Pro tips for webcams

NBCU Academy 101

The pandemic has made the webcam interview part of everyday life for many journalists, and a tool that will likely stick around for a long time. NBC News NOW correspondent Isa Gutiérrez offers advice for setting up your webcam from home so you can do interviews like a professional.

First, choose a quiet place. If you’re at home, find a place where you won’t be interrupted by family, pets or roommates. If in the office, look for a place that’s less busy, like a nicely decorated conference room.

When setting up your shot, think about three main things: framing, lighting and sound.

Framing

First, find the right angle. You want your webcam to be at or just above eye level, but not below it. If you have to, throw a few books under your monitor.

Don’t be too close to your screen. Sit up straight so that you can see from your chest up, and don’t cut off the top of your head.

Check your background and make sure it looks professional and clean. Avoid the band poster, dirty laundry and unmade bed. If there is artwork behind you, it may have rights restrictions. Believe it or not, the copyright owner might actually want compensation for using their art as background.

Lighting

Keep the main source of light directly in front of you, like an open window or soft lamp.

Never have the lighting behind you because this creates backlighting and your face will be in the dark. Lighting off to one side creates shadows on your face.

Try to avoid any harsh lighting. This can cause hot, bright spots on your face.

Sound

For the cleanest audio, it may be best to wear wired headphones with a built-in mic. Be mindful of other sounds, like loud air conditioners, fans or noisy neighbors. Turn off ringers and loud notifications and turn off background TVs and radios. Everyone in your house or office should be aware to not interrupt. You can put up a sign outside the room while you’re recording.

Final preparations

As much as technology can be our friend, it can cause plenty of unexpected glitches, so test your webcam before the interview.

Once your webcam is set up, it’s time to look the part. Maybe think twice about your athleisure wear. Avoid clothes with complex patterns and distracting graphics or text, and wear solid colors.

Lastly, although you may only be recording from the waist up, don’t fall prey to the ultimate virtual faux pas. Be mindful of what you may — or may not — be wearing under the desk.