3 simple tips to get the most out of your webcam


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The webcam is such a ubiquitous part of PCs we just don't give them much thought anymore. They're just one component among many on the latest desktops, laptops, and Ultrabooks sitting on store shelves.

That's really unfortunate, because this has led to some horrendous norms for how people use them. You know what I'm talking about: that parent who only ever seems capable of keeping half their face in the frame (and that's on a stationary PC!), and the poorly lit ghoul that usually replaces your sibling on Skype.

People just aren't giving the webcam the respect it deserves. Well, I say enough. Here are three tips to make the most of your webcam—including one tip that has nothing to do with video chat.

Find your place

If you have an external webcam connected to your PC you're at greatest risk for presenting your contacts with the half-face or shoulder shot. If you find you're always having to move your webcam around to get the right shot, what you need to do is get some tape. Then open Skype on the desktop and go to Tools > Options... > Video settings.

This allows you to check your webcam's picture. What you want to do now is sit down at your desk as you usually would for a video chat. Then move your external webcam around until you find the angle you're happy with that includes your entire face and at least a little bit of your shoulders.

Once you find the angle you're happy with mark the spot where your webcam is by making an "X" out of tape. Even if the camera is sitting on top of your monitor, mark it with a little "X." That way if you ever move your webcam you'll know exactly where it needs to go for a proper Skype session.

Light from the front, not the back

If you're suffering from bad lighting while at your PC, improve it by putting a light in front of you--as in the same area as your monitor. Front lighting does a better job of illuminating your face and makes it much easier for your friends, family, and co-workers to see you. Just don't rely on your monitor for front lighting that will make things worse.

Lockdown your home

Webcams aren't just for video chat. They can also be used for security. If your PC has a view of the living room or you just want to keep tabs on who enters your office, try using a program like iSpy or Yawcam. These free programs turn your PC and webcam into a motion detector security system that begins recording video when it detects movement. Now you can finally find out who is sneaking into your office while you're away, and what they're up to.

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