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Is It Possible to Look Great on Zoom?

Robin with a bug in beak, facing the camera.

I have never been photogenic.

This didn’t bother me when people stored snapshots in albums and shoe boxes. By the time they ever glanced at them again, they had forgotten my name. Then digital phones and social media arrived, but I could badger the person behind the camera into taking multiple photos because they weren’t paying for film. This ensured that I appeared human in at least one shot, AND the photographer never asked me to pose after that. A win-win situation!

But now the age of Zoom meetings is here, and I look as though I crawled out of a crypt at every conference. When I’m not smiling, I look as though I’m searching for fresh brains.

This never seems to frighten the other meeting attendees, maybe because I live too far away to be a danger to them, maybe because they’re trying to figure out if they have lettuce stuck between their front teeth. (They don’t.) But it bothers me. And what truly annoys me is that some of those chic attendees are as unkempt in reality as I am.

How do they do it?

One was kind enough to share her secret: lighting. An internet search turned up the same information, so I abandoned my plans to splurge on either a new webcam or on plastic surgery. Instead, I researched and experimented to answer the burning question: is it possible to look great on Zoom when you’re lacking the photogenic gene?


Several articles recommended setting up my laptop or phone in front of a window to take advantage of natural light. News flash: natural light is not kind to me. Second news flash: windows don’t move, so my new background would show the world our guest bed with the threadbare quilt. Third news flash: the window may not move, but the earth does, so the sunlight I’m relying on disappears earlier and earlier as winter nears. Before it vanishes, it gives everything it touches a rosy glow—including my face. Zoom shows this as a demonic aura, which imparts an interesting twist to my usual Zombie appearance.


Next I tried artificial lighting. I set a lamp behind my computer and prepared to look beautiful on screen.

It didn’t work.

I played around with various lamps and lightbulbs. For the very first time, I was grateful that the store I patronize switches up its selection every month so I can never match the last type I bought.

None worked.


And then I had my ah-ha moment. I removed the lampshade and experimented with different bulbs again. And, except for a nasty squint because of the light shining directly into my eyes, I resembled a human being! This was a definite improvement.

But I could make my appearance even better by turning to my biology and writing resources. Two mammoth science texts and a thick style manual, piled under the lamp, raised it to a height at which my squint disappeared. And that’s how I gleefully attended my next Zoom meeting. And, Reader, if the outsized crowd hadn’t reduced my photo to the dimensions of a postage stamp, I would have looked great.

Do you have any tips on how to look great on Zoom? Leave them below in the comments!

If you enjoyed this post about my life as a writer, check out The Rewriting Process: When is it time to stop? 

2 responses to “Is It Possible to Look Great on Zoom?”

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