A few quick tips when you’re video calling

By | November 2, 2020

This week, I’ve got a few tips for you to help improve the sound or picture quality when you’re making a video call.  I’d have mentioned these a few months ago if I’d thought about them, but you know what they say – better late than never!

Most of these tips are for if you make your calls on a mobile device – like a smartphone or tablet – but some of them apply whatever you’re using.

Tip number one – don’t cover the microphone with your thumb!

Now, this one sounds obvious, but it’s caught my Tim out a few times when he’s been on the phone to his Mum and Dad.  Most smartphones (and tablets actually) have the microphone somewhere along the bottom edge.  It makes sense if you’re using them as a normal voice phone – you hold the top bit to your ear and your mouth down near the microphone, and your hand is well out of the way.

But when you’re making a video call, you hold the phone differently.  And it’s very easy to end up covering the little microphone hole on the bottom (especially if your phone’s in a case).  Just something to watch out for – particularly if the person on the other end of the call is struggling to hear you!

(Of course – you also need to watch out for covering the camera with your thumb!  But it’s a bit more obvious if you’ve done that…ahem.)

Tip number two – don’t sit with a bright light just behind you

The camera on your device is pretty clever.  It adjusts for the amount of light, so you can actually get away with making a video call in quite a dark room.  The picture of you will look a bit grainy, but you don’t need to be brightly lit.

The problem comes when there’s a big contrast between the brightness of different things in the room – particularly if there’s a bright light (like a lamp or a window) that’s partly covered by your head or body.  Your camera will try to compensate, but every time you move the light level will change.

I’ve had this a few times with video calls for work – we’ve ended up having to swivel laptops around or get up and close blinds.  Every few seconds the screen was flashing between way too dark or way too light as the camera failed to keep up.  You’re best off facing towards the light if you can when you make a call – you’ll get a much steadier picture that way.

Tip number three – avoid making a call when the microwave’s on

Microwave ovens, baby monitors and suchlike can cause interference that plays havoc with your wi-fi.  If you try to make a call when your microwave’s going, you might find the picture freezes, the sound goes funny, or you just lose the connection altogether.  Personally, I just don’t try to do anything too intensive on the internet while the microwave’s going – saves me the frustration!

Tip number four – don’t have more than one device on the same call in the same room

This one’s from Kathryn – from her own personal experience! She was on a call to her family and three of them were sat in the same room, all on their own individual devices. She tells me the feedback was horrendous! I can well believe it…

If you’re all in the same room, it’s much better to sit round the same device (or go into a different room).

Tip number five – don’t hold the phone or tablet in your lap

This one isn’t so crucial – but it can be a bit off-putting for whoever you’re talking to!  If you hold the phone in your lap, the angle of the picture means that rather than seeing your lovely face, they’ll be looking straight up your nose!  

It can also make you “loom” into the camera, which is a bit alarming for the person on the other end of the call 🙂

If it makes your arms ache to hold your phone or tablet up, try leaning it against something (a wall, or a pile of books). Or a lot of phone and tablet cases fold round to turn into a stand.

Anyway, I hope you’ve found those tips helpful – that’s all from me this week.  Have a good one.

6 thoughts on “A few quick tips when you’re video calling

  1. Paul Nickell

    Re Tip 4. If you want separate pictures to be available and transmitted, you can use multiple devices but be sure to mute all but one of them to avoid feedback/echo. The one mic that remains alive can usually pick up the voices of all in the room quite comfortably.

    Reply
  2. Michael Stevens

    Hi Julie. Many thanks for your good wishes. God knows we all need them.
    I wish all of you at Helpful Books a much better year in 2021!
    Mike Stevens.
    PS. Your tips for Video calling are very helpful indeed.

    Reply
  3. Richard Woodhouse

    Thanks for the good advice – much appreciated.
    Keep up the good work in 2021.

    Reply
  4. Keith Paterson

    Hello. A new follower. Thanks for the tips so far.I will try some of the old function key shortcuts. I am sure most still work on laptops. Can Iput in my Half dozen about video sessions. I am deaf, though helped a great deal by a cochlear implant.
    I tried various conferencing programs, searching for one with captioning and, for me, the best was GoogleMeet. The captions were clear, 90% accurate and immediate. I take the point about getting the lighting right and positioning the camera, phone or tablet. I do find that the echo created by hard surfaces makes things less clear. One notices this when watching a variety of MPsbeing see at home rather than an acoustic friendly studio. Worth trying to find an well-upholstered surrounding for your broadcast 😅

    Reply

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