Why Is My Webcam Quality So Bad?

by Mindi Orth

When you rely on a webcam, whether for video conferencing, video blogging or any other video capture venture, low-quality images can negatively affect your project. Examples of potential performance failures include blurry, dark or too-bright images and distorted or otherwise broken video. Several factors may be to blame for these webcam woes, with most offering a simple solution.

Dust and Other Debris

Dust and other debris accumulates on the webcam lens over time, reducing the quality of the images you capture. In addition, the oils from your fingers may transfer to the lens if touched, which also diminishes the quality of your video. Use a soft, dry microfiber cloth and gently wipe the lens to remove any potential buildup. If there is a thick or sticky residue covering the lens, then lightly dampen the cloth before cleaning the lens. Don’t saturate the lens, however, because doing so may damage the internal circuitry of the webcam.

Location

The environment used to capture your webcam video plays a large role in the quality of the image. If the room doesn’t have adequate light, your video may appear dark. Likewise, a room with bright sun light shining in through a window in the background may result in washed-out video images. Pointing your webcam in a different direction, modifying the room lighting or choosing a different location may resolve the problem.

Bandwidth

When using the webcam for video conferencing or video calls, the device relies on your Internet connection to transmit the captured images to those on the other end. Therefore, the speed of that connection may play a role in the quality of the images you send. Slower bandwidth speeds may result in choppy, blurry or distorted images. Some websites offer a way to check your connection speed to verify you are receiving the speed you are paying for. Contact your service provider for additional assistance.

Settings

Your webcam relies on software settings to capture your video content. This includes the software that shipped with the webcam and the programs using the webcam, such as Skype and other video conferencing solutions. These settings may negatively affect image quality when configured incorrectly. Refer to your owner’s manual for additional information on how to configure your webcam properly. If using a program, such as Skype, refer to the developer’s support page for additional information regarding webcam requirements.

Webcam Hardware

Webcams come in a variety of shapes, sizes and manufacturers. Some models provide high-end, top of the line image capture. Other models, however, may trade quality for price. This may be the case if the webcam never has provided anything other than subpar image capture. If the webcam used to provide quality images but doesn’t anymore, however, then the device may be malfunctioning. Check your warranty to see if the device remains covered. Otherwise, you can contact a service technician to determine if the device needs repair. Consider whether it makes more financial sense to repair or replace the device before proceeding.

About the Author

Mindi Orth began writing in 1996 as a technical writer for a consulting firm. She has experience in business documentation and has authored training and instructional materials. Orth holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Baldwin-Wallace College.

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