How to Use Your Laptop Camera

By Anne Hirsh

Updated September 28, 2017

Items you will need

  • Video editing software (optional)

  • Video chat software (optional)

Your laptop's webcam can help your family stay in touch.
i Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images

Modern laptops often come with built-in cameras for online video calls and other video recordings. The exact method of enabling and operating the camera varies by computer and camera manufacturer, but you can start by finding the appropriate camera software through the search function on your Windows-based computer.

Accessing the Camera

Click "Start" to open the Start menu and click inside the search box near the bottom of the menu.

Type "webcam" but do not hit "Enter." Look at the suggested matches that appear above the search box. If nothing like "Webcam application" appears, replace "webcam" with "web camera" or "camera."

Select the camera application that appears in the search results. This will launch the camera software, and may automatically turn on the camera.

Adjust your laptop until the camera picks up the image you want to capture, such as your face or a specific area of the room. You will see the image on a preview screen on your laptop, much as you would on a digital camera. Most laptop cameras automatically attempt to focus on faces within the camera frame. If this feature is not enabled on your camera, it may focus on the object closest to the center of its range, or it may focus on an area of bright light or color.

Adjust the camera's settings until the image on your screen appears the way you want. The settings button may be labeled "Settings," have a wrench icon or an icon that looks like a series of sliding switches. Setting may include the focus, as well as color contrast, brightness and sharpness. Adjust these by sliding the markers on your screen to the right or left to increase or decrease each setting. Follow the on-screen directions to save your settings.

Recording Video

Choose a brightly lit area for your video recording. If you are recording a close-up of your face, such as a video blog, shine light onto your face from behind the laptop, so it angles down toward you to highlight your features. For larger room video capture, such as recording a home skit or capturing your kids at play, try to get diffused general lighting without having any light fixture inside the video area, as this will cause focus problems.

Set the laptop on a stable desk or platform and adjust it until you see the area where you want to capture video in the preview screen. If possible, watch the preview screen as you run through the motions you want to record. This lets you see if the image you will capture is what you had intended. If not, adjust the laptop position or the lighting and try again.

Record video by clicking the record button, either a red dot or a movie camera icon on most software. Stop the recording by clicking the button again. This video will save to a file on your computer, usually in the default "Videos" folder. If it does not save there, check the "Pictures" and "Documents" folders, or any folder labeled with the same name as your camera application.

Launch any movie editing software installed on your computer, such as Windows Live Movie Maker. Choose the option to import or open an existing video from the menu at the top of your screen, and then browse to the file you recorded in the "Videos" or other folder.

Add the file to your movie editing software's current project following the on-screen instructions or information in the program's "Help" file, and then edit your movie as desired.

Video Chat

Close any applications using the camera and connect your computer to a high-speed Internet connection, such as DSL, cable or Wi-Fi.

Launch any Windows-compatible video chat software, such as Skype, Windows Live Messenger or AIM video messenger chats. The software will turn your camera on and allow you to video chat with contacts who use the same or compatible video chat software. You will see a preview screen similar to your camera application's screen, so you can adjust your settings and the image area you capture the same way you did in your initial setup.

Follow the software's on-screen instructions to add contacts and make video calls. Click the "Help" button if the method for doing this is not obvious. The "Help" button is often a small question mark inside a blue circle. If you do not have video chat software installed, you can download and install compatible software quickly and easily over a high-speed Internet connection.


Add your camera's software icon to your desktop for easy access. Right-click the application instead of clicking to open it, and then choose "Send to" and "Desktop" from the menus that appear.

Exit completely out of your camera application for privacy when your camera is not in use. To do this, right-click the program icon in your task bar and choose "Close" or "Exit."