How to Test a Webcam and Take Webcam Pictures

Teenagers using a computer web cam

 Robert Daly/Getty Images

A webcam is essentially any camera that's connected to a web-enabled device, such as your laptop or desktop computer.

While they can be used to snap photographs, they're used most commonly for online video calls. Because of this, it's often important to purchase webcams with decent frame rates and high resolution capabilities.

Where is the Webcam?

Teenagers talking over web cam

Alex Segre/Getty Images 

Webcams: most laptops and notebook computers have them, but we often don't use them as much as we could. Still, in a world where VoIP (voice over internet protocol) calls are becoming increasingly common, and where the selfie is now a form of social currency, they're more important than ever.

Most often, they'll be built into your device (especially if it's a laptop or notebook), visible only as a small, circular lens that sits just above your device's screen or monitor. However, they can also be purchased separately and connected via USB to your computer.

How to Test My Webcam (Online)

Screenshot of webcam info

Regardless of whether you have a Windows machine or a Mac, webcam tests are easy. One simple option is simply to use one of the many free online webcam test sites available on the web. These include webcammictest.com, turncameraon.comwebcamtests.com and testmycam.net (others can be found by searching "webcam test" online). We'll use webcammictest.com for the purposes of the following step-by-step process, although online webcam tests are generally identical irrespective of the site you use.

  1. Open your web browser.
  2. Type webcammictest.com into your browser's address bar.
  3. Click the CHECK MY WEBCAM button on the website's landing page.
  4. When the pop-up permission box appears, click Allow.

Your webcam's feed should then appear in the black box on the right-hand side of the page, indicating that the camera is working. If you're using an external webcam connected via USB–and if no image appears after completing the webcam test–then you should try disconnecting and reconnecting it.

How to Test My Webcam (Offline)

Screen shot of webcam info

Some people may not be too comfortable with online webcam tests, not least because some of the above webcam test sites state that users 'may be recorded' if they grant access to their webcams. Fortunately, they can use their computers' operating systems to test their webcams.

Here's what you do if you're a Mac user:

  1. Click the Finder icon on the Dock bar.
  2. Click on Applications in the list of options that appear.
  3. In the Applications folder, click Photo Booth.

This will bring up your web camera's feed. One thing to note, however, is that if you have an external webcam (in addition to the Mac's built-in one), you may need to select it from the Photo Booth app's drop-down menu. To do this you should drag your mouse cursor to the Photo Booth menu bar at the top of the screen and click Camera.

If you're a Windows 10 user, you need to take the following steps:

  1. Click the Cortana search box on the Window's 10 taskbar.
  2. Type Camera into the search box.

That's it, although the Camera app may ask for your permission to access the webcam before it displays the camera's feed.

How to Test My Webcam (Skype)

Screenshot of webcam info

One other popular way of testing a webcam involves using one of the many apps that can use it. For the purposes of this example we'll use Skype, but other apps can be used, such as FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and Facebook Messenger.

Here's the process for Mac and Windows:

  1. Mac/Windows: launch Skype.
  2. Mac: Click the Skype button in the app's menu bar at the top of the screen. Windows: Click the Tools button on Skype's menu bar.
  3. Select Preferences (Mac), or Options (Windows).
  4. Click Audio/Video (Mac) or Video Settings (Windows).

How to Take Pictures with Webcam

Screenshot of webcam info

Taking webcam selfies and other webcam pictures is simple. Assuming that you're using a Mac, do the following:

  1. Click the Finder icon on the Dock bar.
  2. Click on Applications in the list of options that appear.
  3. In the Applications folder, click Photo Booth.
  4. Pose for the camera, and then click the red Camera icon at the bottom of the Photo Booth window.

And with Windows, you need to go through the process below:

  1. Click the Cortana search box on the Window's 10 taskbar.
  2. Type Camera into the search box.
  3. Get your pose ready, and then click the Photo button on the right-hand side of the app's screen.

In the case of macOS, photos will need to be manually exported to a folder, such as Documents. In the case of Windows, the photos you take will be saved under the C:\Users\[Your User Name]\Pictures\Camera Roll file path.

Also, while Mac's Photo Booth doesn't permit adjustment of a webcam's video settings, Windows users can change their settings on the Camera app by clicking the arrow (>) button in the top-middle of the app's screen.