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Best Zoom Call Lighting Tips to Look Great From Home

Working from home brings all kinds of challenges and finding a good working environment to suit the demands of video conferencing requires some thought and preparation. As Zoom calls become commonplace, now is the time to improve your home office lighting.

Stop relying upon the light from your screen to illuminate your face and follow our guide for an easy way to achieve a professional outcome for a great looking you. Now is the time to up your game and meet the demands of today’s video conferencing standards. 

Table of Contents

Best Position for a Zoom Call

The occasional working day from home was easily done, but prolonged time at the computer with the new reality of regular Zoom calls now asks more from our home’s lighting set up. Lighting will make or break the quality of your working day and your video calls.

You can do much better than this … read on!

Your wifi signal may dictate where you go, but wherever you end up follow these tips to avoid the visual distraction that bad lighting can bring and let good lighting contribute towards how well you communicate and the impression that you give.

Zoom Call Lighting with a Laptop

Where you work with a laptop may not always be the best position for a Zoom call so find where the most suitable place is for you with either a plain background or interesting but not distracting. We will consider the lighting set up as temporary and quick to set up.

Zoom Call Lighting for a Home Office

Whether a Static office with a PC screen or workstation in a shared room- your lighting decisions for a video call should be integrated into your home office lighting design for a permanently ready set up.

Improve Zoom Calls: Balance the Layers of Light

If you have a home office then you would certainly benefit from a considered lighting design to create the best overall working environment including for video conferencing, but even if you have perched somewhere with a laptop you still need to consider how well the lighting is balanced.

The best foundation for lighting your face on a screen during a call is to start with considering the 3 key layers of lighting that will create a shadow free comfortable work space that considers the contrasts your eyes have to deal with. Wherever you find your working position you need to consider each of these elements.

Ambient Lighting

Your working position should be as uniformly lit as possible, likely to be a mix of light from ceiling lights and wall lights but if you have strong downlighters in the ceiling avoid sitting under one. Even if your position for the call is temporary and not at a dedicated home office position where the lighting is already balanced, it is still important to increase the general level of illumination. 

Natural daylight creates the very best ambient lighting, helping create a truer representation of your face. If you use a laptop for your Zoom call, head to a position near a window and face the diffused daylight streaming through. However, avoid direct sunlight as it will be too bright for you and flatten the representation of you on screen.

Task Lighting

Choose a desk mounted working light that can adjust to light the table or working area you are sitting at. 

Accent Lighting

Accent lighting is the contributing lighting layer from wall lights, lit artwork, ceiling pendants, lit shelving – anything that creates a more isolated pocket of light that for a video call even if not directly seen in the backdrop will still add light from a different direction and not just the ceiling.

Best Home Office Lighting: 15 Pro Tips to Work From Home to pick up some great tips on improving your home office lighting design.

Position the WebCam at Eye Level

Now let’s set up the zoom call. You need your webcam to be at eye level if you can and avoid the view up your nostrils! Elevate a laptop webcam up on books or a small box and a monitor camera should already be at eye level. This sets you up nicely to look better and be ready to be lit well.

Best Zoom Call Lighting for a Face

The success of bright daylight from a window onto the face during a call demonstrates that in darker parts of a room in the day or night, supplementary lighting will always be needed. 

We can take the best practise for video and film lighting and apply it at a smaller scale at your desk or wherever you’re sitting.

Light From 4 Directions

3 point lighting illuminates a person to be filmed from a key light, a fill light and a backlight or hair light plus we want to light what’s behind you.

Key Light

With your screen in the middle, choose one side for the key light, the direction that most of the light will come from. This could be an adjustable desk lamp angled to the wall to bounce light back onto you or a closely positioned table light.

Zoom Call Lighting 3 Point Light © Think Media

Fill Light

Your fill light will be on the other side of your screen and should be a lower output than the key light. This could be the light from a second monitor, the reflected light from another desk light positioned slightly further away or any source of diffused light but just make sure it’s not as strong. 

Our aim is to enliven the three dimensions of your face by emphasising some form from a strong key light with it’s shadows softened from the opposing fill light, without overlighting and flattening your appearance.

Key & Fill Lights shape the face but overall too similar to the background. © Think Media

However, this is a great start but there is more still be to done to stop you blending into the background.

Backlight

The backlight or hair light as it’s called, is there to work some magic and help your face pop out of the screen by creating separation between you and the background. For a pro video there would be a strong light above and behind the subject lighting back onto their head, so you can try something similar but don’t mistake this for background lighting.

Side backlit hair without any background lighting. © Think Media

You need a light that will direct onto the back of your head so try attaching a clip on spotlight onto a shelf higher than your seated position and direct it onto the back of your head. It can be from the side or directly above.

A ceiling light above and behind you may provide enough light to stop the overall captured shot of your room looking flat and throw light onto the back of your head too. 

Motivated Background Lighting

The finishing touch for an incredible image of you is to adopt a clever trick from the film industry, that harmonises the entire screen by linking the light seen on your head from the backlight with an actual light fitting seen in the background.

This background light not only adds some interest but gives the impression of being the actual source of the hair light, making it all look more credible.

Zoom Call Lighting Motivated Background
Motivated Lighting: Background desk lamp visually links with backlit hair light. © Think Media

For your Zoom background lighting try:

The Right Amount of Light for a Video Call

Cheaper web cams struggle with reproducing quality images. They look ok when the lighting is right but will adjust the exposure of the image according to the brightest part of the screen as it tries to balance the image – sinking the face into darkness. 

Great exposure of a face not overlit and popping out of the screen. © Think Media

If there is a window behind your desk so the camera faces you and the window, your face needs to compete with the brighter window in the daytime. 

The difficulty is lighting onto the face can seem too bright to you the user but for the camera and recipient it’s the required concentration of light needed for a defined illumination of the face.

Choose Your White Light

The mix of qualities of your camera and the recipients screen will probably struggle to represent colors well, so we can assist this digital process of representation with wise color temperature choices.

The color of white from the choice of lamps you put in your light fixtures will have a particular quality of colour rendering and specification of white called a color temperature measured in degrees of kelvin. 

Best Color Temperature for a Video Call

You can assist your webcam’s color balance decision making by keeping all your sources of light from the same color temperature. 

Best Color Rendering for a Video Call

Standard LED lighting struggles to render colors well, not truely recreating colors as well as natural sunlight would. Our aim is to find lamps and lighting with high color rendering values but they are not easy to find.

Experiment

For a permanent position in a home office or work station you can have this trialled and successfully set up ready to go at all times. When using a laptop you will be finding a favourite position that may require the deliberate temporary borrowing of lamps for the call, so have your proven positions marked out with masking tape on the floor or desk or at the very least take a picture of your set up for next time. 

Andrew Orange , the owner of Orange Lighting qualified and worked as an interior designer in 1993 before specialising in lighting working on high profile projects based in London. Since starting Orange Lighting Ltd in 2003 he has been sharing his knowledge and unique teaching style mostly to his designer clients, offering practical real life advice born from running a busy consultancy and lighting supply business. Launching in 2020, his blog has evolved into Quick & Easy Lighting, curating some 25 years design experience into making the lighting choice and design process achievable and easy to understand for all.