As we can all agree, Zoom has become an invaluable tool for connecting during this pandemic. When it comes to virtually meeting with clients and colleagues, we all want to look as professional as possible, even when we are connecting from home. Fortunately, looking your best is easy online once you become familiar with a few tools of the trade!
If you haven’t yet downloaded Zoom yet, we highly suggest it! It’s the most popular free video conference tool you can download onto your computer. Zoom has many internal tools you can use to stay organized on meetings and presentations. Once you download Zoom, don’t forget about downloading a great extension called Snap Camera. Snap Camera is a highly intuitive camera filtering program (similar to the Snapchat application) offering an ever-growing assortment of filters.
Once you’ve downloaded both applications, you want to open Snap Camera first. This will make Snap Camera your Zoom camera lens and enable you to work with both simultaneously. Now open Zoom and go to the settings cog found just under your initials at the upper right of the downloaded Zoom page screen.*
In your Zoom settings, you will see a few tab options. Let’s start by observing your unaltered image. Simply click on the video icon tab and your computer camera or webcam will bring up your live image. Don’t worry if you don’t like what you see yet! No one else can see you and now you can spruce up both your backdrop and your personal image prior to any real meetings.
There are two ways to create virtual backdrops with Zoom, with a green screen and without. Let’s begin with the latter. If you don’t have a real green screen, no problem! Zoom will automatically find you and crop your actual background out. Yes, a green screen can give you better quality and you can buy them if you like but if you play with images you can find some that will do a good job. Virtual images work best with an overall consistent light.
You can make it easier for Zoom to determine where you begin and other elements end by taking notice of your clothes and what is directly behind you. For example, If you have black or dark hair and you are sitting in a black high back office chair, Zoom may blur the lines between you both, which is disconcerting to viewers. You can fix this by simply switching out your chair for another. It’s also best to avoid very dark or black tops for the same reason. You want to choose your preferred image or video background on Zoom before you use the Snap Camera filters because, as we’ve observed, the background image does change what filters look better or worse.
First, click the video icon on the settings page. Here you can choose a 16:9 widescreen ratio or the original ratio. A 16:9 is arguably better as it is the standard ratio. Enabling HD by clicking that option will make the overall image, including your background, more crisp. You can also choose “Mirror my Video” which will flip your entire image to your audience, however, keep in mind this will flip your text or written notes backwards as well.
Now go to virtual background in settings. You will find there are already a few free options offered by Zoom. There is also a small square icon with a plus symbol (+) to the right of the “Choose Virtual Background” text. This option allows you to upload and save your own images and videos to be used as your own personalized background.
Finding images online is easy and inexpensive. Some high-quality images are even royalty free. Search the web and see what meeting appropriate imagery you can use for a backdrop. We suggest searching “Free images for Zoom” and you’ll find more options than you can count! You may want to download some fun ones too for your next personal meeting. Once you select the image you want, it will automatically download into your Zoom! The image will be added to the gallery below and then you can click your image to test it out. Testing the image will help determine if an image is too fuzzy or just doesn’t look good. If you choose to remove this image from your gallery, then simply scroll over the image and a small black circle with an “x” symbol will appear. Click that icon at the top right of the image and it will vanish from your Zoom library.
If you are savvy enough to create your own media, you will need to know the correct specifications to maximize your imagery. A video background should be created as a horizontal “.MP4” or “.Mov” file at a minimum of 480 x 360 pixels with a maximum of 1820 x 1080 pixels. A still image should be a horizontal 1280 pixels x 720 pixels with a 16:9 ratio.
Using the “green screen” option on Zoom:
For those unfamiliar with the term, in TV and film production a green screen is quite literally a green-colored backdrop that goes behind talent, similar to a meteorologist on the news. The vibrant green color is used because it contrasts with skin, hair, clothing and other natural colors. Images keyed into the system will fill the green area on screen but will not interfere with the person or objects in front of it. You can buy a professional green screen kit over the internet if you have both the room and the money. However, if you have an existing solid color backdrop that is not black or white, you can use it. Being sure the solid color contrasts with you enables the use of the ‘green screen’ option on zoom. Choosing this option will clearly define you from the background creating the most optimal overall picture.
To install your own inexpensive background, take some solid color fabric and clamp it to a curtain rod or tack it up against a wall behind you. Just make sure your fabric surface is as smooth as possible for the best green-screen effect. Once your “green screen” is physically set up, start by selecting the “I have green screen” option on the Virtual Background page in your Zoom settings. You will see a bar that says to “Manually pick the color of the background if the automatically detected color is not accurate.” This means if your background is not the traditional green screen, you will have to click on the icon to the right of that description and an eyedropper tool will pop up for you to select the background color reference you want Zoom to identify and use. From this change, Zoom will automatically fill your “green screen” with your virtual background.
Choose background images based on your preference and that of your audience. Try to find appropriate images or videos that don’t overpower you or take attention away from your meeting. Skylines, bookshelves, library sets and softly textured backgrounds are all good choices for virtual meetings.
Your personal image:
Looking you best will be easy with zoom. There is a “Touch up my appearance432313” button on the Zoom video page. It will create a slight soft focus filter over your image, diminishing small problems like mild blemishes and fine lines.
But you have Snap Camera as well and that does much, much more!!
With your Snap Camera already open, select your filter before your meeting. You can change filters anytime before or during your call, but unless you are chatting with friends during a virtual social distancing-happy hour you may want to pre-set your filters and your
virtual backdrop before you start your meeting and remain consistent all the way through.
Snap Camera was created by Snap Inc. who also owns Snapchat, most of its filters are goofy and fun. You may have already seen some wild filters that turn a person into a potato or an egg yolk.
Snap Camera also offers a host of filters that can help you look your best, with or without your make up. The search magnifying glass is found just below the camera image and above the featured filters. We recommend typing in “skin” or “make-up” and try out the options. The quality of these consumer-generated filters may vary so do take the time to poke around and see what works for you on your chosen background.
Some of the makeup images are zany like a cyber blue complexion—cute and fun but not appropriate for a business meeting. Others are more realistic and you can find makeup, skin and blush lens options that look natural. Your chosen filters will change instantly by simply clicking on them. You can even save your favorites for later use by clicking the star option on the upper left-hand corner of your preferred filtered image.
You can spruce up your existing real-life background and make yourself look your best with your own makeup and good lighting. But when in a pinch, these virtual options can get you ready for your next impromptu meeting!
*Zoom is available on IPAD and IPHONE but neither can handle the virtual backdrop option particularly well as the Snap Camera lens cannot integrate with Zoom on a tablet or mobile device. The above tutorial works best with a PC or MAC computer.