By Mark Hachman
Here’s a free and funny Zoom trick that could really mess with people during your next video call: Use Snap Camera and Zoom to wear a celebrity’s face over your own. Who will it be? Joe Exotic? Joe Biden? Brad Pitt? Most people don’t know how to do this, and it’s scary how realistic it is!
It’s also about as simple as Zoom tricks get. (While this may also work in Teams and Skype, Zoom’s the easiest to configure.) To take advantage of it, you’ll need to be familiar with our previous tutorial on how to enable a funny custom Zoom background, as well as our earlier guide on how to use Snap Camera to change the way you look in Zoom, Teams, and other chat apps. Naturally, better hardware helps, too, and maybe a green screen.
In fact, the hardest part of this Zoom trick is deciding which celebrity face to use. Trying different ones can get addictive!
Here’s all you need to do: Load the Snap Camera app, and search for your favorite celebrity. Political figures are the easiest, as there are several Snap lenses for popular figures like Donald Trump or Joe Biden. Most, however, are low-effort attempts that simply paint decals or other decorations on your virtual face.
Instead, you’ll want to play with Snap lenses that map that person’s face over your own, so that you actually appear to be the person. The best ones actually map the eyes to your eyes, the mouth to your mouth, and deform the face realistically, as in the examples below. (Otherwise, you get something like this static image of Canadian PM Justin Trudeau.)
Donald Trump: The author of this lens does a good job of capturing Trump’s pronounced orange hue and jowls. It’s easy to squint and scowl just like he does.
Me, wearing a Donald Trump virtual mask. Unfortunately, the mapping doesn’t quite extend to the edge of your face. There’s also a weird, tiny little image right smack in the center that the creator left for some reason.
Joe Biden: Even with a neutral face, this Snap lens gives Vice-President Joe Biden a bit of a smile. It’s going to be hard to convince people that you’re going to take them out back behind the woodshed when it looks like all you want to do is give them a hug.
Me, dressed up as Joe Biden. My bangs are way too long to pull this off, so I slicked my hair back in other shots. Otherwise, it’s a pretty good likeness, no?
Brad Pitt: Unfortunately, this Snap Lens is the most artificial of all the “realistic” lenses we’ve found, giving your face an unnaturally lightened hue. (Of course, it could simply be that I don’t look anything like Brad Pitt, making the differences more pronounced.)
Me, dressed up as Brad Pitt. This doesn’t really work.
Joe Exotic: I refuse to watch the Netflix documentary on weird murderous tiger people, but if you’re into the scene, so to speak, then you may want to show up to your next Zoom meeting and talk about big cats. Because I’m overdue for a haircut, this doesn’t look too bad on me right now.
Me, dressed up as Joe Exotic. Though I’ve never watched Tiger King, I liked this one quite a bit. Sort of a down-and-out Frank Stallone look going on.
Remember to set the video input for your Zoom or Teams call to the Snap Camera, with the Snap lens enabled. If it doesn’t work, try rebooting. Sometimes the various apps will fight for control of your camera—our tutorial on how to use Snap Camera helps you work through any kinks.
It’s no fun to have to tell people that you’re Trump or Joe Exotic, especially if you’re bad with impressions. Going the extra mile and creating your own custom background can really sell it!
In some cases, pairing the Snap Camera with Zoom allows for mixing Snap lenses with Zoom backgrounds, as we were able to do previously with the “potato” lens. I happily downloaded a still image of Joe Biden in his home office, and used PCWorld’s Windows 10 Magic Select guide to carefully remove the vice president from the background. (If you have an Adobe Photoshop license you can use that too, of course.)
Biden’s confined to a single set in his house, so pulling off his look isn’t that hard.
What Snap Camera doesn’t always make clear is that you can click on the background to essentially remove you and the lens from the frame, and allow you to insert your own customized background. And when I say “doesn’t make clear,” I mean it. You can see from my attempts at green screens in the examples above that I was trying to come up with a solution that would work. I nearly gave up.
With the “potato” lens that we used as an example in our earlier tutorial, clicking on the background in the Snap Camera lens preview actually turned the background green—a signal that it could be used with a Zoom background. But that doesn’t happen with the Snap celebrity backgrounds we used—even though clicking the background does apparently ready it to be used with Zoom.
You can probably do a better Trump set than this, but it’s not a bad effort.
In any case, what I found to be effective was to go into the Zoom Settings and then into Virtual Backgrounds, and then uncheck the I have a green screen checkbox. I used a desk lamp to make sure my lighting was balanced. (I also had a green sheet behind me, for added assistance, though I’ve never needed it before.) The combination of these factors seemed to work effectively, even though you may not need all of them.
Try to set up your image so that you’ll naturally fit into it—at a desk, say. Positioning everything right really helps.
If you can get it all working, playing with different faces in Zoom can get addictive. Trolling coworkers is about to get a whole lot more fun again.
This story, “Funny Zoom trick: Wear a celebrity’s face to your next meeting” was originally published by
As PCWorld’s senior editor, Mark focuses on Microsoft news and chip technology, among other beats.
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