How to Turn on a MacBook Camera

by David Weedmark ; Updated September 26, 2017

Every MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro comes with a built-in camera for taking photos and video, including video streaming with your friends. To activate the camera, you need to select an app that uses the camera, like Photo Booth or FaceTime. With newer MacBooks, it's called a FaceTime camera, while on older MacBooks, the camera is referred to as an iSight camera.

Turning the Camera On and Off

To use your MacBook's camera, select any app that requires it, such as Photo Booth, FaceTime or Messages. On older MacBooks, you can also use iSight.

When you open Photo Booth, the camera comes on automatically. If you are using a video app like FaceTime, click the "Video" button to activate the camera. When the camera is on, a green indicator light appears beside the camera lens above your screen. You will also see the video feed from your camera in the app's window.

To turn off the camera, close the app or turn off the video on your video streaming app. The camera's indicator light turns off.

Troubleshooting Your Camera

If you are using an app that should access the camera but can't detect it, make sure no other apps that use the camera are running. For example, if iMovie and FaceTime are both open, one may interfere with the other. If there is more than one account on your MacBook, you may also need to make sure that another user hasn't left an app open that may be blocking your access to the camera.

If no other camera-friendly apps are running, restarting your MacBook usually clears up the problem.

Finally, if none of these methods work, make sure your MacBook's OSX operating system is updated.

Using Terminal to Force-Close Camera Interference

If it isn't convenient to perform an update or restart your MacBook, you can enter a command in the Terminal window to disable any apps that may be blocking your access to the camera.

  1. Close the app that is trying to access the camera. 
  2. Open Terminal by pressing Command-Space on the keyboard, typing "Terminal" and pressing the Enter key. 
  3. When Terminal opens, enter the following command: sudo killall AppleCameraAssistant;sudo killall VDCAssistant
  4. Press Enter and enter your administrative password when prompted.
  5. Open the app you want to use with the camera.

Tip

  • If your MacBook's built-in iSight camera does not turn on automatically when entering Photo Booth, then you may be experiencing a hardware issue and should take your MacBook to a certified technician or Apple store.

About the Author

A published author and professional speaker, David Weedmark has advised businesses and governments on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years. He has taught computer science at Algonquin College, has started three successful businesses, and has written hundreds of articles for newspapers and magazines throughout Canada and the United States.

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