Tuesday Tip: How to make better video calls

How to make video call quality better

So it’s Thanksgiving, you’re in Hawaii and your family are all in Fargo, North Dakota. What are they doing there? Never mind. You’re going to bring them a little sunshine in a video call. Mahalo.

You might use Facebook Messenger, Skype, or Google Duo. There are all sorts of good video-calling apps out there. And the best ones work on both iPhones and Androids. So if you have, say, Messenger on your iPhone and your mom has it on her Samsung, you can chat seamlessly. (Apple’s FaceTime app only works on iPhones.)

The quality of your call is up to you—or much of it, anyway. Assuming that both ends of the call have a decent connection, follow these tips to make video quality better and ensure that your video call is the best it can be.

Make sure your app is up to date

Companies improve their apps with each new update. So if you’re still running the same version you downloaded two years ago, you’re probably going to get the same video quality you had two years ago (i.e. not so good).

Use headphones

Or earphones or AirPods or whatever you have. The point is your calls will be more loud and clear if you’re using a headset of some kind. You’ll hear better and your mic will pick up less background noise. Also, you won’t accidentally end the call while you’re pressing your phone to your ear.

Light yourself well

Let there be light—but let it be in the right place. Overhead lighting is not good for a video call. It will cast shadows under your eyes. Also, obviously, no bright lights or sun-filled windows behind you or you’ll be a mere silhouette. Natural light is best. Sit by a window, facing the window, so that the light illuminates your face. Or use several soft-light sources at around eye level.

Use a stable background

If you’re in a crowded cafe or there’s a TV on behind you, move to a different place. The more motion you have in your frame, the more work your app will have to do and the choppier your video will be.

Keep your shot straight

The best angle for a call is eye level, so hold your device there—and keep it as steady as you can. Also, try to look at your screen and maintain eye contact with the person at the other end.

Close other apps

Video calls require your device to do a lot of work. Shut down other open apps to reduce the multitasking demands on your device and the video quality for your call should improve.

Check your device

Some cell phones and tablets are better for video calls than others. Factors to consider:

Battery life: Video calls are battery-intensive. If your battery is low, keep a charger handy so your call won’t end suddenly.

Front-facing camera: On most phones and tablets, the front-facing camera is of lesser quality than the rear-facing one. If your front-facing camera is of particularly low resolution, your picture will be less clear at the other end of the call.

Screen size: Larger is better for video calls, for obvious reasons.

Keep these tips in mind to make video quality better for your next call.