Is it just me, or is everyone getting invited to dozens of events via Zoom?
One of the most popular platforms for class and work meetings, Zoom has also taken off in the world of literary events, including virtual readings, interviews, and panels, just to name a few. It’s an amazing opportunity for writers to be active in their communities and to stay connected with others, and the fact that we don’t have to be in the same place in the world to do that, is opening doors like never before.
But whether you are the performer or the attendee, you are now also the director, the camera guy, the tech guy, and the guy in charge of lighting, which is a whole lot to handle on top of getting ready to be social during a quarantine, right? Last Friday, I attended a reading hosted by writer and public speaking educator Alex Vara. The reading was a hit! The transitions were smooth, the readers were excellent, there was applause, and as I watched the host and the readers shifting between full screen, I couldn’t help but notice that all of the readers looked really good.
Let’s talk about the frame.
We are basically all actors and models now. We are considering angles and lighting, testing microphones, and staring at ourselves in a little square at the top of the screen–needless to say, we are mostly all trying something new. But what we are going for here is a medium close-up, from slightly below your shoulders to a bit above your head. (Note: You can be slightly further away, but just remember that that affects the mic, and therefore the sound quality, so make sure you test this out before committing to it.)
1. The best way to set up your frame is to make sure the camera on your computer is in front of and slightly above you. For most desktops, that is already done. If you are using a laptop, you can try stacking it on top of some books and adjusting the angle of the screen.
2. Sitting up straight is a bigger deal here than in other scenarios, because if you start to slouch, it creates shadows under your chin and juts your head forward, making it almost globular, and way too close to the mic.
Let’s talk about the lighting.
Any good photographer will tell you that lighting is everything, and virtual events are no different. When I am teaching my classes in the morning, I get to use full, natural lighting, which makes the skin look radiant. The challenge comes when you are handling artificial or dim lighting.
1. If you can help it, consider rearranging your desk or the place you intend to sit for these events, so that the overhead light of the lamp light falls directly on your face, and not from behind you as you see here. When the lighting is bad, your picture becomes grainy and harder to see, which might be fine for those of us who still wish to drink alone in the corner at poetry readings, but maybe not so much for someone who is performing.
2. I find that dark colors come up well in natural lighting, but not so much in dim lighting, and that light and bright colors look better in artificial lighting.
Let’s talk about your look.
One of the benefits to using a virtual platform is that the audience only sees you from the torso up, and through a less-than-crystal-clear picture, meaning, we have a little more freedom when it comes to the ancient debate over choosing between fashion or comfort.
1. I’m not saying that you should run the risk of getting caught in your pajama pants, but I am saying that leggings, slacks, any non-restrictive pants with a flexible waistband, will serve you better than jeans or formal pants, which no one will see, anyway.
2. Personally I’ve only added a touch of mascara and lip color, but I’ve seen some people playing with beautiful, bright eye shadows (for you fashionistas, try a bronze-y orange or cerulean) or rocking their usual looks (everything from the cat eye to the suspenders and bowtie). The most important thing, just like before quarantine, is to make sure your face is clean and there’s nothing in your teeth.
Being social from home is hard, but trust me when I say that it is totally worth it, and in some ways, really unique and innovative. You just need the right settings to see it. If you need help getting inspired to work from home, check out my Freelance Fashion tips.