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"I hold my phone out as far as my arms can reach," she says.
I prop my laptop two feet away on an eye-level stack of magazines on my coffee table.
She tells me to begin with natural lighting, near a window if possible—"there's no better source than the sun"—since artificial overheads can accentuate dark circles and wrinkles."Think about movies, when a criminal is being interrogated," Phan says.
"There's just one spotlight on the suspect, and it never looks good." Lighting from below is similarly unflattering.
"When someone tells a horror story and they put a flashlight under their chin, it makes the person's face look scary." For after-hours calls, even a basic table lamp can cast a camera-friendly halo.
Unfortunately, as Phan notes, the camera washes out bright colors—such as those worn on lips and eyes—by some 20 percent, thus minimizing the contrast between eyes, lips, and skin and making makeup a must.
Later that week when New Guy calls me from across the globe, I ignore the impulse to hit Decline and respond with a funny yet evasive GIF.
Instead, I flip my camera around—arms outstretched, Phan-style—and take a Snapchat video. The next time a Face Time call comes through, it's two in the afternoon, I'm in a cab, and I slide over to the window, lift my face toward the sun, and press Accept.
With my laptop perched on outstretched legs, I log on to Skype and check my reflection without dialing anyone.
The Rembrandt triangle appears on my right side—success! According to Phan, "The closer your face is to the camera, the more it can be distorted." Regardless of whether you're using a laptop, i Pad, or phone, Phan suggests creating some distance.