Everything you can do to improve your webcam audio and video

It’s a universally recognized truth that many of us spend far more time looking at webcams than ever before, as well as watching other people’s webcam videos on our own screens. Video calls and conference calls are now an accepted norm rather than an occasional rarity, and for the sake of your fellow callers, you want your audio and video stream to be as smooth and of the highest quality as possible.

While you may be used to simply opening the lid of your laptop or firing up your video conferencing software of choice to start your calls, there are ways to optimize and improve the quality of your output. With just a few minutes of exploring what your options are, the other people on your calls will thank you. So we are here to help you through that process.

We’re going to look primarily at software setup here, but there’s also more you can do: invest in a better webcam or microphone, make sure you’re in a room that’s adequately and evenly lit, and reduce the chance of any external sound are all good practices.

How to adjust the built-in settings to get a better webcam image

Windows comes with some basic settings that you can modify to improve the quality of your webcam’s audio and video. In Windows, open the Start menu to find Settingsthen choose bluetooth and devices Y cameras: You should then be able to select the webcam of your choice to get some basic brightness and contrast sliders.

Adjusting them can quickly give you a better video image, and you can see what the changes will look like using the preview window above the sliders. If you want to go back to where you started and start over, click reset settings; and if you’re having serious trouble getting your webcam to work in the first place, click Solve problems.

Windows offers a limited number of settings that you can use.  (Screenshot: Windows)Windows offers a limited number of settings that you can use. (Screenshot: Windows)

On macOS, it’s a different story: there are no built-in settings to manage your webcam, and it really depends on the app you’re using to access the camera. Since FaceTime is provided by Apple itself and comes installed with macOS, it counts as a built-in settings option, and as soon as you launch the app, you’ll notice your default webcam immediately activates.

If you then click the Control Center icon in the menu bar (it looks like two switches), you will see a video effects (to activate background blur via Portrait mode) and a microphone mode button: This allows you to choose between Standard, voice isolation (surrounding sounds are suppressed), and Spread spectrum (the sounds of the environment are allowed to pass).

The best third-party tools for a better webcam image

If you want more optimization options than an operating system’s built-in settings can give you, you can get help from third-party tools. These utilities have been designed to sit on top of your operating system and work with any webcam you have connected, so they are not specific to particular devices.

Take FineCam for Windows and macOS, for example, which gives you adjustment options for saturation, sharpness, brightness, contrast, white balance, and more, and can automatically improve the quality of a broadcast in low-light conditions. Also, there are plenty of one-click filters and effects available. You can use the software for free, but many of the advanced options require a paid subscription, which starts at $6.90 ($10) per month.

Finecam gives you many settings and features to play with.  (Screenshot: Finecam)Finecam gives you many settings and features to play with. (Screenshot: Finecam)

ManyCam is another software package worth checking out, and again, it’s packed with features to explore. You can modify the brightness, contrast, and saturation of your video stream, you can combine multiple layers (if you’re presenting slideshows, for example), and you can experiment with picture-in-picture effects. It’s a set of useful webcam tools that goes far beyond video and audio optimization, but most of these tools require a paid subscription that starts at $49 ($68) per year.

You also get a variety of optimization options with CyberLink PerfectCam, which will set you back $9.99 ($14) per month for the premium edition (there’s a free trial, so you can try it out first). There are sliders for brightness, contrast, and exposure, you can smooth the look of your skin, and you can even let the program adjust some of these settings automatically. On top of that, you get additional effects like background blur and the ability to drop custom backgrounds as well.

It’s also very likely that your webcam will come with some software of its own, which means you’ll want to see…

Application settings for a better webcam image

If you bought an external webcam, it probably works as soon as you plug it in, but there’s probably also some free software you can download to access more settings and options. Logitech webcams, for example, have Logi Tune.

From the main panel of the app, choose your connected Logitech webcam, then open the Video tab. You will see that you can change the zoom level, the field of view and make manual adjustments of brightness and contrast, as well as rotate auto focus On or off. Under the Settings tab, meanwhile, you can toggle HDR turn the mode on or off, which should keep the bright and dark areas of the video stream visible.

Zoom has optimization options for audio and video.  (Screenshot: Zoom)Zoom has optimization options for audio and video. (Screenshot: Zoom)

It’s also worth digging into the apps you use to make your video calls, because there may well be additional options here too, even if you’ve never used them. Zoom is a good example: click the gear icon in the upper right corner of the interface, then switch to the Video Y Audio tabs on the left to make some adjustments.

Under Video, you can choose to enable Retouch my appearance (which smooths out some wrinkles) and Low light setting (making it easier to see in the dark). You can also select Advanced to find the noise reduction optimization option. Under Audiothere are settings to automatically adjust the volume during calls, as well as to suppress a variety of background noise (from pen tapping to dog barking).

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