By Lynette Mueller
Over the past several weeks, I’ve been refining my Zoom setup for remote depositions. Last week I shared how to optimize internet connections. This week let’s talk about video optimization!
Everyone wants to look their professional best when handling depositions for their clients. Even though we are the “silent person” in the legal proceedings, we should take care to ensure that we look the part of being our attorney client’s colleague and partner too. Dressing for success has so many benefits for us as professionals.
- First impressions count. Because we live in such a visual-centric world today, it is even more important to dress the part. The first judgment by our peers should be a favorable one, and we should command the respect we deserve in the legal setting.
- Promotes self-confidence. The way you perceive yourself when dressed professionally translates to others as well. The confidence you radiate will have a lasting impression on your clients and potential clients.
- Stay productive. In these past several weeks of quarantine, I’ve allowed myself a pajama day here and there. The days when I’ve gotten up, showered, dressed, and applied makeup have been the most productive days, by far.
- Detail-oriented. When taking care with your appearance, it shows that you take pride in yourself. That one simple thing can demonstrate you stand behind your work in the same manner, which gives the client that extra confidence in your abilities.
So with that said, here are my tips to optimize your video setup for remote depositions:
If you’re utilizing the Zoom platform, be sure to take advantage of the Touch Up My Appearance feature. Per Zoom’s Help Center: “The Touch Up My Appearance option retouches your video display with a soft focus. This can help smooth out the skin tone on your face, to present a more polished-looking appearance when you display your video to others.”
For either a Mac or Windows machine, here are the instructions to enable that feature:
- Access the Settings in your Zoom application. There are two ways you can get here:
- In your Zoom client, login, then click Settings , then click Video .
- Alternatively, you can start or join a meeting, then click the arrow next to the video icon and choose Video Settings .
2. In the Video Settings dialog, click Touch up my appearance.
3. Check this option to display your video with the touch up.
Zoom remembers your preference and uses it the next time you start or join a meeting on this computer.
When working from a home office, it can be a bit tricky to always have a neat and tidy workspace for remote depositions. If there is a blank wall in your home office, that is the best option. Like in a videotaped deposition, a backdrop is an effective means to clean up your space quickly.
Try to refrain, if possible, from using the virtual background in Zoom, as it does not create a great image of the participants. To really make the virtual background work, be sure to limit any movement. If you move quite a bit, your image will pixelate and/or disappear briefly. If there is no other alternative, find a professional backdrop image to upload and use when you’re on the record and be sure that your space is well-lit. A higher-quality webcam can also be a great addition when using the virtual background feature. Remember to wear a different color for your clothing selection when using the virtual background as well.
From Zoom’s Help Center, here are the instructions for enabling the virtual background:
To enable the Virtual Background feature for your own use:
- Sign in to the Zoom web portal.
- Click My Meeting Settings if you are an account administrator, or Meeting Settings if you are an account member.
- Navigate to the Virtual Background option on the Meeting tab and verify that the setting is enabled.
- If the setting is disabled, click the Status toggle to enable it. If a verification dialog displays, choose Turn On to verify the change.
- If the option is grayed out, it has been locked at either the Group or Account level, and you will need to contact your Zoom administrator.
The best camera angle for a remote deposition or web conference is head-on and eye level. You want the other participants in the proceedings to be able to look at you straight on and not to look either down on you or up your nose. Some built-in laptop cameras may give you a wide angle, which can be unflattering and create a distortion of your image. An easy, no-cost solution to lift the laptop to eye level is to gather up some books and set the laptop on top of them. Get creative!
As mentioned at the start of this article, dressing for success is of utmost importance. While that plaid blazer may be an awesome staple in your professional wardrobe, on camera it could be a distraction for the attorneys and witness. My husband is a photographer, and he recommends to opt for clothing that is plain and a solid color and one that brings out the best you. He says to stay away from stark white or pale colors because they could blend your face into your clothes. Remember, you want to stand out and look your best! Find that perfect shirt, tie, or blouse that you feel awesome in and it will reflect your confidence and personality.
Last but not least is lighting! My setup includes a 3’x4’ soft box. It’s just something I have hanging around the house. Ha! I know not everyone is lucky enough to have a photographer spouse like me. I have the soft box sitting directly in front of my computer for the best light and image during my web conferences.
Even if you don’t have a soft box laying around the house like I do, you can still have great lighting for your remote deposition and use what you have right at home. If there is a window in your room, situate the laptop facing the window, if possible, for a very pleasing effect. Lighting is definitely my friend, and I want it to be yours too! Natural light is often the best and provides a soft glow to your skin. If the light source is to your back, your image will be dark, and the other participants will not be able to see you much at all, as you will appear in silhouette.
What to do if your room has no windows or the window is not situated in an ideal location? Play around with other lamps you have in your home. Remember to consider the light bulb hue as well. There are so many options out there. The color temperature of the light bulb can certainly affect your appearance. Play around and see what works best for you.
Here are some pics showing different lighting setups so that you can understand the difference lighting can make to your photo.
For an affordable lighting option, my husband recommends either a Neewer Dimmable bi-color 660 LED video light or the Neewer Ring Light Kit if you want to be camera ready for your next remote deposition.
There you have it — my five tips for looking great for your next remote deposition. Happy Zooming, colleagues!
Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, is a freelance court reporter based in Memphis, Tenn., and chair of NCRA’s Technology Committee. She can be reached at email@example.com.