3 Secrets from a Stylist to Present Your Best Self Online

October 27, 2020 / by Brandi Johnson

Teaching online comes with lots of opportunities and challenges, most of which you’ve probably encountered this school year and are working through. But what about how you, yes, Educator You, actually show up online?

In addition to lesson planning, navigating the vagaries of Zoom, and learning how to provide an enriching educational experience in an online space, there’s also the matter of how you look and feel on camera. 

So much of teaching is presentation, and teachers need tools to show up authentically and professionally online. Here are 3 key ways to present yourself online and master the virtual classroom spotlight. 

  1. Lighting

I know, I know. Being a former K-16 educator turned personal stylist, you thought I’d go straight for the clothes. Don’t worry, it’s coming, but for now, lighting is probably the single biggest variable you can control to look great on camera. Control the lighting in your environment to consistently look fantastic when online.

Pro Stylist Tip: Try putting your phone camera in selfie mode and moving in a 360 degree circle to find your best light source, and place your computer there if you can. If you have access to natural light, side light or front-facing light are equally good. Overhead light will cast shadows, but if you have a space or natural light constraint, a lamp clipped to your computer or a small 8-10” ring light just behind it can solve for that. Avoid being backlit, where the light source is behind you, at all costs. You’ll look a little ghoulish, and you’ll want to save that vibe for Halloween, if you’re so inclined.

  1. Soft or Bright? Know Your Contrast Level

Just about everyone is flattered by either soft colors or bright colors, and knowing where you land can be a major style tool in your on- and off-camera arsenal. How do you figure out which suits you better?

Take a look at your hair color, eye color, facial hair (eyebrows, eyelashes, beard etc) and lip pigment. For some of us, these features stand out from our faces, meaning there is a higher contrast between them and our skin tone. For others of us, those features blend in a lot more with our coloring. If that’s the case, you might be better suited to softer colors like heather grey, lavender, medium blues and sage green versus the more vibrant shades of jewel tones and brights. I teach even more nuances about color in my workshops and courses, but you’ll be well on your way with these basic principles. 

Pro Stylist Tip: Once you have your lighting set, test out a few different shirts and see how they make you look and feel on camera. The colors closest to your face will have the most impact on how refreshed and polished you’ll look.

  1. Make Visual Interest Your BFF

Visual interest in styling is that thing you can’t quite put your finger on that makes someone’s style a standout. It’s what makes someone look polished and pulled together, no matter if they are more classic, eclectic, edgy, or minimal in their style vibe.

Pro Stylist Tip: You can leverage visual interest on camera for similar effects. The keys to visual interest are color, print, pattern, texture, and shine. Go for a chunkier knit sweater, a more bold color in a tie or scarf, a statement-making print, or add some bling with accessories like earrings, or rings and cufflinks, especially the latter if you talk with your hands. 

My bonus tip? Above all, be kind to yourself and give yourself grace. Slow down. Set boundaries. Move your body. Breathe. Is this a little woo-woo? Maybe. But great style means nothing if you’re too worn down to confidently make it your own. 

If you’re still searching for your style, take this fun 3 minute quiz to help you learn about your signature style personality type. It’s loads of fun, and you’ll get great educational content to help you define and own a style that’s 100% you. 

Between the knowledge you’ll gain from your quiz results and these tips, you might just get a style boost and a little pep in your online teaching step. I can’t wait to see you shine.

Topics: Professional Learning, Teacher Wellness, Virtual Learning

Brandi Johnson

Written by Brandi Johnson

Brandi Johnson is a personal stylist and educator on a mission to help you live a more confident and joyful life through the magic that comes from self-expression and authentic personal style. She has served as a secondary English and ESL teacher, university professor, master teacher trainer, and curriculum and instructional design maven. During her time in the education field, she quickly earned a reputation for style along with training, and found herself coaching her colleagues on looking their best. After years of moonlighting as a stylist — and an intensive, invite-only training with Stacy London from TLC’s What Not to Wear — she decided to merge her two passions and founded Brandeis Nicole, a boutique personal styling firm. An educator at heart, she spends her days doing what she loves most: teaching style to help everyday people achieve their goals and look and feel more confident in their bodies at every life stage. To learn more about her and her work, you can visit, follow her on social media @brandeisnicole and catch her teaching on her YouTube channel.

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