If you’ve been asking for some advice for how to look good on Zoom, you are not alone! These are interesting times of virtual conferencing and online meetings. We ALL want to keep up that professional presence in any setting. And let’s not kid ourselves. People want to look their best in any context. That feedback loop you get when looking at yourself on video conferencing platforms is real. It’s hard not to keep fluffing your hair, straightening your posture, and adjusting the camera.
So, we’ve compiled a series of quick and simple tips to help you look your best on Zoom!
… even if you’re not the most tech-savvy! Where does our expertise come from? (Hint: as a commercial photography studio we are always studying what makes the most flattering light for the people we work with!)
Truth be told, one of the most common questions we get asked is, “What can I do to look good on camera?” Having taken many headshot photos for people in all sorts of professions, we’ve given advice on this countless times. Because we know a little can go a long way, we’ve made our list low-tech so that your Amazon shopping cart won’t explode in the process.
Here is our list of team-tested and approved Gold Grid Studios tips for how to look good on Zoom!
1. Raise your laptop so you aren’t looking down at it.
No one wants the angle that’s coming up your neck and into your nose. Something as simple as a stack of books will do the trick.
2. Achieve flattering lighting by setting up so you are facing a window.
This simple move will ensure even light across your face. This is the most simple lighting option for a flattering on-camera appearance. If you have great natural light in your home, you should even be able to turn off the other lights in the room. This way, you can avoid those yellow reflections on your hair. Additionally, the dark shadows under our eyes are created because of overhead lights.
Most important of all, (and we are sure you’ve already seen this many times): Be sure to not have a window directly behind you. You are bound to only appear as a mysterious silhouette.
3. Drink enough water!
Your skin will thank you. Every single makeup artist will tell you this: The key to looking great on camera starts with a healthy skin routine. A healthy skin routine starts with enough water. After all, your skin is your largest organ! Luckily, we are all at home and can find bubbly seltzers and tap water without having to walk all the way to the vending machine. Our Gold Grid Studios team member, JaNae, recommends adding a little fruit-flavored bitters to your seltzer to keep it interesting! Coconut LaCroix + peach bitters is her current jam.
4. Consider wearing a touch of undereye concealer and a bit of powder – guys and gals alike!
Your camera will absolutely show the oil on your skin and the slight dark circles under your eyes. Mediocre computer cameras, and even splurgy webcams can be pretty unforgiving. Amazingly, adding a tiny bit of makeup can do wonders without going through a full makeup routine!
5. Wear a plain, solid-colored top.
However, don’t wear bright white or dark black (white can be too bright, and black can make you look like a blob.) Avoid patterns, which can distract from your face. Also, you should check out our How to Prepare for your Headshots Case Study for tips about the best types of clothing on camera.
6. Audio Quality is Key.
While it’s not technically about how you look, how you sound is just as important. It can make or break a professional experience on Zoom. Using a microphone or a good pair of headphones is super helpful, especially for blocking out background noise. Anyone have kids and pets at home?
Any simple pair of wired headphones will give you way better sound quality than your laptop’s built-in recorder. Plus, you won’t need to rush to Amazon and buy a full podcast AV set up.
7. Pants vs. No Pants: The Great Debate.
We don’t have a 100% opinion on this one… But, Gold Grid Studios Founder Rebecca puts it this way: “Put on real pants at least 3 times a week. While the feeling of your skinny jeans might not be your favorite going into Week 7 of all of this, I promise it will make you feel like a grown up again.”
On a Zoom call, your colleagues won’t be able to tell if you’re wearing leopard print leggings (like I am as I write this!) However, actual pants might be that added boost of put-togetherness that keeps you focused and influential on your next video call.
8. Here’s the greatest trick of all: Have you tried the “improve my appearance” setting in Zoom?
Yep, that exists. You’re welcome.And, you can easily turn off and on this setting like this:
All in all, these are some super easy things you can do to look good on Zoom without any large equipment investments. Best thing is you don’t even have to leave home to pull them off!
That being said, if you are thinking about improving your home as well, check out our Case Study on How to Prepare for Your Real Estate Photography. There are definitely some interior-design-inspo images that can up the ante on your Zoom background! Actually, we even put together a gallery for you of images you can download:
Whether you’ve just finished remodeling, wrapped up finishing touches with your interior designer, or you’ve put your brand new property on the market, you’ll want to start thinking about how to prepare for your real estate photography. Because most people and realtors start their research for the perfect place on the world wide web, you need your interiors to stand out among the others.
Plus, in a growing real estate market like Chicago, you need to know how to prepare for your real estate photography, if only to avoid the #badrealestatepics hashtag (yes, that’s a thing).
Below, we’ve listed our top tips for getting your space ready, so you can showcase gorgeous interiors and entice people looking for the perfect place.
Tip #1: Hire a stylist, interior designer, or professional stager to help prepare for your real estate photography (if you haven’t already.)
Bringing in a professional stager or stylist will bring your space to a new level! They will take care of the furniture and arrangement for you. Because of their expertise, they understand how to stage furniture for photographs.
However, if hiring a stylist falls outside of your budget, start your process with a mindset of “less is more.” Your space should look as clean and minimal as a tastefully furnished hotel. Your furnishings should be somewhat generic, but also stylish and refined.
By the way, feel free to contact us if you need recommendations on stylists! We can put you in touch with high-end interior designers, professional stylists, or more budget-friendly alternatives.
Tip #2: Plan a time frame that includes perfect light for your exterior photos.
Also, take note of what direction your building faces, and communicate that with your photographer as soon as you start planning the shoot. Some buildings look best 30 minutes before sunrise, others look better 30 minutes after sunset. For other kinds of residences, you’ll want to note what time of day they are in sunlight or shadow.
Tip #3: Detailed cleaning goes a long way. Spin your favorite tunes and take the time to eliminate the grime!
Make sure to mop floors, clean counter tops, and dust (even on top of the ceiling fans!) and have everything clean at least an hour or two before your photographer arrives.
You don’t want your photographer taking photos when your floor is two different colors from being partly wet and partly dry.
Next, you should grab your favorite window cleaner, and spritz on all glass surfaces, wiping them down for a streak-free appearance. For television screens and computer monitors, be sure to use appropriate screen cleaner. If there is any build-up on surfaces that you can see with your eyes, odds are they will also show up in the photos.
Tip #4: Find your inner Jackie Chan and karate chop your pillows. All of them.
Don’t simply fluff your pillows… give them a gentle karate chop right in the middle!
This way, the pillows lay looking flat and natural but still have fluffiness. (We’ve met real estate agents who swear by this method. And we’ll always keep an eye out for any extra karate chopping needs before we start shooting!) We’ve got your back on this one.
Tip #5: Hide your cables and wires.
Totally unplug your appliances from both ends, whenever possible. TVs, lamps, and audio speakers should be unplugged with their cables hidden behind them.
Additionally, for larger, bulky appliances like printers, your best option is to clear them off the table. Hide them in the closet for the duration of the photo session.
Tip #6: Eliminate clutter on counters and in bathrooms.
Clear off soaps, jewelry, paper towels… anything personal that you would not see at a hotel. Counters should be as clear as possible.
Also, anything that has a brand name on it (that you aren’t trying to promote) should be removed.
Tip #7: Hide your trash receptacles.
Even the nicest stainless steel trash receptacle should be hidden, unless it is built into the wall.
Tip #8: Keep a few extra light bulbs on hand, and think about color consistency.
Turn on all your lights prior to the session, and leave them on as the photographer is working. Ideally, all the lights are the same color temperature (think warm, daylight, etc.) Consistency with lighting is KEY, and having a few backup bulbs is a great plan.
Unsure of your light bulbs? Take a quick cell phone photo with all the lights on and send it on over to us prior to your shoot! We believe in the power of communication. The more that you prepare for your shoot, the better the results.
Tip #9: Your outdoor landscape needs love, too.
Stash away your poolside toys, and ensure the lawn has recently been cut and pruned before your photography begins. Rake leaves and sweep them off of outdoor patios if your session is in the fall.
Tip #10: Straighten your rugs, chairs, and tables.
While this is something your stylist will have an eye for when you are getting all your furniture in order, be sure to walk around an hour before your photographer arrives. Make sure all furniture looks straight, and rugs haven’t been upturned!
Tip #11: Consider fresh (real!) flowers.
This is an easy way to add that WOW factor to your space! While fake floral and succulents look okay from a distance, real flowers naturally liven up the space.
Additionally, consult with your stylist – or your favorite florist – on what might look best based on your overall color scheme.
Tip #12: Open all of the blinds.
Flood your space with natural light! Your rooms will automatically look fresher, larger, and more modern. If your blinds or curtains look outdated, simply remove them.
Tip #13: Let everyone know!
If your space has social lounges and workout areas available to your residents, let them know with a kind email and/or posted flyer. Include the date and time the photographer will be there, so they can plan accordingly.
Tip #14: Consider including a few photos that showcase the neighborhood, attractions, and local culture as you prepare for your real estate photography.
If the property is located near the most legendary pizza place in Chicago, your residents should know about it! (Right, Chicagoans?) If there is a public park walking distance away, or a museum, ask your photographer to make sure they take a few photos of the local scene. These add so much value to the location.
Plus, if you have your own images (not lifted from Google), they will be the right style and format to complement your other real estate photographs. Trust us, everyone can spot a stock image from a mile away.
Of course, the BEST thing to do is talk to your photographer prior to the session. Ask questions, and explain where you might be posting your photos (website, Zillow, real-estate sites…) and make a game plan.
When you are thinking about how to prepare for your real estate photography, make a list of all the rooms, amenities, and spaces you want photographed, and share that with your photographer in an email as you are making plans.
What questions does this bring up about how to prepare for your real estate photography? Send us a message, and we’ll be happy to share our advice!
Friends, we are happy to report that there ARE things to do during Chicago winter! As photographers and residents of Chicago, we know our city inside and out. So, our team compiled a list of fabulous suggestions that will liven up your scenery – even during the gross months like February and March.
(By the way, does anyone else think of a mint-flavored Chex Mix when the weather forecast is “a wintery mix”?! We digress.)
Without further ado, here are our top-rated suggestions!
This is one of the most popular things to do during Chicago winter – and for good reason! This unique skating ribbon is located in one of Chicago’s beautiful Maggie Daley Park, and is a place where ice skaters at any skill level can come out to relax, skate, and take in the Chicago skyline. Maggie Daley Park describes it as a “multi-sensory experience” where you can take in the rolling landscape, and then break to sip on a cup of hot chocolate!
If you are craving greenery and humidity while in Chicago, the Garfield Park Conservatory is one of the best things to experience during Chicago winter. Over 100 years old, this “landscape art under glass” location is one of the largest conservatories in the country.
Also, it happens to be one of our favorite places to photograph people! Our sister brand, Rebecca Marie Photography, specializes in weddings and engagements. Rebecca and our team members adore the lush walkways, cactus room, and constant 75 degree climate! (If you’d like to see more of our work, check out our @teamrebeccamarie Instagram!)
Truth be told, you might need to walk outside to take in the full length of Chicago’s newly expanded Riverwalk. One of our favorite spots along the Chicago Riverwalk is River Roast, a rustic-meets-modern restaurant with warming comfort foods and a perfect view of the new Riverwalk expansion.
There are so many places to stop, duck inside, and enjoy a beautiful view of the river. If if suits your fancy, you can grab a warming cocktail or glass of wine.
Speaking of warming cocktails and wine… you should see the outside of:
On these year-round tours, a knowledgeable guide will describe the history of various buildings in Chicago as you pass them on a double-decker river boat. Don’t worry – you don’t have to sit on the chilly top deck! The lower level interior has cushy seats where you can still see out the window and listen to your guide while sipping a hot drink from the bar.
One of our favorite classic Chicago venues is House of Blues! This incredible space hosts numerous musicians each week, and has tiers of seating areas where you can pitch up to see the performance. We photographed the Jordan Kahn Orchestra launch party at House of Blues, and they rocked the house.
Be sure to check out this Fortune article, featuring Jordan Kahn AND our photography from the House of Blues!
If you want to learn more about Jordan Kahn, here’s his rockstar website!
And last, but definitely not least,
Chicago Museums are a great way to experience art and culture in Chicago.
Chicago in the winter might not sound ideal, but there are definitely ways to keep your conference attendees and yourself engaged AND warm! We love the new ideas we see amazing planners come up with. Send us an email! We’d be happy to connect you with our favorite DMC and planning teams here to make sure your next event is amazing no matter the weather!
It’s the new year and everyone is finally back at the office! Q1 might take a little bit more time to get back into the swing of things, but also might just be the perfect time to show your appreciation for your team. The good news? Figuring out how to spoil your team in Q1 doesn’t have to be difficult. And, the return on investment is simple: people who feel appreciated value their work. This is a win-win in sooo many ways.
In fact, according to a recent report (2010, Robert Half International) cited by Business Insider Magazine, we know employee appreciation is a heckofa* positive thing (*our word, not theirs). Over 50% of managers and HR reps believe that employee appreciation is a HUGE opportunity to improve morale, productivity, loyalty, and innovation in their company.
So, how do you achieve this? We have a few ideas on how to spoil your team in Q1… with photographs to prove it!
Spoil Your Team with Intimate Lunch Meetings in Unique Spaces
We are putting this one first on the list simply because it is one of our favorites. For smaller teams or departments, finding a space that inspires can TOTALLY alter the tone of the first meeting of Q1. From hosting a lunch at The Lyric Opera to dining in a small conference room with a view in Downtown Chicago, we’ve seen how innovative spaces can completely alter the mood of a meeting. There aren’t a ton of people to coordinate or account for, which allows a myriad of flexibility. This applies to the intimate design, floral, or even personal mini champagne bottles you might coordinate for your event! Your team will feel pampered. You’ll feel accomplished. And, the camaraderie of being together (and feeling a tiny bit epic about it) goes a long way.
Plan a Company Off-Site (with memorable activities…)
If the majority of your team works 9-5 at a desk, one of the best things you can do to spoil them is taking them away from the normal routine! In fact, hosting a day-long outing at Whirlyball, Top Golf, or even a dedicated Ping Pong bar like SPIN in Chicago is a great way to get your team engaged. Added bonus: If you hire a photographer, you’ll be able to look back and laugh at all the memories from your outing… and then pick your favorites for your social media narrative!
Spoil Your Team with Massages
Don’t even question this one – we’ve actually taken headshots at a conference for attendees who had a massage upstairs just an hour prior, and everyone was SO relaxed! (Not to mention, they still had their best professional look on!) Working a job in any industry almost BY DEFINITION causes some level of stress, and massages help to assuage the tension almost instantly. Spoil your team by planning to hire massage experts for your next conference, or bring their expertise directly into your office! Obviously, pick a day without client meetings, or else plan to offer massages to your clients as well… it will be too luxurious an opportunity to pass up!
Give Your Team VIP Access
This is probably one of the most direct ways to make your team feel extra important. Whether spoiling your team with tickets to a sporting event, access to a unique Chicago museum, or even a private concert, VIP access makes one feel… well… like a Very Important Person!
Time for New Headshots
Speaking of win-win ways of how to spoil your team in Q1, you should schedule new headshots! While headshots might feel like another necessary procedure, employees will appreciate the opportunity to have a new, professional photo on the website alongside an updated list of their accomplishments in the new year. If you’re worried it might be a lot to coordinate, just send your team our Gold Grid guide for How to Prepare for Your Headshots! Let your photographer (or us) do the rest.
Still trying to figure out your strategy for how to spoil your team in Q1? Reach out to us and we will be happy to share additional expertise! Plus, we can give some pretty great reasons why you might consider hiring a photographer at your Q1 events.
“I’m planning a conference and our speaker has requested to have no flash photography during their presentation. Will the photos be okay?”
We are asked this question so often. And, we always want to create the best possible photos in the least disruptive way. Just like you, we want your attendees to remain focused on the main event. We agree – there is nothing worse than the photographer who stands two feet in front of you blasting a flash like a disco dance strobe directly into your eyes while you’re announcing your thoughtful and exciting plans for the next fiscal year. All of a sudden, the whole situation feels distracting, rude, and unprofessional.
The good news is this: We never do that. It’s not our style, and it never will be.
However, there are some situations when non-intrusive flash can be useful. If you are wondering, “Do I need flash photography for my speaker?” here’s a list of questions to consider when planning your event:
Is my Speaker presenting during the day in a venue with a lot of natural window light?
If your venue has rows of windows on the side (note: NOT behind the speaker), and/or your event is happening in the middle of the day, we can probably rock it out with available light.
That said, are you sure it’s ENOUGH light?
Consider this: Does the room feel bright enough even before turning on those typical overhead, fluorescent lights? As a guest, would you be able to see the presenter without any of those lights on? Then, no flash needed. Even in a brightly lit room with windows during the day, there are still some variables that might make you want to consider having flash. So, be sure to read on:
None of us want to accentuate the lack of sleep under our eyes… which very well might LOOK the case with overhead lights!
Overhead lights are common, but definitely aren’t the most flattering. Flash photography at your event can help minimize those harsh shadows.
My speaker is in a bright room, but has a slideshow presentation.
Even if you’re in the brightest warehouse space in Chicago, if the speaker is giving a presentation with slides, you probably want to curtain the windows so attendees can see the information. If you want the slides to be legible in photos (especially when they are the brightest thing in the room), flash for can help.
Is my Speaker presenting while standing right in front of a window?
Without any flash photography, your speaker will be silhouetted and dark against the window light behind them. It will be difficult to see the expression on their face, let alone their identity. We highly recommend flash in this scenario.
Is my Speaker presenting in a windowless conference room or convention center room?Do I need flash photography for my speaker if this is the case?
If yes, then there are definitely other variables to consider. The vast majority of our events take place in these kind of environments – hotels, convention centers, historic venues with a touch of stained glass. Each space has a different set-up, and your event planning team is probably already asking specific questions related to the overall level of technical production and impact you want your event to have.
Are there stage lights that come with the venue for the presentation?
If yes, it ultimately comes down to the amount of light and direction of light from the available stage lights. Sometimes, available stage lighting provided by the venue can work well to highlight your Speaker, but in other cases, the lighting may not look the best in photos. In some theatre venues in Chicago, the lighting works wonderfully for a stage performance or off-the-cuff improv show, but does not have the level of professionalism you may want for your CEO.
Did my team hire a lighting crew to install stage lights specifically tailored for the presentation?
If you’re bringing in a pro-team (like Frost Lighting in Chicago) to install lighting for your presenter’s stage, specifically tailored to your brand, odds are they’ve got it covered. But sometimes, spot lights are too small and don’t always cover the stage.
That said, here’s one thing you want to make sure of: Ask your lighting team to create an even flood of light across the stage. If your speaker wanders while they talk, you want them to be well-lit regardless of where they stand.
Additionally, we have one more note on stage lighting. Ask about the color of light. This is definitely a factor we can discuss with you! Overly cool or overly warm colored lights might work for stage illumination, but are not always ideal in photographs.
If we use flash, it will be minimal, or used to simply highlight a few of the seated guests as they engage with each other and the presenter. Which brings us to the last question:
Do I want photos of attendees while they are listening to the speaker or getting into break-out sessions?
Most likely, your guests are sitting in the darkest part of the room. You’ve beautifully lit the stage for your speaker and naturally, the rest of the room is dark. If you’d like photos of your attendees, flash can help! And it won’t blind them.
Okay, so it sounds like I might want to consider talking to my speaker about incorporating flash photography. What kind of experience can I expect from Gold Grid Studios?
Generally, we place our flashes out of the way of attendees and the speaker, raised up high and nowhere near eye-level, in the back or sides of the room. We use flash in a non-direct way that won’t blind your speaker, and won’t call attention to itself.
In most scenarios that are not equipped with professional stage lighting tailored to your event, we do recommend considering flash. We want to make photos that you’ll feel excited to share on social media, on your next company-wide email, and on your website! We take pride in our craft. And, we know that you want your public-facing imagery to show the pride you take in yours.
We know this might all sound like a LOT of variables to consider. Don’t hesitate to contact us! We are happy to talk through all of the possible variables with you. We’ve photographed inside of countless event spaces in Chicago over the years, and have become familiar with the lighting solutions that work best in any scenario. Our goal? For you to receive the best possible photos for your event.
Reach out to us if you have any questions, and we’ll get to them in a flash! (Yep, we went there…)