While we all continue with social distancing video chat will become more popular. Both for meetings at work and seeing your friends and family. Webcams are the inexpensive and easy way to get video out to the world. But they also have a reputation for making us look bad. Some of that comes with the quality of a $100 or less camera. But some of it we can control. These 7 tips will give you ways to look better on any webcam.
The coronavirus outbreak has pushed a lot of people to work from home, many for the first time. Even more people are practicing social distancing. Don’t panic. At the end of the day you’re doing the same job. And you can still reach out to friends and family. But you’ll need to do so with a different toolset. This site is here to help you make the changes needed to make the most of the situation.
Framing refers to setting the scene your camera will capture. In this case you. But also your environment, including the things behind you. You can use a camera app on your computer to adjust the frame without needing to be in a video chat.
- Go to the Start button, and then select Camera from the list of apps.
- You should see video from your connected webcam come up.
- Adjust its position.
- Go to the Applications folder, and then open Photo Booth.
- You should see video from the Mac’s built-in webcam. If you want to use an external webcam go to the Camera menu and select it.
- Adjust its position.
How To Frame Your Webcam
Lens At Eye Level – You want to place your webcam where its lens is at eye level with you while sitting up. A straight on view is the most flattering. And it allows you to look directly into the lens while speaking. Giving the appearance of making eye contact with your audience.
With a laptop raise it up using a stand, books, or even reams of printer paper. Then angle the display for the final adjustment.
For webcams on top of monitors lower the monitor. The top of your monitor should be at eye level normally. Bringing it down a few inches will place the webcam at eye level instead.
A flexible camera mount that works with most Logitech webcams, with lots of adjustment options.
- 1.8 inch wide clamp to attach to side of monitor or other objects
- Bendable gooseneck to adjust in any direction, and extended up to 13.4 inches
- Fits Logitech webcams which have a screw mount on their bottom (check your model first, screw hold may be covered)
Sit At Arm’s Length From the Camera – Place yourself and your webcam at arm’s length. Either by moving the webcam, or your chair, or both. The goal is to have both your head and your shoulders in the frame.
Webcam lenses are wide-angle, for viewing object some distance away. They will exaggerate your facial features if too close, especially your nose. If you only see your head you are too close.
Likewise webcams can only focus well on object up to a certain distance away. If you see you whole upper body you are too far away. Even if focusing isn’t a problem your face will be harder to see on everyone else’s screen.
Make Headroom – This is the distance between the top of your head and the top of the frame. There should always be a gap between the two. But not so wide of a gap that your face isn’t the center of attention.
Light Yourself From the Front
Lighting yourself fron the front with soft, white light is the most flattering. It is how professional models are lit, though with better equipment than you or I have on hand. There are several ways to achieve good lighting.
Face a Window
A window in front of your desk on a sunny day is great. Open the shades and let the natural sunlight in. But avoid having an open window behind you. Its light will domination the picture and you’ll be a dark silhouette. Only good if trying to hide your identity. Be mindful of getting enough light on a cloudy/rainy day. You may want to have backup lighting when the weather doesn’t cooperate.
Close All Other Windows
If a window isn’t lighting you from the front then close the shades or curtain.
Easy and cheap option if you can’t stop the light coming in from a window. Base peels and sticks to the top of your window frame. You can then lower the pleated shade down. Acting like a blackout curtain. When done raise it back up and clip it in place.
Desk Lamp Behind Your Camera
You can setup an adjustable desk lamp behind your monitor and webcam. Point it so it shines light over the camera and onto you. Center it on you. Can also use a shaded lamp.
White Background On Your Computer Display
Your computer’s display is more blue than white. So a bright monitor reflecting off your face is quite unflattering. Instead consider hiding all your program windows. Then change your desktop wallpaper to all white. Now your monitor is better lighting you from the front.
Here’s an all white image you can download and set as your new desktop wallpaper. Right click and save the image.
You could also place a larger monitor behind your smaller laptop. Set the large monitor to a higher brightness, using an all white image. Set the laptop’s monitor to a lower brightness, just enough to see what you need to see.
If the above options don’t help you may want to look into getting lighting equipment made to help you look better on a webcam. Consumer grade LED light rings are made with webcams and phone selfies in mind. They are budget friendly, but bulky. Lower end professional LEDs are affordable, and offer a lot more quality in a smaller form.
Place this light ring in front of you and out of the camera’s frame. Or use the included tripod to hold up a phone for video chat instead of a computer.
- White, yellow, and warm yellow color temperatures
- 10 brightness settings
- Adjustable tripod will hold most size smartphones
- Powered with USB, plugged into your computer or phone charger
- Cable remote to control everything
All-in-one lighting and mount kit, used by news outlets on remote assignments.
- White LED with a white silicone softening diffuser and a warming silicon diffuser
- 4 brightness settings and a strobe
- Battery powered, 2.5 hours at 50% brightness or 30-45 minutes at 100% brightness
- Recharge with included micro-USB cable, plug into your computer or phone charger
- Suction cup mount connects to back of a monitor, laptop, or phone
- Bluetooth remote control using free Lume-X app
You are the focus of your webcam. But your audience can see part of your environment behind you. So be mindful of what they see.
Plain Wall Is Safe, But Boring – When in doubt, go with a plain and simple background. An empty wall or even the front of an open or closed door. There are less distractions behind you. And nothing for your co-workers or friends to comment on.
Make a Statement – If you have the time you could setup a background to say something about yourself. This guy setup an IKEA bookshelf and books he had handy to look well-read. If your video chat app supports custom backgrounds you can use a plain wall as your own green screen. Projecting any environment you like.
Avoid Busy Backgrounds – You don’t want too much going on behind you. Since you want to be the focus of attention. Don’t have a lot of interesting things that will distract your audience. And avoid any motion in your background.
Clean Your Room – Whatever your background, keep it tidy and clean. Even if the rest of your home office is a disaster area. As long as the space in the frame is neat your audience will assume it is all neat.
Looking better on a webcam is important, but so is sounding better. Being able to communicate clearly has as much, if not more impact, on how effective you are with work video chats. As well as enjoying a video chat with friends or family.
Use An External Mic
Your webcam or laptop include internal microphones. They will work in a pinch, though they need a quiet environment. But to sound good you need an external mic what was purpose built for capturing voice audio. This doesn’t mean you need a podcast level recording mic. You may have options already available to you.
Your phone probably included wired earbuds with microphone. Take a look at them. If there’s an enclosure part way down one of the cables that is a microphone. You can also look at its 3.5mm connector. If it has three rings that also shows it has a microphone.
The earbuds need to have a 3.5mm connector. That can plug into your computers headphone jack.
iPhone 7/8/X/11 include earbuds with a Lightning connector. Those will not work with your Mac or PC. There are no good adapters to make them work. As it requires converting the audio signal from analog -> digital -> analog.
The same Apple earbuds included with your newer iPhone. But with the older 3.5mm headphone connector. Allowing them to work with your computer. With the in ear fit you are use to.
Budget friendly earbuds with microphone. Use a 3.5mm headphone connector to work with your computer. Three different size ear pads to try for the best fit. Available in many colors.
You can also use a set of wired earbuds as a lapel mic. This works best with front button up shirts. Tape the microphone part near the top of your shirt. Tuck the earphone cables into your shirt. The appearance will be a wire running up to your mic, with nothing near your face. Do an audio test with a friend first, to make sure your mic doesn’t pick up the audio from your speakers.
A pair of wireless earbuds offer both good audio input for you and audio output for your audience. With the least among of “stuff” visible on camera. You can also wear only one earbud to reduce their appearance.
With Bluetooth earbuds your computer needs to also support Bluetooth. All Macs support Bluetooth. And does any Mac or Windows laptop. But most Windows desktop PCs don’t include Bluetooth by default.
How To Check Your Windows PC For Bluetooth
- Click on the Start menu, then go to Settings.
- Click on Devices.
- If you have Bluetooth you should see it listed on the left panel and main window.
If you don’t have Bluetooth on your computer you can get an inexpensive USB adapter.
This is the Bluetooth USB adapter I use on my gaming PC. I’ve used it to connect a wireless keyboard and mouse, Apple AirPods, and other Bluetooth devices.
- 33 feet/10 meter range in an open space
- Supports Bluetooth 4.0, backwards compatible with older standards
- Works with Windows 10/8/7/Vista/XP, no need to install drivers
- Low profile when plugged in
If you or someone you live with plays online video games regularly then you likely have a gaming headet at home. These are over the ear headphones with a large mic attached. Designed for sound quality and comfort over several hours. You’ll hear others in your video chat clearly, reducing any outside noise. And you’ll sound better than most. But at the cost of wearing a full size headphone and mic.
If you have a choice of webcams an external model is better than a built-in webcam. They have a better lens and electronics. Their internal mic is better than your laptop’s mic, though an external mic is better still. Simply put, a larger exterior model makes you look and sound better on a webcam. The only reason to favor a built-in webcam is if you can frame it much better than the external model.
That said, the best webcam right now is the one you have. With the coronavirus outbreak and people working from home there was a rush on webcams. Amazon is sold out of all but the most expensive models. When I shopped around locally for a webcam for my wife’s PC we only found three total out of several big box stores.
Don’t worry about upping your webcam game until supplies return. By then you might be back in the office and won’t need a better quality webcam at home.
Software that can control your camera can look better on a webcam. It can provide that extra lift you can’t get out of other environmental and hardware changes. A lot software has fun presets and effects, but we’re less interested in those for a work related video chat. Instead we want software that can adjust brightness and balance settings. And zoom or crop our video frame.
iGlasses for Mac – $19.95 (7 day free trial)
iGlasses allows Mac users to adjust their built-in webcams. You make adjustments using the app. Then select the app as your camera in video chat software, such as Skype and Zoom. It does not work with Apple’s own FaceTime or Photo Booth. But it does work with QuickTime, which is the better app for recording video.
- Zoom & Flip
YouCam for Windows – $34.99 (30 day free trial)
YouCam is the top rated and recommended software for adjusting your webcam. You make adjustments to your camera in the app. Then select the app as your camera in video chat software, such as Skype and Zoom.
YouCam has more features than you’re looking for. It targets Twitch streamers and YouTube content creators more than remote workers. The bulk of it are effects and overlays which could be fun to mess around with. But aren’t appropriate for a work related video chat.
- Video Enhancements are the main features you’re looking for
- Auto lighting helps light you from the front
- Skin smoothener does a softer focus, which blurs you and hides details
- Advance button opens a Logitech too, including a zoom/crop feature
Both apps have free trial periods, so take a look and see if they help your situation or not.
What To Adjust
Check out the presets first. If one works perfectly for you, great. If not you can select the one that’s best as a starting point.
Next go into its adjustments menu. Focus on brightness, temperature, and tint. After that you can get into saturation. The other settings are less likely to have a positive effect.
Zoom will allow you to crop your video frame. If you are too far from the camera you can reduce the amount of headroom and background others see. But it won’t be as clear as physically moving closer to the camera.
Few of the tips above will work as well as making yourself presentable. For work calls put the same effort toward your appearance you would normally for a day in the office. For friends and family do what you would normally do before getting together in person.
- Shower and groom.
- Wear makeup if you normally do.
- Dress for success, keep to your work dress code.
Once on your video call act the part. Treat the camera like the person you are speaking to. Especially when you are actually speaking.
- Look into the camera’s lens, not the monitor. This is doubly important during 1-on-1 video calls.
- Smile! It really does make you look better on a webcam.
Finally test your video and audio with a friend or trusted coworker before a meeting. They’ll help you see what you may not in your smaller preview window. If you can’t work with someone else then consider recording a test video. Then review it and make adjustments as needed.
Prices are from Amazon Product Advertising API, last updated on 2020-10-21.