How to be your best VIRTUAL Self

Original Article by Kathryn Nelson Design.

How to be your best VIRTUAL Self

Guest Article Written by Kathryn Nelson, Kathryn Nelson Design.

I know, we’re all zoomed out but this is the new norm y’all. Let’s embrace it and figure out how to nail it.

I’ve got some great tips and tricks that I’m going to share with you. These have really helped me step up my game.  I’m feeling much more prepared, look more professional, and have way more on-camera confidence overall. So much so that I even did my first IG Live this week! Crazy, right?!

After talking with friends and peers that are constantly on ZOOM calls with coworkers, employees, and clients, I put together a list of everything to consider when hopping on your call. 

Hope you enjoy!

Get Your Lighting Just Right

Just as light is to a painter or a photographer, so is the importance of light for your on-screen appearance. You might be like me and prefer to use different devices for different platforms too. No worries, we’ve got you covered with lighting do’s and don’t’s for all scenarios.

Do This

  • Test out using your camera on your smartphone, set it to selfie mode and walk around your home to find the best location, light-wise
  • Find as much natural light as possible
  • Face a bright window (if you can) or a wall of windows with you in the middle of them
  • Use a table lamp if needed and re-lamp with different wattage of light bulb (if needed)
  • You want your light from in front and at the same level as your face
  • If you’re planning on recording lots of videos, you may consider purchasing a light ring or LED desk lamp that has a bendy neck


  • Have bright light behind you
  • Use only overhead light (not flattering, trust me)
  • Use very cold color temperature light bulbs (2700k-3000k is ideal)
  • Rely on your computer screen or large monitor to provide the light (washes you out)
  • Use your darkest room, unless you add a lot of light to compensate

Designed by Kathryn Nelson Design.

Consider your Background

What do your coworkers see when you’re on that Zoom call

Consider an area that will either be a clean backdrop or an area that will frame your head nicely. It may sound silly but it really helps to draw the viewer’s attention to you and not the clutter or that piece of art behind you. 


Here’s a screenshot from the IG live we recorded this week. I happen to love how well our two background colors complement one another. It makes me think of this fab photo I pinned ages ago that is under my color inspirations board on Pinterest. There’s my photographic memory at play again LOL.

But seriously, it’s easier to show you here. See how his background is just clean but the bold ochre wall color creates a nice contrast to his complexion?  Even though I’m doing one of my Don’ts, I chose to designate my “on camera” space in the second darkest room in our house: my home office.  Even though my office is this deep peacock green in real life, I have a patio door that faces the pool, and the light that reflects in is fabulous. 

I turn off my overhead light, switch on the soft library lamps to illuminate the bookshelves softly, pop my little desk lamp on in front of my iPad or iPhone stands, and go!

I took some test selfies even though I LOATHE selfies and I’m the worst at taking them. It was only for analyzing the space as I wanted to nail my area.  

I’m looking forward to more IG Live interviews since COVID isn’t going away anytime soon. The images helped me to edit the area for distractions. I pulled out some books with big obvious titles and put a nice design tray with an active project on the lower shelf, leaving the area RIGHT behind my head to be nice and clean to frame my face.

Here’s my little setup I used for my IG live. Worked really well…just remember to put your phone on Do Not Disturb Mode <forehead slap>

Designate a Specific Space

Since I plan to shoot more IG lives and will be heading up a virtual student event this fall, I’ve designated a spot that is always camera ready. I have a chair nearby to slide right over and my stack of books always waiting for which stand or device I’ll use.

While I love my desk chair, it’s able to swivel and rock back which is very distracting to others when you’re a listener and not the presenter of the meeting. So I opt for my bright magenta slither chair with a comfy cushion so my bum doesn’t get numb. 

Zoom Etiquette

Just like table manners, I feel like there are some people out there who need a little kick in the seat when it comes to Zoom. 

Here are some best practice suggestions for those new to this virtual meeting platform. 

Let me preface this with, yes, I know life happens but it can be so much more enjoyable for all if you just be a little more mindful…

  • Use your video, whenever possible
  • Unless you’re the leader or presenter, please mute
  • If you don’t have a good microphone or speakers on your computer, opt for headphones instead
  • Tell others in your household that you’ll be in that meeting, so you do not have interruptions or people walking behind you 
  • Go to the restroom before your meeting begins. No more Poor Jennifer’s
  • If you’re not made up or presentable looking, use your professional headshot or company logo for your profile image. That will show up instead of a black box with your profile’s first and last name.
  • Don’t pick up and start walking all around, fidget a lot or talk to other people if you’re in the office during presentations or webinars. It’s very distracting to the other viewers when in Gallery mode, especially during a webinar.
  • DO wave hello and goodbye – I have a theory that if you’re a zoom waver, you’re my kind of people and I like you already
  • DO use the chat feature and thank the presenter(s) at the end

On The Level

Ok, so this song just played on my current streaming station so now I have that stuck in my head LOL. The level of your different device’s cameras are also very important. 

You want the camera to shoot you from just above eye level, ideally. Just like taking pictures at a more flattering angle, consider using stands or tripods to get that more attractive vantage point.  If you don’t have one, you can always use a file box, a stack of books, or whatever you have available that’s sturdy and will help to raise up that device.

I love my iPad stand when I’m cooking to access my online recipes or when my family facetimes while in the kitchen or puzzling. Just don’t tilt it too far forward because it will fall forward. I did just that and now have a cracked screen going in for a repair bid next week. Argh!  

I broke down and bought an iPhone tripod because of my knucklehead iPad moment.  I have a thicker case and a pop socket on my phone and it still works just fine on vertical and horizontal orientation. It will be perfect for me to collapse the legs together when I walk and shoot our future flip house update stories & videos. Stay tuned for more on that later this month.

Hope this helped inspire you to put a little more effort in those virtual meetings. Be well, everyone.


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