Lights! Camera! Action! How to Look Good on Camera

Member news | June 09, 2020

The FACC-NY network is composed of a diverse mosaic of talented, experienced, and open-hearted professionals united by a desire to share their knowledge, nurture meaningful connections and succeed professionally. In this #MemberInsights series, we invite a guest member to contribute timely and relevant tips and insight for adapting your activities to overcome immediate challenges and plan for the long-term. 

This week, hear from Stacee Mandeville, the founder of Red Leaf Coaching, who provides communication skills coaching to executives in a myriad of industries within companies such as Merck, HP, General Electric, JPMorgan, Levis, Business France, Deutsche Bank, Verizon, and Citigroup.

In the often-scary new world that 2020 has thrust upon us, appearing on-camera has become part of everyone’s personal brand. However, it's not as easy as Hollywood makes it seem. And while someone like Brad Pitt has an entire crew to make him look good, we regular folks have to rely on our fuzzy webcams and a lot of creativity and craftiness. (And, in my case, my “crew” consists of two cats.)

When I was pursuing a career in theater years ago, I learned a few things about creating a good on-camera, audience-ready persona. And I’m happy to reveal a few trade secrets to help you look as close to a movie star as your webcam will allow.

Back when I was in college, a photographer friend of mine asked if I would model for her. Of course, I said yes, hoping to maybe get a free headshot out of it. But, when I got the photos back, I was appalled! I looked sick. I had sunken cheeks, dark under-eye circles, and wrinkles everywhere! Not a glamorous look for a 20-year-old.

What was the cause of me looking like I hadn’t slept in 100 years? The answer was remarkably simple: poor lighting. Being well-lit is the best way to draw your audience's eye and present your best look to a remote team. And, you can boost your lighting game with what you have in your home.

Overall, you want soft, diffused lighting, meaning light that’s spread evenly. Harsh, strong light can make your face become overexposed. For most meetings, a simple table lamp will do. Put your lamp behind the camera, a little to the side, and, if possible, a little higher than your head. 

Using daylight from a window also works fine, if the light isn't too harsh. Position yourself so the light is hitting your face. Don’t sit with the window behind you -you’ll show up as a silhouette.

The next thing is to angle the camera correctly. Your webcam should be about an inch above eye level and facing you straight on. You don’t want to have it below you, because no one wants to look like they have a double chin, and sometimes you’ll end up with only half of your head in frame. Not a good look. You’ll want your whole head and at least a little bit of your shoulders to be in the frame, with at least 3 inches of space above your head showing. 

Next, you want to make sure that you have a good background. Light-colored walls with a little bit of visual interest, like a painting or a plant, are great. Busy backgrounds can be distracting, and a wall with nothing is too dull. 

And, I think it goes without saying that you don’t want your audience to have a view of your messy apartment. So, clean up or hide your dirty laundry. And try to position yourself so that no family members or roommates march through during your important meeting.

In theater, we say “The costume makes the character.” You can’t play a queen in sweatpants. Clothes affect your mood, your posture, your attitude, even the way you speak. So, even though work-from-home culture is more casual than office culture, if you’re aiming to accelerate your career, you may want to give the sweats a break. Put on a nice blouse or a button-down shirt. Never wear stripes, plaids or tiny patterns, or fabric that has an intricate weave, because these patterns cause a wiggly camera effect called moireing

One last thought: be strategic with what you wear on the bottom. No one will see your PJs - until you jump up to wrangle a child or stop the dog from eating your briefcase.

Follow these simple tips, and you’ll be that much closer to looking like a Zoom movie star!

Check out the video for a demonstration of lighting tips! 

If you’d like additional on-camera coaching on go to, and contact us! FACC members get 20% off one-to-one coaching Packages.

Also, if you’d like a safe place to practice your on-camera skills, check out It’s like Zoom and WeWork had a baby! We do our work (blog posting, proposal writing, website editing, coding…) together over video (cameras on, mics off), and get coaching, accountability, stretch and mental breaks,  and camaraderie. 

If you’d like additional coaching on elevating your executive presence using body language, go to www.redleafcoaching.comFACC members get 20% off one-to-one coaching packages.