Whether you’re using an old phone or an old DSLR, it’s just frustrating a bad camera. The worst offenders of all are laptops and webcams. They just suck, even if they’re newer laptops and computers. Even if you buy a separate and dedicated webcam, chances are, the performance will still suck.
The good news is most of the problems you might be facing with your webcam quality, can be fixed or “covered up” by simple tricks. Here are some tips and tricks you can easily do to help improve your webcam’s image quality, without even buying any new equipment in most cases!
Fix Your Background
You might be thinking, “This isn’t a webcam fix at all!” and you’re right. But remember that when you’re in a video call the camera will also see everything behind you, and if your background is messy, it not only looks bad, but the people seeing your mess might have a bad impression of you for not being tidy. So clean up that background!
Once you have a tidy background, it’s really a blank slate if you think about it, so don’t be shy to put some decorations up to make your background look good. Just don’t overdo it, keep a few picture frames, a shelf of collectibles, plants, or literally anything, as long as it’s not too distracting to the people seeing you.
If you’re pressed for time and can’t tidy up or redecorate, using a bokeh or blur effect will also work great in a pinch!
Adjust Webcam Position
Most of us use laptops these days, and that means one thing; unflattering webcam angles. Not because you have a low-quality laptop webcam, but because of the laptop’s position. Since we often use laptops on a desk and our laps, the webcam often ends up staring up our noses, which is not the most flattering angle for anybody. Even worse, in the effort to compensate for that, we often tilt our heads down, which doesn’t look much better.
To fix this, you need to adjust your webcam position. The best angle to make you look relaxed and confident is to keep your camera around your eye level. The easiest way to do this in a jiffy is to use boxes, books, or really anything to elevate your laptop so that the webcam is at eye level.
If you’re looking for a more permanent fix, you can buy a laptop stand, or get a webcam or camera then attach it to a tripod.
Another trick that some people (especially streamers) use is pointing the webcam to the side of their faces. This might give you a more dramatic look, but if you’re going on a conference video call to attend a meeting or a class, it’s best to keep your camera pointed straight to your face for a more professional look.
Is your video too dark or too bright? It’s kind of tricky not to overshoot your corrections especially if you don’t have the first clue what you’re doing aside from turning lights on or off. But here are some easy fixes for those problems:
Dimming or Diffusing Light Sources
If you use a non-dimmable lamp or sunlight to light your shot, the easiest way to dim or at least soften the light hitting your face is by diffusing it. If you’re using a lamp, you can just cover it with a piece of white paper, and you’re done.
Alternatively, point your lamp at a wall in front of you instead of right at you. The light will reflect from the wall to cast a softer light on your face. This strategy works best if your wall is white. If yours isn’t, you can put a sheet of paper, Styrofoam board, or another flat white surface on the wall to point the lamp at.
If it’s just sunlight that’s overpowering your shot, diffuse it with a curtain, or move further away from your windows.
Finally, don’t ever position yourself so that the light is behind you, I’ve seen a lot of people do this, and most of the time they think it’s cool. However, the shadows it creates can look awkward and unflattering. Remember to always face your brightest light source!
Add a Light Source
Whether you already have a well-lit shot or not, an added light source can help improve your webcam quality.
If you already have a well-lit shot, you can use another light source as a key light to make your shot look a bit more dramatic or interesting. You can also use a backlight to help separate yourself from your background. If your face is poorly lit, you can use a soft fill light to illuminate your face better.
If you want to go all out, you can add all three of those to make up standard three-point lighting.
Another light source that you should be wary of is the ones that are coming from your monitor or screen, if you’re wearing glasses like me, you might get some of that blue light reflection. And to eliminate that, you need to dim your screens and use a key light.
This is the before and after from my own webcam after implementing the lighting and angle adjustments I just recommended above. This is the same camera and it’s not edited in any way but I think it still performed way better considering that all I did is change the camera height and added a ring light as a key light.
Upgrade Your Camera
Even if you’ve done all the things I mentioned so far, you won’t get too far if your camera is just low quality. The most straightforward way to fix this is to buy a new webcam. You can get pretty sweet ones like this webcam which is not only a camera but also has a light and mic built-in:
Use Your Phone as a Webcam
In most cases, the camera on your phone can outperform your laptop’s camera or even your affordable webcam. So why not utilize something that you already have? You can do that by using apps like iVCam and Droidcam.
Use a Dedicated Camera
If you have a DSLR or Mirrorless camera, you can easily utilize that! Although it depends on what camera you have, the setup process on any camera is more or less the same. There are two ways to go about this. The first is to use an app. Some camera manufacturers offer their own app that enables your PC to recognize your camera as a webcam. For cameras that don’t have their own app, you can find a third party app that does the same thing.
Don’t Forget Sound
Even though you have a DSLR camera as your webcam, you won’t look good if you don’t sound good. Even with a basic webcam, poor sound quality can make a low-quality image seem even worse. These simple tricks to improve sound quality will help create an overall better experience for whoever’s on the other end of your video call.
Fix Your Background (Again)
Reduce Background Noise
As with fixing your video, there are a ton of things that can happen in your surroundings that can affect your audio quality. Cars passing by your house, an AC humming, noisy kids running around, these are all things your mic might be picking up.
To fix that, just move to a different room, turn off your AC for a while, or ask someone to look after your kids. Do whatever you need to do to have a quiet environment. It’s a straightforward fix that’ll get you great results.
Eliminate Echo and Reverb
Echo and reverb can also be a huge problem for some people since they can distort your voice and turn what you’re saying into gibberish. If you have this problem, an easy fix is to use thick curtains or put up a mattress on your wall like garage bands do. Both of these will absorb sound and dampen that echo or reverb effect.
For a more permanent fix, put this acoustic foam on your walls:
This might be an obvious one for some people, but still, there are a ton of people who attends video calls without headphones, and in most cases, those people pump out their sounds through a speaker. And when the time comes for them to open their mic, it’s all mic feedback hurting everyone’s ears.
Using a pair of headphones will easily solve that problem. Not only that, you’ll also hear everyone better and you’ll probably sound better too if your headphones have a built-in mic.
Upgrade Your Mic
Getting a dedicated mic is always going to be the best solution when it comes to improving your sound quality on calls. This can get a bit pricey but, fortunately, there are a ton of options when it comes to microphones.
There are USB mics that plug directly into your computer. There are also XLR mics which are usually cheaper but also need an audio interface to connect to your PC, which can end up making it the pricier option.
If you’re really on a tight budget, there are boom mics or lav mics that you can attach to your existing headphones or on your shirt. This is usually the best mics to use even in terrible acoustic environments.