Improve Your Lighting
Whatever type of webcam you use, you get much better results when you shoot in brighter light. Webcams do not typically work great under low-light conditions; the low-cost lens just doesn’t let in enough light to produce a quality picture.
The solution, then, is to put more light on the subject of the video. You want the light to come from behind the webcam and shine on the subject’s face. There are a number of ways to do this.
First, turn on the room lights. I can’t tell you how many YouTube videos I’ve seen that look as if they were shot in a darkened dorm room. No camera, webcams included, can shoot a quality picture with the lights out.
If you want to spend a few bucks, you can purchase an external lighting kit, like the kind professional photographers use. You’ll get two or three photofloods and typically some sort of diffusion or reflector device; position the lights in a V in front of the subject for best effect. Unfortunately, a photoflood kit will cost you $150 or more, which may be beyond your budget.
A much more affordable (re: free) alternative is to use a simple desk lamp. Position the lamp behind and a little to the side of the webcam, and shine it on your face. Voila! Instant external lighting, and a much improved picture for your video.
Watch Your Background
What’s behind you in the frame makes a big difference in how your video looks. Put simply, the more cluttered the background, the worse you look.
Let’s look at some obvious no-no’s. First, never position yourself in front of a light source. You don’t want light coming from behind you; you’ll end up shooting the bright light with yourself backlit, in silhouette. Unless you’re going for a mystery witness type of effect, you won’t like the results.
Figure 2 Don’t sit in front of a light source – this is what happens.
You should also avoid positioning yourself in front of a window. Windows are bad because they let in light, which gives you that unwanted backlighting effect. In addition, if there’s something interesting happening outside the window, viewers will watch that instead of you. Not what you want.
Let’s face it, any busy or cluttered background is bad. Avoid shooting in front of bookcases, fancy wallpaper, even the clutter of a bedroom or dorm room. Anything that’s behind the subject can be a distraction.
It’s much better to shoot yourself in front of a plain, single-colored background. A white wall is good; not only is it visually clean, it also provides good contrast, letting the subject stand out from the background.
However you achieve it, the goal is to make the subject stand out from the background, and not have the background compete for attention. Even if you have to shoot in a cluttered room, hang a plain light-colored sheet behind you. This simple effort will make a big difference.