Print this article

How do I set up a webcam?

A webcam

Various webcams are available for different applications. Perhaps you’d like to get one so you can chat to a friend or relative in another country – or perhaps you want to increase your home security? This article should get you thinking about which one you need and how to go about setting it up.

WebWise Team | 10th October 2012

Just about everyone has heard of webcams. They can be used for video conferencing (or phone chatting as the non-technical call it), for security purposes, and have even been placed in radio broadcasters’ studios (nobody knows why, someone sitting talking to a microphone is a lousy spectator sport).

Can you see me?

First of all, you need to consider what your webcam is for. If it’s for chatting to friends then something inexpensive from the nearest catalogue or website will do, assuming your computer doesn’t already have a webcam built in. Plug it into the USB slot and run the CD that came with it, if your computer doesn’t recognise it immediately. You’re now ready to start chatting!

If you wanted to record video chats using Skype (maybe for putting into a video podcast or attaching to a blog), then you’d be well advised to spend a little more money and get something that will take an image with a better resolution. This will improve the quality of the picture and animation you record.

But you will need to be as aware of what’s behind you, as the camera’s focus on your face. An office that looks like a bomb site will, of course, convey the wrong impression.

If you haven’t used video conferencing before, beware of eye lines. The camera is best perched on top of your screen, but you’ll be looking at the eyes of the person you’re talking to - which are actually on the screen and therefore below the camera.

This makes it look as though you’re talking to each other’s noses because you’re both looking below the camera. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.

Home security

The other use for a webcam is for home security. You can set it running while you’re away and upload the content to a secure website. More sophisticated webcams have the software included and the purchase price includes some web space to make this happen.

You can then log on while you’re away and check that everything’s okay at home, either through a smartphone or a laptop computer.

And if someone does break into your home while you’re away, you will have their picture on disk.


The WebWise 'W'

WebWise Team

WebWise was first launched in 1998 and since then has helped people of all ages to learn about and love the internet.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.