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5 ways to improve your Zoom setup without spending a penny

1. Lighting

Lighting is the most important factor in any kind of videography or photography. Without getting too technical, there are some easy methods to improve your lighting and make you look much more professional. The best thing you can do is sit facing towards a window. Sitting with a window behind you will make your background brighter than you, the subject, and distract your audience from what’s important. Depending on your window situation and the climate you live in, find the best spot in the room by walking around with your camera phone open in the selfie view. You may also want to consider experimenting with your window covers and blinds. If your window is overly bright, sitting in front of a covered window can provide softer and broader light. Your goal should be to make yourself distinct from your background, but not appear so brightly lit that you’re overexposed and ‘flat’. Avoid big shadows on your face, but allow enough shadow to give your face dimension.

2. Camera position

Let’s face it, the standard method of sitting at your desk with your camera pointing up at you can be unflattering. Professional portrait photographers tend to shoot at, or just above, eye level. You can use household objects, like a stack of books, to raise your camera to a more flattering position. If you use your laptop webcam and use the laptop while you’re in a call, try sitting further away with the camera pointing lower, or lower your chair slightly, to give the illusion that you’re at eye level. Also, don’t be afraid to experiment with different angles. Sitting at a slight angle can make for a more interesting shot and will give your face more dimension.

3. Audio setup

There are some easy ways you can improve your audio without having to spend big on a professional microphone. The best thing you can do is to use headphones. Laptop microphones aren’t great and even if you have a cheap set of headphones/earbuds, you can improve how you sound simply by having the mic closer to your face. This will allow you to speak softer and still be of ample volume to your audience. There are also some settings on Zoom that can be a quick fix to your audio problems. When you’re in Zoom, locate the preferences/settings window and select audio. If your audience are complaining about you being quiet, or perhaps you’re an instructor and want to be the loudest in the call, increase your input volume and hit ‘test mic’ to test how you’re being heard. The other thing to do here is change the ‘supress background noise’ setting. If people are hearing you type or if you live in a noisy area, you can reduce those noises by selecting ‘high’.

4. Video setup

Keep the settings tab open and navigate to ‘video’. There are several settings here that you might want to change. Firstly, make sure you have ‘HD’ selected so that you’re outputting the best video quality possible. Next, consider selecting ‘touch up my appearance’ to apply a live airbrush effect to your face. If you attend Zoom calls from a low light setting, or perhaps you’re just attending one late at night, select ‘adjust for low light’. Further, scroll down to the ‘advanced’ section and select ‘optimize video quality with de-noise’. This will work to remove the grainy effect that’s common in low light settings.

5. Ethernet

This is also related to video and audio quality but instead will change how you connect to your wifi. If you have particularly unreliable or patchy wifi, connecting your computer directly to your router via ethernet cable can improve your connection. You can have the most professional and expensive Zoom setup possible, but your video and audio quality will always be bottlenecked by your internet upload speed. To discover what video and audio quality you’re uploading, navigate to the ‘statistics’ section of the settings menu while you’re in a Zoom call. Note that it’s normal for your audio and video quality to fluctuate, especially as more people join your Zoom call.

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