Looking to optimize lighting for virtual events, virtual meetings, and social media videos that you create?
You’re in the right place. Not only do we have recommendations for webcams, but we also have tips to improve your video conference lighting on a budget.
Poor video quality on a webinar or conference call is an instant professional vibe killer. To add to that, if you’re producing an event, internal town hall, or a remote training session, grainy video quality can ruin viewers’ experience.
Thankfully, you can solve this problem with some easy webcam light optimizing tips.
And once you’re ready, invest in a webcam or other accessories like a webcam ring light or a three-point lighting kit.
In this article:
How to level up your webcam setup at home
Start off with some basics tips to get your webcam setup nicely. Then, once you’re feeling confident, level up gradually with some additional gear and strategies on setting up your lighting.
1. Position your camera at eye level
This is a zero-investment tip for those of you working with the camera in your phone, desktop, or laptop.
All you have do is to elevate the built-in camera to your eye level by propping it up on something (think: a stack of books or a laptop stand if you’ve the budget). The reason? The webcam is positioned at your nose level. By propping the camera up though, you can ensure its level with your eyes.
2. Maintain eye contact with the camera
No matter how tempting, don’t look at the person on your screen (which is technically below the camera). Look into your camera instead. This helps you maintain eye contact with the person on the other side of the screen instead of coming across as distracted.
3. Turn on and set up a light source in front of you
Now an easy, no-big-budget-required tip for lighting for zoom meetings: grab a light source and place it behind your screen.
This could be a lamp or similar. Position it in front of you so that there’s light shining on your face. You can also move your computer so that the light source is in front of you if the available lights are fixed.
A few don’ts to keep in mind on positioning light sources:
❌ Avoid overhead lighting and/or fluorescent lights. These can cast shadows under your eyes.
❌ Avoid positioning light sources above you, below you, or one side. Again, these positions cast shadows, which submerges your face in darkness — a big no for video calls and recording.
❌ Avoid strong light sources directly behind you. This means no windows behind you as that can remove you from the camera’s focus.
4. Review what’s in your frame
Checking your background is equally important for optimizing video conference lighting and overall setup.
For example, check for a window or any other strong light sources behind you.
Make sure there’s no clutter behind you as that can be distracting for the viewer on the other side of the screen. You’ll also want to make sure there’s no sensitive information on display on a whiteboard behind you.
And finally, make sure there’s some distance between you and the background. This helps add a sense of depth to the frame.
Pro tip: Position artwork, a bookshelf, or a potted plant behind you to create a visually pleasing background.
5. Check your positioning
Position yourself in a way that the viewer can see you either from the shoulder to the head or from the waist to the head.
If you choose a close-up, it might come across as overwhelming. On the flip side, going any further away can make it too hard to see your face clearly.
6. Be careful with your wardrobe
One another basic thing for a great video conferencing setup: avoid deep black, white and bright colors. These can confuse a computer camera’s visual effect. As a result, a black shirt can make your surroundings look too bright, whereas, a white shirt can make the surroundings look darker.
Your best choice? Neutral colors. It’s also essential you avoid pinstripes, checks, and intricate prints as those can also distract your camera’s setting.
Lastly, avoid clunky jewelry, particularly, jewelry that can hit your table as it can be distracting for your viewers.
How to level up:
7. Get a webcam ring light
These doughnut shaped lights are perfect lighting for Zoom meetings, TikTok videos, and teaching classes remotely.
The best part? Ring lights are easy on the pocket and super easy to use. In fact, you can get a good webcam ring light for anywhere between $50 – $200.
When buying a ring light though, make sure you pay attention to the features. Color control and an easily adjustable height and angle are important features, for example.
Color control lets you tweak the light intensity based on your skin tone, time of the day, and any other light source you’ve in your workspace.
As for the adjustable height and angle, you need them to position the light away from directly pointing at you. This way, you’ll both be comfortable and there’ll be no suboptimal spots on your face.
For a natural look, position the ring light to the side — not face-on. You can also point the light toward a colored wall (if you have one in your home office) so that the light can softly bounce back onto you. This position helps you get rid of the ring light reflection in your eyes. And it’s best for people who wear glasses.
8. Set up a 2-point lighting system
When you’re ready to level up further, consider a 2-point lighting set up. This one’s also a budget-friendly option. Because you can either get two different light sources (a key light and fill light) or use a natural light source as one light and complement it with a key light source that you buy.
As for positioning, you want the light sources beside your camera, facing you from opposite angles.
Keep in mind: the fill light should provide half the power your key light provides so it fills up the shadows that the key light creates.
9. Invest in a 3-point lighting kit
Want to up your video conference lighting game? Add a third light to the key and fill light, the back light or rim light.
With the key light being the primary source of light and the fill light balancing out shadows, the back light’s role is to serve as the background light source. It creates a rim of light around you, helping separate you from the background.
Get a webcam for 2022 [including 5 of our top recommendations]
Now for the final tip to perfect your video conference lighting: invest in a webcam.
You need one if you:
✅ Attend a lot of video conferences
✅ Deliver tons of presentations or host regular webinars
✅ Live stream on social media regularly or teach/coach online
But, hang on a bit: can you not do all of this with your built-in laptop camera? Sure you can. However, those cameras produce grainy video images. So if you’re focused on optimizing the video quality to improve your viewers’ experience, consider buying a professional webcam.
What to look for in a webcam
Here’s what to look for in an ideal webcam:
- High frame rate
Webcams with lower frame rates produce images that freeze periodically, ruining your audience’s experience. So look for at least 15 fps for streaming videos.
- High resolution
A low-resolution webcam delivers grainer images so a high-resolution webcam of minimum 720p or higher is a must. A 1080p resolution is even better, but it all depends on your budget and use case.
- Glass Lens
Entry-level webcam models typically have plastic lens. But it’s best to opt for a glass lens as it improves performance by producing crisper, clearer video images.
- Field of video (FOV)
FOV is the width of the area the webcam shows. Decide on how wide you need it to be based on your use case. For example, a 60-degree FOV captures one person sitting in front of the desktop. A 90-degree FOV, however, captures a group of people seated at a conference table.
- Low-light correction
Most modern webcams come with a built-in low-light correction feature that helps adjust and brighten images in dark rooms. Multiple light sources or recording in the early morning or evening hours can cause lighting issues. A webcam with low-light correction can help correct this though.
Autofocus is another built-in feature in most modern webcams. It helps by focusing the person in the frame, making it a useful feature for capturing closeups or when recording videos on the go or with a busy background.
Top 5 webcam recommendations
With that basics out of the way, here are top webcam recommendations:
- Logitech HD Webcam C615 for $29.49. This one’s a portable webcam with a 360-degree swivel. Other than that, it has all the essential features such as autofocus, a built-in microphone, automatic light correction, and 1080p resolution.
- Microsoft Lifecam Studio for $99.95. This webcam is best for business video conferencing. It offers a wideband mic, color correctness, 360-degree view, glass lens, and 1080p resolution.
- Razor Kiyo for $99.99. An advanced webcam option that’s perfect for streamers. It offers advanced autofocus with a ring light around it that you can control for adjusting brightness. Other essential specifications: 720p resolution at 60 fps.
- Logitech C930e for $129.99. A 1080p HD quality webcam with 90-degree field of view. It comes with a HD autofocus and great low-light performance. Bonus? The webcam has a built-in mic.
- Elgato facecam for $169.99. This one’s specifically for creators who stream live regularly and/or run an OTT channel. It comes with 60 fps and 1080p resolution but no autofocus or microphone (which is why it’s suited for video creators — not remote office workers).
And that’s a wrap, folks! Test out some gear, adjust your camera and light source, and remember to have some fun. Here’s to brighter, more professional, crisp quality webinar or video recording 🥳