How to set up your background for a video conference in your home

More people are stepping in front of the camera in video conferences for the first time, but that doesn’t mean professionalism goes out the door. You still need to appear professional, and having a professional background for your video conferences is crucial. You can look as nice as a movie star on a call with a client, but if your background is cluttered with piles of clothes and unwashed plates, it will give your client or boss a bad impression. For video calls, spend as much time on your background as you do on your appearance.

If you need some help getting started, here are some of the major key points to setting up a professional background for a video conference call.

Pick the best room you have access to for the call

What do we mean by best here? Pick a room that isn’t cluttered and won’t be prone to interruptions during the call. It wouldn’t be a good idea to have your video conference call in the laundry room if your spouse may suddenly come in needing to do the laundry. If you have a home office that’s relatively quiet, go for that. Consider setting up your own home office if you can.

Clean and remove any distractions

Ideally, all our houses would always be sparkling clean. However, that isn’t the case in the world we live in. So, be sure to clean whatever room you decide to have your video conference in. You might think the clutter won’t be in the shot, but you never know when you might need to move the camera. You don’t have to make the room spotless. Just clean enough to where it isn’t distracting or noticeable.

Also, be sure to remove anything inappropriate for your conference. While you might love the new Resident Evil game, it probably isn’t the best idea to have a poster of it hanging in the background during a job interview.

Customize your background

Or, the Resident Evil poster might work great as a background for your video conference if you’re applying for a job as a game dev. That’s why it’s important to tailor your background to your personality and to your audience.

While you might not think of the background as all that important, it really speaks a lot about who you are as a person. It is a visual representation of where and how you live in your own personal space. It’s a huge indicator of who you are inside.

Think about what elements you want to be included in the frame, then arrange those elements according to the rules of composition. Just make sure whatever you put in your background supports what you have to say and won’t be a distraction.

Home office
You don’t need to clean everything out of your office. Just keep the background simple. Image courtesy: CultiVitae

Set up the lighting

It’s very important you have good lighting during your call. You need to have enough light for both you and your background. To look professional during a call, don’t leave your background pitch dark. While it isn’t a detriment to the call, going the extra mile and showing care for how your environment looks will really impress. It will also make the shot just look a thousand times better.

A window can light up a room; however, if you’re in a large room or are calling at night, you will need artificial lighting. Soft, even lighting is best here. Avoid harsh lighting and too might light from behind. You’ll look like a shadowed movie villain.

You can always use the principles of three-point lighting as a starting point.

Consider using green screen

Many video conferencing platforms offer a built-in green screen feature. One popular one currently is Zoom. If you have a compatible computer or laptop, you can opt to have your background changed to a picture or video of your choosing. If your computer or laptop is an older moodle, you can possibly still use the feature. However, you will have to have a physical green screen behind you. If you want more information about using a green screen during a video call, check out this article on setting up a Virtual Background in Zoom.

Zoom features a built-in green screen tool
If you can’t change the background of your room, you can always use green screen if available. Image courtesy: Zoom

The background in your video calls is very important. In many ways, it’s a visual representation of your work ethic and how you conduct yourself. Use these tips to keep backgrounds clean, professional and most importantly, not too distracting.

Image courtesy: TripIt

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