light on your monitor.
Now we can dive into some additional tips and tricks to take it to even higher levels, some of which may involve spending money depending on what you have available already….
Tip 2: Warm up the light… If you’re on a MacOS platform, you can use True Tone or Nightshift to adjust the colour quality of light to bring a warmer tone to the white pages. Do this if your camera is pickup up too much blue or washed out tones.
Tip 3: Snap the windows to a grid… To make this even easier to setup, use a window manager to auto-snap the text documents to predefined grids to take out the pain of manually resizing and moving each document every time you join a call. I’m using Mosaic on MacOs, but there’s a plethora of tools available to accomplish this task on both Mac and PC, and PCs even have a windows manager built-in.
Tip 4: Automate it! Let’s get advanced now and do this all with a single button press. Using an Elgato Stream Deck, you can program a multi-action button to open a text editor, create 3 new documents, and snap the windows to a predefined grid. You could even add in automation to continue opening Zoom and snapping those windows accordingly as well. This is what my multi-action button looks like in my Stream Deck Zoom profile configuration:
Bonus tip 5: Create depth in your camera space by adding a low-brightness lamp behind you to uplight your background. This will generate space between you and your background to define and contrast you, providing a much more 3-dimensional visual impact.
Here’s a short video example of what happens when I press a button on my Stream Deck:
I’ll note here that I never turn on my overhead lights. At the beginning of the clip, it is normal ambient light from my two screens plus two on-monitor lights (OOWOLF Lightbars) and nothing else. The blue lights are generated from 3 different sources: an under-shelf LED, an over-head 4bar LED from IKEA (bought in the early 2000’s) and an RGB landscape LED spotlight that sits on a short rolling file cabinet. After that, it is all screen generated light from blank-documents as shown in the photo above.
Lastly, good lighting on Zoom calls is about more than just looking good on camera. It can also help to improve the overall quality of the call, convey professionalism, and even boost your mood and energy levels. So, take the time to set up better lighting for your next call, and see how much of a difference it can make!