Adweek’s Guide to Professional Video Conferencing at Home

Does WFH have you feeling like your webcam setup isn't up to snuff?

a chalkboard with drawings on it
Staring down into your laptop screen isn't doing you any favors, so step up your workspace.
Photo Illustration: Dianna McDougall; Source: Getty Images

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact our daily lives, many of us have found ourselves working from home and realizing that our current video conferencing setups are not up to snuff for what will be needed in the coming weeks.

Whether it’s your daily meetings with staff, a webinar with clients, or if you’re booked for a remote TV appearance, there’s no better time than now to upgrade your setup and put your best face forward. So we’ve put together a guide to the best setups for remote video streaming.

There are three main areas you’ll want to focus on when upgrading your remote working video setup: camera, microphone and lighting. We’ll cover best practices for each of them here, and I’ll provide a few Adweek-approved recommendations at different price points so you can determine what works best for you.

Camera

While most of us have a webcam built into our laptop or desktop computers, they’re often not great quality, and in the case of laptops, they’re positioned at unflattering angles. This is why I highly recommend upgrading to a higher quality external USB webcam that will not only offer a better image, but can be placed in the best possible position for your setup.

There are a few main things to consider here. For the best quality, you’ll want a camera that’s capable of 1080p video at minimum 30fps. If you’re going to be flying solo onscreen, you’ll also want a camera whose field of view is not too wide—about 80 degrees is a safe guideline.

When it comes to positioning the camera, it’s ideal to place it between yourself and your screen so that when you’re looking at the screen, you’re also looking at the camera. I would recommend a basic desktop tripod to accomplish this. Ideally, if you’re using a desktop monitor, the camera will be at or around eye level, which will be the most flattering angle. Alternatively, you can use the built-in clip to attach the webcam to the top of your monitor.

A few more notes on video. Leave a couple feet between yourself and the camera and sit in the center of the frame, leaving a small bit of headroom between the top of your head and the top of the frame. Be cognizant of your background. When possible, try to make your background interesting and have some depth behind you to prevent the image from looking too “flat.” However, if you can’t find the appropriate space, a blank wall is a decent backup option.

Here are our recommendations for the best webcams at three different price points:

  • Razer Kiyo Webcam with Built-In Light: $87 (if budget permits, I recommend purchasing separate lights. However, this budget-friendly option kills two birds with one stone.)
  • Logitech C920S Pro: $70
  • Logitech C922: $100

Lighting

Lighting is arguably the most important part of your entire setup. Even with your fancy new webcam, poor lighting can set you back to square one. There are a few important principles to focus on when it comes to lighting.

First, minimize or eliminate all overhead lighting in your room. Overhead lighting tends to cast harsh shadows on the face, which can be hard to overcome even with supplemental lighting. You’ll ideally want a light source directly on your face, coming from somewhere generally in front of you. This can even be as simple as pointing your desk lamp at your face. However, I would recommend investing a little bit of money into a desktop light that is made to serve this purpose.

Over the past few years, ring lights have exploded in popularity and work perfectly for this application. You’ll want one that comes with a stand, and ideally, you should position it so that your webcam is set up directly behind it, shooting through the center of the ring. You’ll want your face to stand out from the rest of the frame, so do what you can to dim the rest of the light in the room (without making it look like you’re working in the dark, of course).

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