What your Zoom camera angle says about you

Since classes started, I’ve had the privilege of seeing up noses and seeing many side profiles. Sam Smart

While the transition to online classes has been overwhelming for many students, faculty and staff, it’s important we remember that much about classes remains the same. Students can still show up late, tutorials and discussion groups can still be awkwardly silent and students can still peruse the internet while ‘in class.’

We should also note the wonderful world of potential that online classes have opened up for us. This is best demonstrated by how people position their cameras during class. Since classes started, I’ve had the privilege of seeing up noses and seeing many side profiles. I’ve had a look into kitchens, met cats and even overheard a heated family debate. And we’ve only just begun this online learning adventure!

In a world where our face in a tiny rectangle, amid many other faces on tiny screens, is all our peers will see of us for the foreseeable future, it’s important that we, as students, think critically about what our camera angle says about us (if we care to).

The Side View

The side view says, “I’ve got two monitors. I work on one, and I engage with my peers on the other. I’m a multi-tasker AND a professional.” The side view, when compounded with a professional mic or headset, only emphasizes these attributes further.

Up Close and Personal

Maybe this angle isn’t so much about what it says, but what it shows … Is it a wide view of your forehead? Up your nose? A seemingly headless torso? When I see this, I worry, do they know their camera is on?!

Straight On, Eyes Clear, Can’t Lose

This is by far the most common angle I’ve seen yet. We get a nice, 45 degree, straight-on view of the face, the head, the shoulders, the artsy photo wall background. You want people to know you’re professional, you’re focused, you’ve managed to get out of bed for this 10 a.m. lecture and sit upright. People might even assume you’re taking notes!

Great Lighting

This says, “I have beautiful, natural lighting in my house.”

Bad Lighting

This says, “I’m taking a break from my roommates and watching this lecture from my basement.”

No Camera

While in reality, you might be camera shy or living with poor connection, this suggests, “I’m in my pyjamas, in my bed, or maybe even, I’ve loaded this lecture URL and walked away.”

Only Person in a 200-Person Lecture With their Camera On

To me, this screams, “I’m keen to learn and foster community, people. Have some courage. Join me.” These are bold, friendly students, and they are also typically quite active in the class group chat.