Question of the Week: Creating Good Web Cam Video

by Susan Murphy

shutterstock_82431469This week’s question is inspired by an issue I come across frequently – grainy web cam videos. Whether you’re using your web cam to record a short video of yourself describing your company’s services, or participating in a Google Hangout or video conference, it’s important to present a professional image. So, the question is:

How can I make my web cam videos look better? 

The last thing you want, particularly if you’re trying to come across as reputable, is the typical, blue-screen glow, up-the-nose, grainy image we see on many web cam videos. Here’s what you can do to make your web cam video look more professional:

Camera at eye-level.

The problem with many web cams is they are not ideally positioned for aligning a proper shot. And you can have the best lighting in the world, but if your camera is aligned so I’m staring up at your nose hairs, then that’s all I’m going to notice.

Make sure that your camera is at eye-level. Sometimes that means either adjusting your  chair higher than you’d normally have it for working at your desk, and sometimes it means making your computer screen higher. I will usually prop my laptop up on a few thick books to raise it up so the camera is at my eye level. Trust me – this one little thing can make a world of difference in how professional you look!

Watch out for windows!

I am a big fan of natural light – it brings out colours really nicely and most decent web cameras respond quite well to natural light from a window. But windows can be your best friend AND your worst enemy. If you are fortunate to have lots of natural light in the room you’re working in, that’s great – use it. But whatever you do, don’t put your back to the window! You’ll be a giant silhouette and nobody will be able to see you.

Rather, position yourself so that the window is in front of you or off to one side. Then you can take advantage of the beautiful natural light without being cast in harsh shadows.

shutterstock_58339435Desk lamp lighting 101

If you are like me and your home office is in a basement or similar room without windows, you’ll need to rely on household lighting to make your image look good. My advice is to go down to your local home decor store and invest in a couple of inexpensive desk lamps that have necks you can move around. Get lamps that use incandescent or CFL bulbs – NOT halogen! Cameras don’t respond well to the weird colour of halogen bulbs.

Now, get a fairly low wattage bulb for each lamp – 40w max. Put one lamp on either side of your computer screen and turn them on. Preview your image to see how it looks. If it’s not bright enough, tilt the lightbulbs towards your face until it looks even and not too bright or washed out. You may need to move the lights toward you or away from you to get the right brightness (every camera is different).

The result you’re going for is even with few shadows, and natural looking. Trust me, this trick works! Even though I have access to fancy lighting gear, I still use this trick all the time for my own web videos.

Pay attention to the background

Nothing will make your web cam video look unprofessional faster than a junky looking background. The ideal is to have a solid background in a neutral colour, so if you can position yourself so there’s a blank wall behind you, that’s great. At the very least, clean up whatever is in behind you – book shelves, messy desks, and kids’ toys are all no-nos. Clean and simple is the best course of action here.

shutterstock_108898445Can you hear me now?

Now that you’ve got yourself looking good on your web cam, how do you sound? Making sure you’re set up so people can hear you is critical. First, get yourself into a quiet space – lock up the children, co-workers, spouses and pets if you have to! Eliminate as much background noise as you can. Second, ensure you have a decent microphone – built-in laptop mics need not apply!

You can invest in a headset/mic, or a USB microphone – this is what I recommend for anyone doing web cam videos often. You can even use your iPhone earbuds/microphone in a pinch – it’s not ideal but it sounds a heck of a lot better than your internal computer microphone.

Do a few test recordings to make sure your voice sounds clear – it makes a huge difference!

Just because you’re using a simple web cam doesn’t mean that you can’t look good and sound good. Follow these simple tips and you’ll be able to present a much more professional image on video!

If you have a question you’d like me to answer about social media, the Internet, video or online content, drop me a line via Twitter or Facebook or leave us a comment on this post! I’d love to hear from you.


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