Further proof that we're all – even middle-aged politicians – adapting rapidly to the quixotic grooming requirements of Zoom, came yesterday when Sir Keir Starmer brandished a bit of professional lighting equipment outside his Camden home.

It's important for a political leader to look polished at the best of times, but when said chap happens to be the leader of the British Opposition during a global health crisis… well, time to call in the big guns, or rather the lighting rental place that usually supplies TV and photography sets.

And you can bet your last loo roll that there was a similar rig involved in the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's Zoom call to Burnley primary school, and Susanna Reid's stint presenting Good Morning Britain while self-isolating at home.

A few weeks ago, it seemed a bit much when fashion designer Tom Ford suggested positioning your laptop on a stack of books for a flattering downward angle, and using a lamp to light your good side – now his set-up sounds positively rinky-dink. Here's how to do it well.

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Light it up

With the wrong lighting, it's easy to look like a boiled egg on Zoom – but you can equally go the other way and create too many shadows, leaving you looking gaunt. According to director Dino Dimopoulos, Starmer's not-so-secret weapon looks like a fluorescent light in a soft box – the box is important, as it diffuses the light.

Dimopoulos suggests positioning yourself facing a window, so that the natural light is shining front on to your face; "you get an even falling away, like natural contouring, so you look less like a beach ball. Never sit with the window at your back, or to one side. If you're using a light, it should be just above laptop level – about face height – in front of you; too high and you'll create shadows under your brow-bone". If your windows get full sun, a white sheet pinned up will act as a diffuser of sorts.

Channel your inner newsreader

When getting dressed for Zoom, think newsreader. Reid and Emily Maitlis don't just happen to share a love of fuchsia-pink shift dresses: they know that bright block colours read well on a screen. As a general rule, red and bright pink appear energising, yellow uplifting, and blues, purples and greens calming – which is likely why the Queen chose green for her public address (though it may also have been a subtle nod to the NHS).

Busy prints can be distracting and go a bit magic-eye, though bold stripes can work – see the Duchess of Cambridge's Breton stripe. Avoid any overly fussy silhouettes, like ruffles, puff sleeves or pleats, which can add bulk: fitted is best (and also avoid off-the-shoulder necklines – the wrong crop and you'll appear to be naked).

Gents, try a blue suit or tweed blazer rather than black, and a white shirt to bounce light up to your face. Channel 4's Krishnan Guru-Murthy's floral ties might not be to everyone's taste, but they help him to come across as warm (as does any appearance from a family pet).

Fake a glow

You don't want to look like you've been sunbathing while Rome burned, but too pale and you might look ill, which is the very worst thing to look right now. A garden-less friend of mine has taken to dangling limbs out of the window on sunny days; you might also consider adding a few drops of self-tan (go easy mind, you don't want to look like you've been taking beauty tips from The Donald) into your moisturiser – Isle of Paradise's Self Tanning Drops (£14.95, Boots) are idiot proof, in this idiot's tried-and-tested opinion.

Make-up artist Rachel Singer-Clark suggests we "slightly overcompensate as the FaceTime can make you seem flat", which means defining eyebrows and lips (with nude liner if you don't wear lipstick) and adding cream blush to warm up the face

Ask yourself: WWYHD?

What would your hairdresser do? If the meeting's an important one, then either follow a DIY blow-dry tutorial on YouTube or make sure your hair is neatly pulled back. Josh Wood's team is offering 15-minute colour consultations online, and you can attempt root-coverage at home with their DIY kits if it's imperative that no one knows you're not a natural blonde.

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You're stuck in your house, not on a desert island, so do as much hair removal as you normally would – both ladies and gents – shaving, tweezing those nose hairs, bleaching your moustache, the lot. You'd be surprised at the level of detail a video cam can pick up.

Stage the bookshelves

Someone might take that copy of The Dictator's Handbook the wrong way, and the well-thumbed Belle du Jour paperbacks don't really send the right message either: pop Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In and those leather-bound classics at the front instead.

Former Bank of England governor Lord Mervyn King's backdrop of framed certificates lent gravitas to his appearance on Newsnight on Monday (note the crisp white shirt and tweed blazer, too, and the neat hair suggesting that his wife Barbara may have attempted an at-home cut).

And if you have a Farrow & Ball painted corner with an oil painting hung in it, look no further. If not, that rainbow little Timmy painted will do just as nicely – and if no little Timmy, paint with your non-dominant hand and say the neighbour's kid did it.