How to Look Good on Screen

Life under lockdown has many unforeseen challenges. Apart from the potential for loneliness and social isolation and the ever present fear and anxiety about the health and wellbeing of ourselves and our nearest and dearest, comes the challenge of how to look good on screen! 

My first inkling of this came when TV interviews suddenly moved to remote links from peoples’ homes. Some of the interviewees looked and sounded as though they were at the bottom of the sea. Some were evidently trying to boost their intellectual capital by appearing in front of well packed bookcases, although at times, the books on prominent display looked suspiciously un-thumbed. Others showed enviable and rather beautiful kitchens, whilst some were so dreary, drab and utilitarian that it made me reframe my opinion of the speaker (yes, I am that shallow!)

Suddenly we have all become stars of our very own TV interview.

We Zoom, we Google Hangout, we Skype and we FaceTime. Our friends, families and colleagues see us mediated via a screen of varying digital quality. No longer can we put our best foot forward, doll ourselves up in our poshest gladrags and pop out to have real face to face conversations, we have to remember to change out of our pyjamas or gardening clothes (or not as the case may be) and quickly drag a comb through our ever increasingly hag-like hair, to ‘call-in’ online.

So, in a spirit of helping you to ‘put your best face forward’ for this daily ordeal (and wonderful pleasure of communicating with real people and not just with The Wall Up Which you are Slowly Climbing), here are my Top Tips for curating your new Life on Screen.

1. Smell Nice.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Yes. I know it’s hard to motivate yourself to self-groom as much as normal. An acquaintance said on a Zoom call with 15 other women the other day that her husband had not shaved nor changed out of his pyjamas for 4 days. I think we all felt slightly sick! If you are using screens to communicate every day, then you need to behave exactly as if you were meeting people ‘in real life’. You’d be horrified if they came in looking shambolic with a waft of ‘bed-smell’ so you owe it to them to make (at least some) effort. Kempt is good.

2. Makeup makes all the difference.

There is a reason why makeup artists are employed at every TV station for both the men and the women who are about to go ‘on air’. Cameras and strong lighting are both very unforgiving, especially on an older face which tends to have more ‘concavities’ (which is a polite way of saying ‘looks more haggard’). Makeup can cover a multitude of blemishes, blotches and help your skin to look smoother and more youthful. Adding colour in the form of some beautiful pinky blusher and a lovely lipstick will lift and light up your whole face. Click here for my most recent video on how to do this. 

3. What on Earth are you Wearing?

Don’t worry about below the waist. I have worn Sweaty Betty’s on my legs for 5 weeks (not the same pair I hasten to add). Nobody now sees my bottom, which I am trying very hard to prevent spreading in every direction, despite hours of sitting on it. Concentrate all your efforts on the top bit. Hair, makeup, earrings, necklaces, scarves and brightly coloured tops will add colour, texture and interest. Don’t keep things for ‘best’. There is no ‘best’ any more. The time spent chatting to individuals or interacting with larger groups via Zoom is as good as it’s going to get for the foreseeable future.

4. Get the Lighting Right.

If your screen is set up on a desk with a window behind it then move it or your face will be in shadow with a bright halo around it. If the lighting is coming from the side it will cast shadows and make your nose look enormous. The best position for your screen is directly opposite the biggest window in your house. That way natural light will bathe your face evenly and you have some chance of looking like a human being. If there is no natural daylight then experiment with lighting to see what works best. A professional light is not expensive if you feel like indulging your inner Hitchcock (or maybe not as he specialised in murder scenes).

5. Angle the Screen Properly.

This is my biggest bugbear on TV interviews. People look as though they are speaking to someone lying on the floor. That’s not normal! It’s because their screens are on a table or desk and they haven’t thought to lift it up so that their faces are level with the screen and not looking down on it. When I make my videos at a table my laptop is on a big pile of books so that my face is ‘square-on’. If I am sitting on my sofa, I put my screen on a fat cushion on my lap for the same effect.

6. Where is the Camera?

The camera on your device is the thing that is ‘filming’ you. It’s never going to be in the centre of your screen. So, when you are talking, if you look at the other person’s face and talk to that, you will be looking down - so it will look as though you are not having eye contact. My camera is right at the top of my laptop, so when I make a video for Teatime at the Ritz I talk to that little green light, not to my face which is on the screen. It’s the same when I take a photo using a phone or my laptop - I look at the camera not at my face.

I do hope that was useful to you. We have suddenly been thrust into a whole new reality and it’s taking time to adjust. But adjust we must!

Screen time is now our greatest lifeline with those that we love and with whom we need to communicate.

I live alone, so my daily call via Google Hangouts with my team at Look Fabulous Forever is a high point in my day because it means that I am sharing, supporting, motivating and connecting with a group of women (including my two daughters who work with me) who are all helping to make my self isolation more bearable. I also know that, with a few fairly minor adjustments, I can avoid looking like a cross between Cruella de Vil, the Wicked Witch of the West and Rip Van Winkle!