How to Turn on the Camera on Your Mac

Learn how to use your Mac's built-in webcam

An image of a Macbook Air sitting on a desk

Goran Ivos / Unsplash

Apple's iMac, MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro computers come with a built-in camera found at the top of the display. This is called the iSight camera, which has a small, green indicator light to the right of it that turns on when the camera is activated.

The iSight camera can only be activated and thus turned on by opening an application that uses it. In other words, you can't just decide to turn the iSight camera on or off at random as a feature on its own.

Follow the steps below to use a Mac app to turn on your computer's iSight camera.

How to Turn on Camera on Mac

  1. Open Your Mac's Applications Folder: Select the Applications icon in the Dock at the bottom of your screen to open it.

    A screenshot of the desktop of a Mac

    Alternatively, you can select the Finder icon followed by Applications in the left menu.

  2. Select an App That Uses the iSight Camera: There are a few apps preloaded onto Mac computers which use the iSight camera:

    • PhotoBooth: Apple's photo and video taking app (included with OS X 10.4 and later)
    • FaceTime: Apple's live video chatting app (included with OS X 10.9.2 and later)

    Select either one of these apps to open it.

    A screenshot of the Applications folder on a Mac

    You also have the option to select another app you've downloaded from the Mac App Store that you already know uses the iSight camera.

  3. Look for the Green Light to Turn On: As soon as you open PhotoBooth, FaceTime, or another iSight compatible app, the iSight camera should automatically be activated and turn on. You'll know it's on and working if you see the green indicator light.

    An image of a MacBook Pro

    This doesn't necessarily mean the iSight camera is recording anything. It's simply been activated so it's ready for when you decide to take photos, record video, or video chat with somebody.

  4. You're done!

Tips for Using Your Mac's iSight Camera

Using the iSight camera is pretty simple and straightforward, but there are a few things you can do to make your photo or video experience even better:

  • Minimize the app to access other apps while keeping the iSight camera on: Select the yellow minimize button in the top left of the corner to temporarily tuck the app away without closing it or turning the camera off.
  • Look for the green indicator light to go off when closing the app to turn the iSight camera off: If the green indicator light is still on, you haven't properly closed the app and the iSight camera is almost certainly still on. The app might be minimized in the Dock or it might be somewhere on the desktop hiding behind a bunch of other opened apps.
  • Use another app to notify you when apps are using your iSight camera: You can use an app like Oversight to tell you when your iSight camera and microphone are enabled, plus which applications are using it. Oversight works on all Macs running OS X 10.10 and later.
  • Keep iSight compatible apps in the Dock for easy access: Instead of going to your Applications folder every time you want to open an iSight app, simply add the app to your Dock to select it and open it from there. Just open the app, right-click the app icon in the Dock, roll your cursor over Options, and click Keep in Dock.