10 best webcam tips: How to improve your video calls or streaming sessions

The top 10 webcam tips we’ve gathered here aren’t just for the rare digital nomad anymore – it’s after all after 2019. Whether you’re working from home, connecting with friends and family on the other end country or just trying to stay in touch during quarantine, video calling and conferencing have become part of everyday life and likely will remain so. for some time.

However, using a webcam and preparing for a video call takes a bit of forethought. Luckily, you don’t have to be a tech wizard. Just follow these tips to minimize potential issues, limitations, or frustrations so you can focus on what matters and connect with the people you care about.

1. Choose the webcam that suits you best

Not all webcams are created equal. Whether you’re using an older computer or just need a higher resolution, it’s always wise to be more demanding about your webcam.

First consider the type of resolution you need. There are some great 4K options, like the Logitech Brio Ultra, but they’re a little pricey and really only needed for a handful of users. Most people will be more than happy with a webcam that has 1080p resolution or even a 720p webcam that has a higher refresh rate for smoother video quality.

There are plenty of great and affordable options from well-known manufacturers like Logitech, Elgato, Dell, Microsoft, and even gaming-focused companies like Razer, so consider them before jumping on a bargain option on Amazon.

2. Be aware of your audio

A man wearing a headset and happily waving during a video call

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Cat Box)

Audio is an important but often underestimated aspect of video calling, streaming, and conferencing. Most standalone webcams come with decent mics, often offering stereo sound or background noise rejection. But, if you’re just using your laptop or you’re in a busy space, like jumping on a call in a large auditorium, your results can vary wildly.

So be aware of your audio. Make a practice call with a friend if you need to. If your voice is hard to hear or if the mic you’re using picks up a lot of background noise, there are ways to upgrade. One of the easiest is to invest in headphones or earbuds with a built-in mic.

This will not only allow everyone to hear you since you will have a dedicated microphone a few inches from your mouth, but also allow you to hear the conversation better. If using a headset or headset seems too inconvenient, many companies from Logitech to Razer offer USB-compatible mics that can be plugged directly into your PC or Mac that sound great and include often some sort of background noise rejection.

3. Pay attention to natural lighting

You’ve got the perfect webcam, you’ve got your audio all sorted, and you’ve settled into your desk with a lovely view of the garden right behind you. There’s only one problem – everyone on that video meeting will see a shadowy figure instead of your smiley face. Pay attention to the natural lighting of your installation.

Not only do you not want a lot of backlighting, but you want to make sure there is enough light on you so that other participants in your video call can see you clearly. Turning on the light in your bedroom or even a lamp, as long as it’s positioned so that the light hits your face – either directly or indirectly – can be enough.

Also be aware that your monitor or screen may emit blue-tinted light. Consider changing the color temperature of the screen or using warmer lights for a more natural look.

4. Consider using a ring light

Ring Light

(Image credit: ShutterStock/Andrey Arkusha)

A quick way to up your lighting game is to invest in a ring light. Getting one will take you to the next level by directing soft light at you so you are fully and evenly lit. By using ring lighting, you will also minimize shadows that might appear if you only use an overhead light.

You don’t need to get a professional ring light that a photographer would use. Options like the Logitech Litra Glow can clip onto your monitor for easy placement while something like the Elgato Ring Light, a larger, more multifunctional lighting solution, can clip onto your desk. Even better, solutions like these light rings can be app-controlled for more precise tuning.

And, if you feel like you’re investing in too many gadgets, you can opt for a webcam that already has a light ring like the Razer Kiyo.

5. Consider webcam placement

A Logitech webcam on a small tripod, sitting on top of a Macbook

(Image credit: Shutterstock/ipanacea)

There’s a reason most laptops with built-in webcams place the camera above the screen: webcam placement matters. Not only do you not want your co-workers or family staring at you, but you also don’t want to be too close or too far from the camera.

Set the webcam as close to your level as possible with just enough distance for the webcam to see your head and shoulders to try and recreate the experience of sitting across from someone at a table. You can open the settings of the app you’re using to see what the webcam is picking up.

6. Take care of your background

When you join a video call, you don’t need to set up a fancy backdrop like you’re about to start your own YouTube channel, but you also don’t want what’s happening behind you distracting your co-workers, clients or family of your call.

Be sure to clean up your space, get rid of anything that might distract from the conversation, and keeping our previous tip in mind, avoid any sort of strong backlight. Also keep in mind that many video conferencing apps offer backgrounds that will replace everything but you in the frame for an easier and faster way to keep the focus on you. Don’t choose an obnoxious background.

7. Test your settings beforehand

The last thing you want to do when making a video call is to find that no one can see or hear you once the call has already started. This is especially true if you are connecting with a potential client.

Instead of dealing with technical issues with that feeling of impending doom while others wait for you to troubleshoot, check that the app picks up video and audio signal before your call. All apps have a preferences section in their menu where you can see what others will see as well as check mic levels. Don’t forget that your operating system also has a section for your webcam and microphone settings. You’ll want to check here if your app isn’t getting what it’s supposed to.

8. Remember to mute when not speaking

The Razer Kraken V3

(Image credit: future)

Unless your office is also soundproof or miles away from civilization, chances are that sounds of life will find their way into your video call. Whether it’s a pet, a child, or a commotion outside like a construction, these sounds can be beyond your control. However, you can minimize what others hear to some extent.

Start by being mute by default. Unless you’re talking, there’s really no reason to have an active mic that even picks up the sounds of your breath. If you’re using a headset with a built-in mic, there should be a physical mute button within easy reach.

If yours doesn’t have one, almost every video conferencing app, be it Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet, has a mute button, almost always indicated by a microphone icon. Clicking it will mute and unmute the sound others hear coming from you.

9. Look at the webcam when engaged

A person in front of a computer participating in a virtual meeting.

(Image credit: [email protected]_photos)

When we’re talking to others in person, it’s natural to make eye contact, and that instinct doesn’t go away when you’re on a video call. I know I’ve found myself staring into pixelated eyes thinking I’m making eye contact, only to realize I’m not really.

If you want to look like you’re really engaged, especially when it’s your turn to speak, look directly at the webcam. This way, you’ll feel like you’re looking at the person you’re talking to instead of seeming to have your attention elsewhere. Of course, if you followed our previous advice on webcam placement, this may be a very minor adjustment.

10. Remember that there may be some lag

Not everyone has access to super-fast internet, and it’s important to keep that in mind when video conferencing. Even with the best connections, there will be a small lag between when you speak and when the person on the other end hears and sees you.

So unless you’re prepared to rehearse a soliloquy, be sure to include slightly longer pauses after questions and statements to give others time to chime in. No one likes having to talk over others, especially on a video call. And, since you’ve spent so much time making sure you sound good on your call, you don’t want to ruin it by accidentally coming across as a bad listener.

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