Improve The Look Of Your MacBook Webcam In Zoom Meetings With These Tips


Libe ackerman

Apple released two generations of MacBook Airs during the ongoing global pandemic, first in March 2020 and again in november, and more could be on the way. The two MacBooks were remarkably different beasts in some ways, one with a traditional Intel processor at its core and the other with a new Apple-designed M1 processor. But both were great personal laptops overall and both shared the same weakness – a really poor webcam.

MacBook reviewers, buyers, and owners (or potential owners) are always quick to point this out. MacBooks have never been known to have the best webcams. IPad Pro, iPhone, etc. all have excellent front- and rear-facing cameras, but the 720p resolution camera on the MacBook is loud, looks flat, and lacks depth-sensing technology.

This is the same basic type of camera that the company has been putting in laptops for years, and it’s not the first time we’ve complained. Many Windows laptops are hardly better, many with similar resolutions below 1080p, but at least some have better light sensitivity, better color accuracy, or better depth detection for facial recognition connections.

So what are we going to do about it?

There’s at least a reasonable chance that you’re heading into an online video meeting from a MacBook Air or something similar. It means you are not at your best. Especially for a smaller, low-slung laptop like the Air, your camera won’t be at an optimal angle if it’s placed on your desk or kitchen table and pointed at you.

One option is to use your phone’s camera. Front or rear cameras will be better than any laptop you own. For TV appearances from my home office, I used my phone mounted from a tripod clip at eye level. I also use Elgato’s EpocCam software, which runs on my phone and allows me to use the phone as a 1080p wireless camera for my MacBook. The Pro version costs a few bucks and won’t work for all scenarios, but is worth it if you’re using a compatible app like Zoom or Microsoft Teams.


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You could also attach an external webcam from Logitech or another company, but many models are currently sold out on Amazon and elsewhere, so you may be stuck with the built-in camera. Whether it’s a MacBook or another laptop, here’s how to get the most out of it.

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Lift up your laptop

If your laptop is near a good ergonomic position for your hands, then it is far from the best place for a Zoom meeting. Get big books. Get giant board game boxes. Prop this sucker. Use large coffee table books or something similar, so you won’t have as many wobbles. Do not use empty boxes.

Where do you want the camera to point? Place it just above eye level.

2020-mba

A not-so-great photo of the 2020 MacBook Air webcam. Note the smooth picture quality and the laptop needs to be propped up higher.

Dan Ackerman / CNET

Good lighting cures (most) ailments

The MacBook Air’s webcam is particularly poor in low-light situations. Many other webcams for laptops do this too. This is why film and television sets and professional photography are inundated with giant lights. You don’t need all of these, but a good source of natural sunlight is an easy, inexpensive way to dramatically improve your webcam shot. Face the window, don’t turn your back on it. You want the camera to see the light from the window, not the window itself.

If natural light isn’t available, don’t spend a ton on a fancy lighting setup. This the whole UBeesize is less than $ 50 and includes an 8 inch ring light, tripod to mount it, and phone clamp. Almost everyone at CNET is using this setup or something similar right now.

Macs with a better webcam

The MacBook Air and MacBook Pro both have this 720p webcam. But the 27-inch Intel iMac and the new 24-inch M for 2021! The iMacs both have excellent 1080p cameras. Previously you could only find in the iMac Pro starting at $ 5,000.

My colleague Brian Cooley has a lot more general webcam setup tips, including some great headphone mic suggestions – although your headset or AirPods should be fine for anything that isn’t a live hit on CNN.


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