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How to Optimize a Laptop Webcam for Streaming

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When you’re streaming one of the easiest ways to engage with your audience is to let them see you. When an audience can put a face to your voice it helps to create a connection. It’s like talking to someone over the phone vs face to face. Your audience will get more from you when they can see your facial expressions and reactions to those moments of great gameplay or even your epic fails!

Whilst it would be nice to buy the latest and greatest camera for streaming, there are a few things you can do to make what you have look good, including the inbuilt webcam on your laptop. In this article we are going to look into how you can optimize your laptop webcam for streaming.

How to Optimize Laptop Webcam Quality

  • Update Your Imaging Software
  • Adjust Camera Video Settings
  • Turn Off Extra Applications
  • Use Proper Lighting
  • Clean Up Your Background

Update Your Imaging Software

Before you change anything, check that the software your webcam software is up to date. Developers release new features all the time as well as fixes and improvements so it’s worth making sure that you have the latest software so you can take advantage of this.

Adjust Camera Video Settings

You can adjust these settings in OBS.

  1. Step 1

    laptop camera settings

    Add your Camera to your sources.

  2. Step 2

    laptop camera resolution adjustment

    First up, adjust the resolution of your camera by selecting Custom under Resolution/FPS Type. Adjust your resolution and FPS to the highest settings your camera and PC can handle. 

  3. Step 3

    laptop camera configuration

    Go to Configure Video to adjust the settings of your camera.

  4. Step 4

    There are 3 settings you will want to concentrate on. Exposure, White Balance and Gain.

    camera properties exposure

    Exposure is how much light the camera lets in before producing an image. Too little and the image will be too dark, too much and you image will be ‘blown out’. Not only this, but exposure being set too high can lead to dropped frames as your camera is taking too long to take in light before producing the image. Therefore you want to set your exposure at a point where you have a bright image but there is no stuttering. The right exposure setting can depend on how much light you have around you so make sure that you check this before every stream. 

    camera properties white balance and gain

    Adjusting white balance will determine how ‘warm’ or how ‘cool’ your image will look. Again, your lighting can affect how this will look so you may want to adjust this streaming, especially if you stream at different times of the day. Adjust your white balance until you can see you have a natural skin tone. Alternatively, hold up a sheet of white paper and adjust until it looks white. 

    camera properties white balance and gain

    Adjusting your gain changes how sensitive your camera is to light. This is a much better way of adjusting the brightness of an image than using the brightness setting. Set the gain high and the image will be bright BUT it will be grainier. Try and keep it as as low as possible without it being too dark. This is will reduce artifacting and noise.

Turn Off Extra Applications

When streaming remember that you will have multiple applications running at the same time, all demanding power from your CPU and GPU. Having more applications open than needed can mean that not enough processing power is going to your imaging software and can affect the performance of your camera, so make sure you quit any programs that are not critical to streaming.

Use Proper Lighting

The biggest improvement you can make to your camera is lighting. Improving your lighting means that your camera can take in more information which, in turn, means a better quality image. Use a soft light to get the best effects (such as a ring light or key light). Using a soft light diffuses the light so there are no harsh shadows of hotspots. If you don’t have access to a ring or key light, you could even use a household lamp, if you can, angle it away from you and have the light reflect off the wall to diffuse it. 

You can have more dramatic lighting by placing your light in certain positions. If you have a single light pointing it straight onto you will have create quite a flat look but if you have pointing at you from an angle it will create more shadows which can be quite striking. If possible, having a back light can also help separate you from your background. Just be sure that this light is not shining directly at the camera otherwise it can cause glare.

Clean Up Your Background

The great thing about having a camera on stream is that it can give you a backdrop with which to show off a little about yourself. Having posters, collectibles and lights in your background can be interesting and engaging for your audience. What they don’t want to see is an unmade bed, dirty laundry, old plates and so on. Make sure you clean up behind you! If you don’t want to clean up, or maybe you can’t show your background, then consider investing a green screen to hide the mess or even create cool backgrounds for your audience.

Conclusion

In order to start streaming you don’t need to spend a lot of money on camera equipment. In fact, if you have a laptop with an in built webcam, this can be enough to get you going on your streaming journey. However, if you’ve tried all this and are still not getting the results you want, it may be worth investing in an external webcam such as the Logitech Streamcam or the Elgato Facecam. 

About the Author

Rik

Rik is a Twitch streamer, podcaster, and comedian from the UK. As a stand up, he's performed all over the world, appeared on TV and on radio. His material and streaming is based around his interests in geek pop culture and his Scottish/Filipino heritage.

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