Look Great in Any Video

Look Great in Any Video

In a past life, I went to film school at the amazing City College of San Francisco, before a fascinating and “improverished” career in independent film. Later, I traveled the world for several years as a digital nomad writing software and meeting with clients via video conferences.

From those experiences, here’s 15 minutes of film school to look great in any video.

Production value

The movie industry talks about “production value”. Rather than saying “could this scene be less boring?”, someone might say “what can we do to increase the production value?”

You’re already an incredible production value. You are a one-on-one expert interaction to solve someone’s individual urgent problem. You’re $900k out of $1M just by showing up and helping.

If you want that last $100k, let’s raise the production value even further.

Must Haves

Let’s make sure some things don’t decrease your production value.


This is the most important thing. It is psychologically disturbing to listen to 50% of a conversation - it’s a deal killer.

In my experience, most laptop/webcam microphones and cameras work fine, but you need to turn up the volume.


Be loud, because it’s easier for listeners to turn down their speaker volume, than to turn up your microphone volume. If you’re in a new setup, just ask “Can you hear me ok?”

Problems usually happen due to Internet connectivity or interruptions. Which means you need 

A Door

This is your “Do not disturb”. You should have a way to keep distractions out, and not disturb others. If someone knocks on your door, it’s normal to say “Just a minute I’m on a call.” If someone walks in, they have broken into the private container you’ve created for your client.

Buy why should interruptions disturb your inner peace, power, and grace? Acknowledging interruptions with kindness, comes from your power.

Work-at-home Business Casual

Your industry may be different, but it’s 2017, cars drive themselves now, people work at home, and we’re all too busy to care about business casual. Here’s what I recommend for men and women:

  • Solid colors - except red, white, or black (they can look weird on video)
  • A button-down shirt - I have one to put over a t-shirt. In tech, that’s dressing up.
  • Cover shoulders and chest - Sex does not sell professionalism. No matter your gender, it communicates predator or prey.
  • Wear pants - You may want to stand up to help your children.

An Uncluttered Background

A pile of junk looks unfinished and communicates you don’t complete. There’s all kinds of stuff off-camera in my office. A dog-bed, a junk shelf, inappropriate paintings, cluttered white-boards. But it stays on 3 walls to not bother anyone.

Turn On The Lights

Cameras want light. You’ll be lit from windows, room lights, and your computer screen. All these lights will merge together, but you want the main source of light to be directly in front of you.


  • If your face is half blue/half red. Switch your room lights to “daylight” bulbs.
  • If your face is blue, it’s probably your computer monitor. Turn down the brightness.

Nice to Haves

NTDTrainingVideos put together this great video summarizing some of these techniques.

Camera Angle

The camera is the eye level of the viewer. “Confident Partner” and “Peer” look straight on at eye level. Looking up into the camera says you are “Prey”. Looking down at the camera says you are “Predator”.

Laptops have a default “up-the-nose” angle, that isn’t very flattering.

Raising your camera is easy and looks more normal. If your laptop is flat on a desk, push it as far away as you can type, then stick a box under it to raise the camera to eye level.

By the way, raising your monitor to eye level is great for your back and posture.

Amazon sent me this amazing free laptop stand the other day.

Amazon sends free laptop stands.

Eye Lines

Your “eye line” is the line from your eyeballs to whatever they’re looking at. It’s polite to look at someone while they are talking. The person speaking will make and break eye contact as they are comfortable with it.

On video, it’s important to put your client’s video just next to/under your camera. This way when you’re naturally looking at their picture, you’re also naturally looking at the camera.

An Interesting Background

Our eyes see faster than our mouths can speak. So, whenever someone is listening to you, their eyes and mind will wander. This is how movies can be boring - and why they have explosions to liven things up.

Another tip is to add some depth. The further away the background, the more “spacious” the video will feel. Also, you don’t have to shoot the wall straight on. Angling the background can create the illusion of spaciousness.

Soft Lighting

As a bonus, a light on either side of the camera makes a nice effect. I have these lights but never remember to set them up. Which brings us to 

Don’t Sweat It

These are things no one will notice, so don’t stress out about it.

The Details

Webcams and the internet will remove most of the fine details from your video. If I had “laugh lines” in the corners of my eyes, you’d never see them on video.

What’s important is simple things don’t get in the way of the value you’re offering.

What’s noticed is my voice, followed by my posture, camera angle, lighting, shirt, and background.

bigSmall.io Welcome Series

This article is part of our bigSmall.io Welcome Series. We help experts to get paid for their expertise.

Unlike marketplaces and job boards, we provide tools to engage new paying clients right from your website - without being part of a job board cattle call.

If people visiting your content want your help and you’d like to help them in a 1-1 video conference for money, bigSmall helps you connect, help, and get paid without chasing invoices.

  1. Getting Started
  2. Confident Voice and Body Language
  3. The First 5 Minutes
  4. Design The Experience
  5. Be Important, Urgent, and Credible
  6. Look Great in Any Video

bigSmall.io offers a video conferencing platform with automated payments and lead generation.

The Modern Freelancer features and curates content for more money, less work, and happier clients - both online and offline.

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