Gina Gaston would never wear a dress with a sheer skirt on camera. But at home, the ABC 13 anchor pairs it with a blazer, positions her iPhone just right, and the audience is none the wiser.
“It’s a great blessing to be a home,” said Gaston, who has been broadcasting the evening news from her home office since March. “I can usually start the newscast in my Birkenstocks and finish barefooted.”
As millions of people have moved home to work from their dining table or makeshift office due to the coronavirus, virtual communications are the new way of doing business. More people are using using Zoom and other platforms, such as FaceTime and Skype, to communicate with colleagues. Even TV journalists are broadcasting the news from their living rooms.
Yet, putting your best face forward on camera at home takes some work.
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“You have to get your mind right when you’re working from home,” Gaston said. “I try to dress the part. Why should working from home be any different than at the office? But I do wear my sweats sometimes because you’ll never see them.”
The upside to working from home is that you can focus on looking your best from the waist up. But that also can be the downside.
Tips for looking good on Zoom
Camera angle. Position your computer on a stack of books or a box so the camera is slightly higher than your head.
Lighting is your friend. Place a tall desk lamp or ring light next to your computer on the side of your face.
Enhance the light. Designer Tom Ford suggest adding a white paper or white tablecloth on the table you are sitting at but make sure it can’t be seen in the frame. This will give your light more fill in and bounce.
Put on some makeup. Make sure you powder your face and makeup to enhance your look.
Comb your hair. That’s a given.
Tera Stidum will host a “Dating while Social Distancing” webinar on Zoom May 17. The cost is $29. For info, visit shedatessavvy.com.
Take ABC News reporter Will Reeve, son of the late “Superman” actor Christopher Reeve, for example.
He recently went on air from home without wearing pants — which normally wouldn’t be an issue when you’re working from home. Although his camera was positioned to show his suit jacket, viewers could also see his bare legs. They took to Twitter to call him out.
“I have arrived…In the most hilarious, mortifying way possible,” he tweeted back, reassuring followers he was wearing shorts.
Camera angles can make or break your look on a video call.
Designer Tom Ford has weighed in on the issue. He told the New York Times that putting the computer or laptop on stack of books so that the camera is slightly higher than your head is good rule, and make sure it only shows your head and mid torso.
Tera Stidum, owner of She Dates Savvy, an online dating consulting firm, has been using Zoom to conduct dating workshops and consultations since 2018. The author of “Smart Girls Don’t Date Dumb” also coaches singles on how to date virtually. On May 17, she’ll be hosting, “Dating while Social Distancing” webinar on Zoom. (Visit shedatessavvy.com for details.)
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“People think since they are working at home, they can just show up on a Zoom call looking like they just rolled out of bed,” she said. “You have to make sure you are looking professional, even at home. First impressions haven’t gone out the window just because we’re communicating virtually now.”
Stidum recommends wearing bright colors, makeup and using good lighting during video calls.
Gaston agrees. “Often people who are not in TV underestimate the value of lighting,” she said.
Ring lights, which range from $50 to several hundred dollars, are frequently the lighting of choice because they are circular and diffuse the light to help eliminate shadows.
Gaston, who is used to doing her own hair and makeup, uses a professional light for TV broadcasting at home. Learning the technology has been the hardest part.
“I have a good setup with an office with doors so that it’s quiet, but technically there are things I had to learn. I don’t have a teleprompter, so I have to memorize the scripts, which sometimes come late because it’s the news. There’s also a four-second delay at home,” she said.
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That means Gaston usually starts her news segment before the previous segment is finished.
While those technical issues aren’t likely to be a challenge for most people working from home, there are other considerations, Stidum said.
She recommends setting up a specific space with clean background in your house for virtual calls. Bedroom spaces are too personal, and you should avoid giving viewers a tour of your home, she said.
“You don’t want to give up too much of your private space. You don’t need info about your degrees or personal family photos on the wall for everyone to see.”
And if you just want to work in your robe at home, she suggest using a profile shot that you can upload for the Zoom call. That way colleagues can still see your face.
When it comes to dating virtually, Stidum said, dressing up for a Zoom date is part of the excitement.
“If you’ve been around in your sweats looking crazy all day, this gives you something to look forward to. Make sure you’re putting your best foot forward. Hopefully, when you finally meet in person, you’ll still have that excitement.”