Skype Video Tips

In the coming months we'll be taking a closer look at various aspects of Skype and how to get the best from it. Here's a few tips to begin with.

1. Place the keyboard at the foot of the frame

PC monitor showing overhead view of keyboard, placed toward bottom of frame
Overhead is probably not your best side. Position the keyboard toward the bottom of the frame and keep yourself out of the shot

Always be very mindful that you have a camera above you. It's probably not an angle you're frequently photographed or videoed from. And depending on your attire and attitude it might not be how you want to be seen. Placing the keyboard toward the foot of the screen keeps you mainly out of shot, just your wrists and hands in the frame. And that's all that matters.

You can lower the vertical position of the keyboard in the frame by tilting your phone or webcam away from you.

In a normal set-up you would use a second device so you can talk to Suzanne face to face.

2. Avoid backlighting

Lady in silhouette, filmed in front of bright window
Learning Debussy or listing your demands ... ?

When using Skype to talk face to face, try not to be backlit, such as sitting in front of a window during sunlight hours. This is because the camera will automatically adjust its exposure settings, and the more bright areas there are in the frame, the more it will darken the image to compensate. This usually has the unwanted side effect of turning you into a silhouette.

If backlight is unavoidable, overcome it by adding some front light, such as a ring light, table lamp or uplighters.

3. Reducing in-camera keyboard glare

PC monitor showing piano keyboard, the white keys appearing as one due to the camera's over exposure
Glossy keyboards, dark backgrounds and overhead lighting can make it hard to determine the individual white keys

Some keys - especially plastic ones on a digital piano - can be glossy and thus very shiny indeed. However, the keys are not the majority of the image. If everything else in the shot is dark then the camera's automatic exposure control will lighten the shot, making your keys whiten further. In extreme cases it can over expose a keyboard to the extent the viewer cannot determine the individual keys, instead they appear as one continuous white strip. Overhead lighting can make the matter worse.

An easy way to avoid this is to add more light elements to the shot. Some white fabric, plastic sheets, paper or plywood laid over some of the darker items in the frame will tame the camera's automatic exposure settings.

4. How to mute Skype

Lessons work best when you use two devices, one to video your keyboard and one for face to face conversations. When using two devices on the same call, to prevent feedback one device need have the Skype mic disabled (via the left-hand circle that appears when you tap / hover on the screen), and the same device need also be muted.

Muting - you would like to think - should be as simple as turning the volume right down or tapping the mute button. However, some versions of Skype on some mobile devices refuse to be muted. You can get the volume low, but it won't go to zero.

If you experience this issue, you can effectively mute Skype by inserting some headphones (or pairing to a Bluetooth headset).

What My Pupils Say
open quotation marksSuzanne was an excellent piano teacher from when I first started playing piano to when I finished my ABRSM Grade 8 piano exam. I would highly recommend Suzanne to anyone wanting to learn to play piano as a hobby or to achieve grades.close quotation marks
Howun Lam
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