18 May Webcam Tips & Best Practices
Webcam tips for at-home working to help us all communicate effectively and efficiently. Webcams have now become a necessary part of work and life in 2020, boosting our ability to connect and do business with one another. Now that this form of communication has made its way into the mainstream, we’ve outlined a few webcam best practices designed to help you look and sound your best on camera for work presentations.
1. Adjust your lighting
Proper lighting is key to a good webcam presence. The following choices all produce bright, clear lighting that will maximize webcam clarity:
- Windows. There’s a reason why photographers love natural light—it makes everyone look their best. Bright, indirect light is best (think, the light on a cloudy day), and make sure to sit facing the window so you’re not backlit.
- LED desk lamp. If natural light isn’t an option, store bought is fine! Search for LED desk lamps online to find production lights with adjustable height and brightness.
- Tablet or phone. For soft lighting, apps like Flashlight Ω and screen-light in the app store produce bright, white light from the screen of your tablet or phone. Mount it on a device tripod, set it to face you and you’re good to go.
Types of lighting to avoid:
- Direct sunlight. There can be too much of a good thing. Direct sunlight will wash you out and cast harsh shadows, making it difficult for people to see you on camera.
- Overhead light. It’s universally unflattering and casts strong shadows, and you deserve better.
- Glares. Be mindful of light that causes glare on glasses—the audience wants to see your face!
2. Use an external microphone
Arguably the most important tactic to leverage for professional quality webcam calls. While the internal mic on a computer is fine for calls with family and friends, it’s not going to cut it for a professional shoot. The following are our recommendations for sounding your best:
- High-quality USB mic. A small, external mic will produce the best sound quality. If only recording audio and not video, record your content on a separate audio device altogether.
- Headset or earbuds with an inline mic. If you don’t have access to a microphone, this is the next best thing that will improve audio quality, eliminate sound delay and feedback, and ensure your audience can hear you clearly.
3. Adjust camera angle to eye-level
For the most flattering, natural camera angle, make sure you are looking straight ahead at eye-level into the camera, not down at the desk. This may involve putting your laptop on top of some books to raise the camera to eye-level.
Make sure there’s plenty of light on your face, and look straight ahead at the camera.
4. Choose a quiet location
Make your setup somewhere quiet and in a space as acoustically dead as possible.
Microphones pick up a lot more noise than we realize—everything from barking dogs, boisterous kids, highway traffic, emergency vehicle sirens, and even background noise from vents can be picked up on your mic and deteriorate your smooth audio.
Since we’re all working from home, bedrooms, offices and carpeted areas usually work best. Avoid empty rooms with echo if possible. And of course, turn off all pinging distractions such as cell phones, computer apps and chats.
5. Use a plug-in web camera
The internal webcam on computers tend to be of lower quality. Use an external USB plug-in webcam if possible, which can dramatically improve image quality.
6. Bypass the computer and use separate gear
For the tech savvy who own their own gear, set up your video camera and mic next to the computer and simply use the computer as the communication tool to facilitate communication. The actual communication will be recorded independently from the computer, completely cutting out any potential internet issues.
7. Conduct a test recording
If possible, conduct a quality test in advance to make sure all tech is working, and send to a colleague to double check and make suggestions for improvement. Things to keep in mind for the test are lighting, background and sound quality.
8. Check internet speed in advance
The last thing we want is for everything to be in order, to then find out that the internet is down when it’s showtime. Use speedtest.net to check your internet speed and aim for a minimum download speed of 2 megabits per second (Mbps) for both you and your correspondent.
Without adequate internet speed, calls may be dropped, camera quality gets blurry and distracting, and audio gets choppy. For extra stability, we recommend connecting to the internet via ethernet cord as opposed to WiFi.
9. Lock down your webcam settings
To make sure there’s no flickering or focus issues, use either the software that came with your webcam, apps like Mac’s “Webcam Settings” to lock the camera image in place.
10. Choose the right webcam application
There are several widely available platforms for video conferencing currently.
- Skype. The traditional go-to for webcam calls. A good base line, but there are many others to choose from.
- Zoom. A reliable, popular, and perhaps more stable alternative to Skype.
- Facetime. If you and your correspondents are Apple users, Facetime is a good built in option.
- Free apps. Others to try are Facebook Messenger, Viber, Slack, Google Hangouts or WhatsApp. Do some testing and see which one works best for you!