How to make your smartphone into a pro webcam for Zoom (Updated)

Life under the novel coronavirus quarantine goes on and the reactions flowing out of it continue to chain. For a lot of us, it means a change in employment status and, sadly, many are completely out of a job. Whether you have one or not, your short-term prospects (as well as our society’s) will likely require you to attend interviews and meetings via video chat — your Hangouts, Skypes, and Zooms out there. Demand for webcams have outstripped supply, but if you find yourself needing one in any case, you shouldn’t fret: you can use your phone or tablet! We’ll tell you a couple of methods to get set up and give some pointers on how to make the most of it!

This article was originally published on March 26. We’ve updated it with new stock and price checks plus a few new product recommendations on April 4.

The setup

First, you’ll need to decide if you want your mobile device to connect to your computer and act as its webcam or act as a standalone camera.

If you prefer the companion setup, you’ll want to install an app like DroidCam or Iriun for your Android as well as your Linux, Mac, Windows, or Ubuntu machine. They’ll let your computer recognize your phone as a webcam as long as they’re either connected by USB or through the same wireless network and are pretty easy to use. It adds a good bit of workload to your circuitry, but you’ll end up with a better visual result while still being able to use your computer to interact with the chatroom.

DroidCam Wireless Webcam
DroidCam Wireless Webcam

Get the DroidCam apps for Windows and Linux here.

Iriun 4K Webcam for PC and Mac
Iriun 4K Webcam for PC and Mac

Get the Iriun apps for macOS, Windows, and Ubuntu here.

Though, if you’d rather shunt your entire communications facility over to your phone or tablet, you’ll only need to download the app for your conferencing client of choice. If you’d rather be doing something else on your computer than staring at your co-workers’ faces (no offense to them), this option should clear up some physical and mental bandwidth for you.

Cisco Webex Meetings
Cisco Webex Meetings
Hangouts Meet
Hangouts Meet
Jitsi Meet
Jitsi Meet
Skype - free IM & video calls
Skype - free IM & video calls
ZOOM Cloud Meetings
ZOOM Cloud Meetings

Either way you do it, it’s a good idea to keep all your devices plugged into power as these video calls use plenty of juice.

At this point you’ve got the ad hoc webcam, but do you have a way to stand it up so that it points at your beautiful virtual face? Do you have enough lighting to illuminate said beautiful virtual face? And what will you use to help your very real eardrums listen in on those calls? I mean, hopefully you’re being mindful of any roommates or family that may cross into your space at any point. Well, we’ve got some recommendations on what to get to help your smartphone help you look your best — even without makeup!

Device stands and lights

If you’re using a desk or table to place your phone and light on, you’ll want to have a lamp that uses LEDs arranged into either an array or, for even facial lighting, a ring. Some foreign manufacturers produce ring lights with phone mounts built right into them. As for a stand, we suggest opting for a small tripod that can stand up to one foot tall.

We’ve used JOBY’s GorillaPod and GripTight products for a while and found them to be versatile for many uses which is why we’re recommending them. New for this update, we’re also including a combination ring light and phone mount that clips to the edge of your desk on our list

But at the end of the day, you do you. This is just a guide after all.

  • OttLite Creative Curves LED Desk Lamp
  • Miady LED Desk Lamp (Ring)
  • Yongnuo YN128 LED Makeup Ring Light (with phone stand)
  • Bower Flexible 24″ LED Ring Light and Phone Mount
  • JOBY GorillaPod 500 (no mount)
  • JOBY GripTight One phone mount
  • JOBY GripTight PRO Tablet mount
  • Ailun Tripod Phone Mount Holder

If your preferred videoconferencing spot does not have an elevated surface, fear not: you can grab a full-size tripod instead and pair it with one of the above mounts. Also, believe it or not, some companies produce combo tripod rigs which include a phone holder and a ring light — they’re totally made for vloggers, though, so they might be a bit too specialized for the average person to repurpose post-quarantine.

  • AmazonBasics Lightweight Camera Tripod (50″)
  • Sunpak 58″ Tripod
  • Targus 66″ Extendable Tripod
  • UBeesize 8″ Selfie Ring Light with 51″ Tripod Stand & Cell Phone Holder
  • Sunpak Portable Vlogging Kit (6″ Ring Light + 42″ Tripod + Phone Mount) for Smartphones

Be sure to test out your setup before going into your first call. Do you have to slouch or sit up straight to meet the camera eye to lens? Adjust the tilt of your phone and lamp. Maybe the light’s too harsh on your eyes? Some parchment or wax paper clipped to a clothespin can help to diffuse it.

Audio gear

Odds are your shiny new smartphone doesn’t have a headphone jack in it. And if it does have one, well, then your phone ain’t so shiny new now, huh?

Okay, okay, sorry about that, I actually don’t intend on guilting you into buying a new Bluetooth headset with active noise canceling — that’s my colleague Taylor Kerns’s job. I just want to point out, however, that the cabling on wired headphones and earbuds has proven the downfall of many phones. Just an errant slip of the fingers, catch on a corner, or mere forgetfulness of wearing your cans and gravity takes care of the rest. That’s reason enough for us to only suggest wireless gear.

Android Police has made several recommendations on wireless earbuds and over-the-ear headphones that we’ve reviewed. We’ll be mirroring most of our selections in the list below as well as providing some alternatives.

  • True Wireless Earbuds
    • Sony WF-1000XM3
    • Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro
    • Anker SoundCore Liberty Neo
  • Neckband/Cabled Earbuds
    • LG Tone Flex HBS-XL7
    • Jabra Elite 25e
  • Over-the-ear Headphones
    • Sony WH-1000XM3
    • Jabra Elite 85h
    • Mpow H5

And finally, whatever you do, please avoid the fate of one unfortunate conference participant who went to the bathroom during a live call and forgot to mute her mic or shut off her camera… and had her mishap posted to the internet. Good luck.

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