How to Use a Webcam
One of the pieces of technology that had the sharpest fall in prices was the pc camera or webcam. They went from an expensive novelty to a ubiquitous part of every desktop fairly fast. The quality of the images improved over time and many features were packed into the small devices. Today, webcams exist almost completely unseen in the top of some laptops or as tiny orbs on top of flat screen monitors.
Webcams can be used for a variety of functions, some fun and some for business. So now that you own a webcam, how do you use it? Fortunately, most pc cameras operate in a similar fashion.
Installation is the first step. Unpack the camera and read the installation guide. Some camera have you install the drivers before plugging in the camera, others the opposite. Follow your installation guide.
Now that the camera is installed, you should have one or more new programs on your computer. One of these will most likely be a utility program that will allow you to test out your new camera. Open this program and see what the image your webcam produces is like.
You should move the camera and light sources around a little so you see how they affect the image quality. Find a nice spot for your cam. Some come with clips or adhesive pads that you can use to stick the base down someplace, but I do not recommend permanently mounting it.
If for some reason your webcam is not working, check the user guides that came with it and follow any troubleshooting steps they suggest. PC cameras can sometimes be a little finicky before being fully installed.
Now that you hopefully have a working webcam attached to your computer and the lighting adjusted for a nice picture, you are ready to really use it. There are several options here depending on what you would like to do.
One option is to plug into instant messengers. Both Yahoo and Microsoft offer free instant messaging software that allows you to broadcast video and audio to your friends who are using the same messaging program. The quality sometimes lacks, but it can be fun (and it is free).
Another option is a program called Skype, which is sometimes free to use and emulates a video-phone.
If you are not planning to video conference, then the software that came with your webcam should include some feature to be able to take still, high-resolution photographs. These will be nowhere near the quality of a digital camera designed for still photos, but it can work.
That same utility software should allow you to take movies with the camera as well, though again- the quality will not be great. Remember to hook up a microphone if you want audio!
There are many webcam features and pieces of software to explore, so have fun with your new webcam!