Keep your budget it mind. If you’re using the webcam for online calls, no programme is going to deliver absolutely perfect video over the internet, as bandwidth becomes a factor. Excellent-quality webcams can be purchased relatively cheaply, and unless you have particularly high demands you probably shouldn’t spend more than £40. For absolute functionality you can easily drop below £15, or throw caution to the wind and pick one up on eBay for a song.
Resolution is key with a webcam: realistically, the item’s number of pixels will certainly provide better still images, but isn’t all that useful for video. Even cheap cameras can provide 1280 x 720, so don’t settle for less. Extra features can also be useful if you’re working in a limited-space environment, such as pan/tilt functions or manual focus. Ideally, before making any important calls you should experiment with the settings on your camera, to see what works for each particular instance of use.
And most basic of all, make sure your machine can run the webcam! This is almost a given with any recent computers, but if you’re operating an old machine, 1GHz CPU and 512MB RAM should be enough.
Once you’ve got your cam installed, it’s a good idea to check up on what settings work for you. If you’re making business calls with your new tech your first impressions are going to go a long way, so ensure the lighting and sound are up to scratch. If you’re sitting at your computer, the light from the screen can be harsh and send shadows in odd places that can make you look like a hacker villain from the 90s. Also be sure to keep the background uncluttered: everything that appears on screen sends a message about you and your business, so make sure you’ve got things in an appropriate state!
Also worth bearing in mind is that sitting too close to the camera can cause distortion and a fish-eye effect that changes how your nose appears. That may sound silly, but not nearly as silly as it looks. Wearing all-white is also discouraged, unless you’re very confident about the quality of your lighting, as white can cause flare, which distorts the video.
If you’re an enterprising soul you can use it as a makeshift security camera, though practically speaking it’s probably more hassle than it’s worth. Otherwise you can use it to participate or host webinars, a great way to teach a class, particularly if you need to use visual elements as part of the class. This is on top of producing any how-to or introduction videos necessary for your product or service, or placing a free call to clients.
So webcams can be a highly valuable addition to your business, and relatively simple to install and operate, and with a few useful tips, can look very professional indeed.
Author: Catherine Halsey is based in Edinburgh and writes for a digital marketing agency. This article links back to Skype.com.
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