- How to be the Best-Looking Square in your next Zoom Call
- New Ebook on the OM System OM-1!
- Next Time in Cameracraft
- Black Background with No Backdrop
- We're moving again...
How to be the Best Looking Square in your next Zoom Call
Have a look at the screen grab from a zoom call above. Notice how few of them are well lit, and almost all are looking up at the user using unflattering wide angle lenses. (Click on any image in this blog to see it larger.)
Now look at the top center square circled in red. That's me and my wife. We're well lit and it looks like we were shot with a professional portrait lens. :-) Every time I give a Zoom lecture to a photography club I've had someone compliment me on how I look, and asked how I did it. Well, it's actually not hard, and chances are you already have everything you need! Three things are required:
1) Good light on you. (This is kind of essential! After all, if your light sucks then so will your video.) Even a cheap desk lamp will do a great job as I demonstrate in the youtube video below.
2) A camera with a portrait lens (on a tripod)
If you use a fast lens (like f/2.8 at 200mm) and you place yourself in front of a bookcase, then your books will be realistically out-of-focus and it won't look like those tacky zoom backgrounds.
3) Virtual Cam software from your camera's manufacturer
This software, when downloaded to your computer, creates a "virtual cam" that you can select in Zoom instead of that crappy wide webcam in your laptop. (Again, see the video below.)
Here's where you can download the free software for Sony, Fujifilm, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, and Canon. Once installed, the software presents a new option in Zoom when it comes time to select which camera to use.
- Hook up your camera to your computer via a USB cable. (If your camera has more than one type of USB port, use USB-C.)
- Set your camera to Video mode, low ISO, and Program mode. (Manual mode might produce more dramatic results but it depends on how comfortable you are with camera settings. In the example Youtube video, Program mode did an ideal job because the camera optimizes exposure for the detected face.)
- In Zoom, select the virtual camera provided by the software you just installed by clicking on the tiny up-arrow icon in the corner of the "Stop Video" icon on the bottom of the screen (see Sony example below).
Nothing says "Friendliness" like making sincere eye contact with the people you're talking with. Conversely, have a look at that red circle in the first picture again, and you'll realize that although my wife and I were being shot with a telephoto lens at eye level, we had to look down at the laptop screen to see who we were interacting with. Not engaging at all.
Don't let this happen to you! Be the best-looking person AND the more charismatic on your Zoom call by doing this very simple thing: Set up an external monitor and place it just below the camera thusly:
|Here's an example from when I was doing Santa Zoom calls during the pandemic. Notice the difference in lighting.|
To do this, just set up the monitor and plug it into your computer's HDMI output. The computer will treat it as a second screen, so you can drag windows from your laptop screen to the monitor under the camera.
Yes, that's all there is to it! (You can go overboard, of course. See my blog post from 2020 which provides hardware-based solutions to go full HD instead of 1,024 × 576 that Sony's virtual camera software allows.)
The book for the OM System (formerly Olympus) OM-1 camera is out! Tony Phillips has been working overtime on this one, given the camera's amazing complexity. Get your copy here!
Next time in Cameracraft Magazine
Jaypix Belmer knows everybody on the streets in her neighborhood. Walking downtown with her, even in 32 degree C summer heat, is like witnessing a non-stop high school reunion – people come up to her to give a high-five, she gives hugs to passers-by she sees, she asks how they’re doing, offers a bottle of cold water to a bystander, and sometimes even asks to take people’s portrait using the Canon digital Rebel camera that’s hanging around her neck. Her enthusiasm for interacting with people is genuine and infectious.
Right now, though, she’s a transformative figure for the city of Dorchester, a little-known suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. Find out how she is using the medium of photography to help residents and business leaders intermingle, support each other, with the goal of building a stronger community and avoiding gentrification as her neighborhood is transformed.
Black Background with No Backdrop
The above shot was taken in a studio, right? With big fancy lights? Nope! It was taken in a hallway using just one modest flash:
|Sony RX10 II, 1/160th, f/8, ISO 200. I could have easily gone to 1/1600th of a second (or higher by switching to High Speed Sync) with this camera, blackening the background even further. Wasn't necessary.|
The straight-out-of-the-camera .jpg on the left has a black background because I set my camera to manual and made sure that the f/stop, shutter speed, and ISO let in so little light that the ambient light just wouldn't register. All of the light you see came from the flash. The right BTS image was how it looked to my eye.
I cut my teeth making great portraits like this in the field using my Five Dollar Studio. Here, a single flash is mounted on the tripod (hard to see; it's in the red circle on the right), and the Mommy is holding a single piece of diffusing cloth between the flash and the subject to soften the light. This is, in fact, the world's easiest softbox.
I used a similar technique in Vietnam, taking studio-quality portraits outdoors at 11:00 AM. You can see that example at the end of this blog post from 2019.
Wireless Flash is a capability smartphones don't have, and it's an essential tool if you want people to say "Wow!" to your images. That's why I wrote the "Ways to 'Wow!' with Wireless Flash" e-booklet so you can learn this essential technique that separates the serious photographers from the iPhone crowd. :-) Grab your copy here (for Sony, Olympus, and Fujifilm cameras) and your photography will never be the same. There's also a videotaped lecture I gave in Malaysia showing how to do portraits like this step-by-step using Sony's system.
We're Moving again
(And before you all say what a great opportunity that is to go see the country in the motorhome, the reality is we have to stay put to supervise the new house and make sure they get the details right. I was a project manager in my former life and I know how builders are. So don't be jealous of me. It won't be fun.)
Hopefully this will be the last move, but I've said that before...
Until next time,
Yours Truly, Gary Friedman