How to Improve your Zoom Background at Home

by Barrett

Making sure you’re properly lit in your Zoom shot isn’t always enough. What about the supporting cast in your webcam’s view?

It’s clear we’re at a point where participating in Zoom meetings is a permanent part of home life and a necessary tool to communicate with our world. So, it’s important to create a ‘remote video communications’ home set-up that really works for you and your viewers.

I hope most of us are beyond the chaotic experience of working from home and participating in meetings all day. During those early pandemic months, simply finding a quiet spot to open up your laptop for a Zoom, Skype or Teams meeting was a challenge.

How your shot looked understandably may not have been your priority.

Keeping it Real
But as we’ve settled into our new routines, many of us have improved our Zoom look.

I’m sure you know the basics by now:

  • Make sure you’ve got enough light on your face.
  • Don’t sit with a window behind you.
  • Position your webcam perpendicular to your eyes, not looking up your nose.
  • Declutter your background.

I know many folks are fond of using virtual backgrounds. While that’s okay, I like to keep my shot as authentic as possible.

I’ve tried digital and blurred backgrounds, but I always felt like I was in a science fiction movie.

Can you See my Robots?
So, even though my home office is hardly an ideal space to create the perfect video shot for my Zoom meetings, I’ve continued to tinker with my background throughout these many months.

Recently, I moved the furniture around in my home office, and to a certain extent I’ve created something of a blank canvas to work with.

I repositioned a short bookshelf into my Zoom background, and I used the top shelf to display a few robot statues I’ve collected over the years. (R2D2, C3PO, Robby the Robot and Robot from the original “Lost in Space”)

They’re also nice ice breakers as people sometimes ask about them when they spot my metal robots in my Zoom shot.

The only problem is my robots looked like shadows in my background. That’s because my back wall didn’t have a lot of light hitting it.

Time to Add More Light
Like any professional studio TV set, you’ve got to properly light your entire space, and that includes the background. Otherwise your environment will look drab, no matter what it contains.

And webcams are usually happier if your lighting is more even throughout the entire shot. That means you’ll look better and not over exposed.

So, I needed to figure out how to throw more light on that back wall and my little robot display.

Vertical LED Table Lamp
There are any number of ways to do that. A floor lamp next to the bookshelf would be an easy solution. That said, I didn’t want to clutter my background (or my home office). Instead, I looked for a lighting solution with a smaller footprint: some sort of lamp that could sit on the end of the book shelf just outside of my Zoom frame.

I found a small vertical LED table lamp made by Edishine on Amazon.
It was the perfect solution. It added the background fill light I needed without overwhelming my shelf. The lamp’s cold, minimalistic look also blended nicely with my little metal companions.

Think of it more like an under-cabinet lighting solution, but designed as a self-standing vertical glow.

Now, my robots are easy to spot in my Zoom background. Plus the extra light also helps my back wall pop.

Zoom-Optimized Rooms
If you want to really show up for your close up during Zoom meetings from home, you’ve got to do more than light your face and wear a nice shirt. Your environment is an extension of you, and it’s important to give it the same attention as you set up your webcam shot.

That means your whole room (or at least the part people see) needs enough light.

I know we don’t live in TV studios (well, most of us don’t). But I think it’s fair to say that when you think about how to decorate your living spaces moving forward, it’s not crazy to plan for the creation of Zoom-optimized rooms.

It’s not science fiction. Yes, reality has caught up.