Looking good on camera: MailOnline puts video call filters to the test

Hugh Bonneville’s youthful appearance on Wednesday’s One Show caused a frenzy of speculation over whether he was using filters for the video link, with some viewers suggesting he looked ‘weird’ and too airbrushed.

With so many people working from home and wanting to look good in video calls, MailOnline decided to subject ourselves to popular filters to see how you can look your best – without people asking whether you have been ‘living in filterland’.  

We started with Zoom’s basic ‘touch up my appearance’ setting and then applied five filters within Snapchat to test out as a comparison: Beauty by Naomi Campbell, Catfish, Jolie, Airy Purple and Beauty Set. 

Airbrushed: Hugh looked unrecognisable during an appearance on The One Show on Wednesday night as he appeared via a video link with a ‘weird’ filtered face

Shivali Best without a filter

Ryan Morrison without a filter

Mailonline’s Shivali Best and Ryan Morrison before any filters have been applied

Zoom’s touch up my appearance 

This is the most common tool used to smooth out wrinkles and flaws for users joining a meeting or a video call and is found in the Zoom video settings menu.

Ticking the box gives you a slider that can ‘smooth out’ your face, but taking it too far can make you look more like a faceless blur than a youthful Hollywood star. 

We found that it was the most subtle of the filter options we tried and the ability to control the level of filter helps to match your face type and surroundings.

Zoom's touch up appearance filter fully enabled

Zoom's touch up appearance filter fully enabled

Zoom’s touch up appearance filter fully enabled can result in completely washing out your face – as seen on the right – especially if you have a poor quality camera

Ryan: I wasn’t a big fan of this one, although that could be more due to the low quality camera on my MacBook which meant there wasn’t enough data for the blurring to work properly. 

Shivali: The Zoom enhancements were probably my favourite of the bunch, largely due to the fact that they only included subtle smoothing of the face. You could definitely get away with applying this for your next meeting! 

Beauty by Naomi Campbell 

This is currently a featured filter on the Snapchat app. Applying it in Zoom, Teams or other apps just requires opening Snap Camera, closing all other video apps, selecting the filter then re-opening the video app you want to use.

Of the beauty filters we tried, it was probably the most subtle. Beauty didn’t seek to make your eyes or mouth bigger, give you freckles or change your overall appearance, rather it ‘enhanced’ what was already there.

It made your face paler, smoothed out lines and wrinkles and added a general ‘blur’ around that acted like a soft focus.

The Naomi filter by Naomi Campbell

Naomi filter on Ryan Morrison

The Naomi filter by Naomi Campbell was used on these images and it subtly softens features, making skin appear lighter and removing signs of lines and wrinkles 

Ryan: This filter completely wiped away any character in my face – it left my skin glowing – and not in a good way.

Shivali: I know I’m only 29, but I definitely have more wrinkles than this filter lets on! The skin smoothing is slightly excessive, although my features weren’t altered too radically.

Catfish v4 filter  

This was a custom filter designed by a Snapchat user and found within the ‘explore’ tab when you go to select a new filter – it was one of the more extreme changes.

The filter makes your skin more orange, with a brighter glow, plumps up your lips and makes hair, beards and eyebrows darker.

While it doesn’t ‘smooth out the skin’ as much as some other filters, it does reduce the number of lines and wrinkles on the face, particularly the forehead. 

The Catfish v4 filter from Snapchat

Catfish filter

The Catfish v4 filter from Snapchat was the most striking of the ones tested, plumping up lips and adding an orange gloss to the face. It also darkened Ryan’s beard

Ryan: I am nearly 40 and if anything this filter made me feel older – the lips looked like I’d been stung by a bee and it made my face look as if I was trying too hard to look younger.

Shivali: This filter definitely lives up to its Catfish name! It plumped my lips up a-la Kylie Jenner, and gave me very obviously fake freckles! It’s a no from me.  

Beauty Set

This one was like applying virtual makeup and, while not on the featured list, was created by Snapchat along with similar more specific makeup filters.

It gives you three levels of control – from a basic ‘touch up’ to a full blown face painting, adding lipstick, mascara, eyeliner and smoothing out your skin.

The different settings even change the shape of your face, with the second setting making it thinner and the third setting making it shorter.

This filter has an ‘anime’ or almost Disney element to it, causing your eyeballs – and lashes – to look more prominent. It also ‘softens’ your entire face as if it were a cartoon. 

Beauty Set by Snapchat

Beauty Set by Snapchat

Beauty Set is a filter made by Snapchat that gives an ‘anime’ quality to the image, with more prominent eyes and skin that is made ‘softer’ like a cartoon

Ryan: I have a beard and while my lips looked lovely, I also have a lazy eye, and so the ‘eyeball popping’ looked very strange. I don’t think I’d get away with it during a Zoom meeting at work – it just wasn’t believable.

Shivali: The Beauty Set filter gave me a slight anime-type look, smoothing my skin, rounding my cheeks and enlarging my eyes. Unfortunately, I don’t think you’d be fooling anyone with this one! 


Jolie is another user-created Snapchat filter found within the ‘explore’ section and it produces an VHS type quality.

The filter takes you back to a time online before ultra high resolution cameras in the palm of your hand, like posts to Tumblr and MySpace rather than TikTok and Instagram.

It adds rosy cheeks, softens your face and adds ‘oomph’ to your eyeballs but its most prominent feature is the grainy effect covering the whole image. 

The Jolie filter adds a grainy effect

The Jolie filter adds a grainy effect

The Jolie filter adds a grainy effect to your image and gives you rosy cheeks as if you’ve been running outside on a freezing cold day

Ryan: This is by far the most obvious as a filter – there is no hiding those rosy cheeks it gives you or the grainy look. That said, this was probably one of my favourites due to the ‘old-school’ vibe.

Shivali: The Jolie filter gave me very Tumblr vibes, with an overtly grainy effect on both my face and the background. The rosy cheeks were quite a sweet addition, although quite clearly fake. 

Airy Purple

This is another Snapchat produced filter and it primarily changes the overall colour and tone of the image – rather than drastically altering your face.

That’s not to say it doesn’t alter your face –  it makes subtle changes to the shape, slightly compressing it and making your skin smoother. 

It also acts to completely soften your skin, removing definition and skin tone. There are no lines or wrinkles when you’re covered in a purple haze. 

Airy Purple filter by Snapchat

Airy Purple filter by Snapchat

Airy Purple filter by Snapchat adds a ‘purple haze’ to your picture and softens your facial features removing lines and wrinkles

Ryan:  This was a bit of a ‘meh’ filter for me. However, you could probably excuse the purple haze as a poor camera, increasing the chance you could get away with the general face softening during a meeting.

Shivali: While my last holiday was over a year ago, the Airy Purple filter has made my face look severely sunburnt – ouch! 

The filters are all ‘live’, so any virtual make up or change of colouring continue to apply even when you’re talking on camera. 

Renee Engeln, a psychology professor at Northwestern university and author of a book on the cultural obsession with appearance, believes people get used to seeing their face with filters applied.

‘You get so used to seeing yourself with these filters that when you look in the mirror you feel mildly horrified. You think, “Oh, is that me?”, Engeln told Mashable.


To become a kitten, or enable a beauty filter you need to open Snap Camera on your Mac or Windows computer.

  • On Snap Camera select the filter you want to use 
  • Once this is done, close any apps that are using your computer’s camera 
  • Then reopen Zoom, or any other webcam app you’re using.  

More details about Zoom video enhancements and filters can be found on the Zoom support website, including how to enable them for a meeting.  

She said that rather than give people an alternative to putting on makeup for a Zoom meeting, it is increasing the time and money some women spend on makeup because they want to look like the filter ‘all of the time’.

‘It’s hard enough to compare yourself to other perfect-looking people,’ said Engeln.

‘But to compare yourself to a perfect version of yourself is giving us even more opportunities to feel like we fall short, and will always fall short.’ 

Filters work differently depending on your face – a beard, glasses and hair that hasn’t been cut in a long time can result in different images to someone with makeup already on or a youthful smooth complexion. 

None of the ones we tested were ‘natural’ although there were some, particularly Beauty by Naomi and the default Zoom filter, that you were more likely to get away with in a meeting without a colleague asking: ‘What’s happened to your face?’

There were other filters we tried that were more realistic – such as Perfect Skim, but the results were so subtle you barely tell the difference, which raises the question: ‘Why bother?’ 

With video calls now a daily occurrence for most Brits stuck working at home, the idea of flattering filters that boost your appearance is pretty appealing.

However, in practice, most of the filters are very obvious and will have your colleagues questioning if you’ve gone under the knife. 

If the goal is to find a filter that makes you look younger while on a Zoom meeting, without causing people to question your vanity – or sanity – then the solution seems to be keep it simple and subtle. 

Hugh Bonneville jokes that he’s had SEVEN imaginary cosmetic procedures after mystifying The One Show viewers with ‘weird’ airbrushed face 

He left The One Show viewers scratching their heads on Wednesday as he appeared via a video link with a ‘weird’ filtered and seemingly ‘airbrushed’ face. 

And now Hugh Bonneville, 57, has hilariously addressed the furore by joking he’s had lots of imaginary surgery in a cheeky Instagram statement. 

Sharing a selfie taken infront of a green screen, the Downton Abbey actor teased that he’s had ‘a number of cosmetic procedures’, including ‘breast indecision, cheekoplasty, aura misting and lipodonction’ (sic). 

Hugh sported a very serious expression as he stared at the camera, making sure to leave any filters off and embrace his natural visage and stray stands of hair. 

Cheekily addressing the furore, Hugh said: ‘STATEMENT: I have recently undergone a number of cosmetic procedures including rhinomicroscopy, breast indecision, cheekoplasty, follicoliopoly, dental undergouging, lipodonction and aura misting. Hope that clears things up. #filtergate #iamnotacat #TheOneShow @bbctheoneshow

Clearly putting some effort into his entertaining reply, Hugh played with the names of actual treatments in his Instagram post. 

The British actor had surprised fans with his flawless appearance as he appeared on the BBC evening show to discuss his film To Olivia, in which he plays Roald Dahl. 

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