With more and more of us turning to video calls to keep in touch with friends and family, not to mention attending work meetings while at home, having good-quality video is becoming increasingly important.
In this article we show how to ensure you're getting the best performance out of the popular services like Zoom, FaceTime, Google Hangouts and Skype, as well as ways to tweak your own setup to attain first-class footage.
If you'd like to know which service is best for you, read Best video-conferencing apps for Mac.
How can I generally improve my video quality on calls?
Before getting into any specifics for certain apps, there are some general principles that can make a big difference to video quality on your calls.
Move closer to your router
Usually, the biggest problem is patchy Wi-Fi or a slow connection. If at all possible either position your device so that it's near the router or at least make sure there aren't several walls in the way. Distance and obstructions all chip away at the bandwidth available, which in turn will cause quality to deteriorate.
The best method is to actually plug your Mac directly into the router via an ethernet cable, but if you don't have that port on your machine (no recent MacBooks do) then this might require either a USB-C hub or sticking with Wi-Fi. You can see tips on the former by reading How to add more ports to a MacBook.
There are also several ways to get the most out of your existing Wi-Fi connection, such as switching to a different frequency band, resetting your router, removing devices that will interfere with your signal, and you can read all about them in detail in our How to improve Wi-Fi on Mac guide.
Try a new webcam
Another option for Mac users is to try an external webcam, as these are often capable of far better performance than the little ones that come installed on your device.
Logitech has long been a highly regarded brand in this area, with its C310 offering HD (720p) capabilities for £44.99 on the Logitech UK site or $49.99 on Logitech US. If you want higher specs, then the Logitech StreamCam can deliver 1080p @ 60fps and also comes with optical image stabilisation for £139.99 or $169.99.
Use Powerline adapters to reduce Wi-Fi deadspots
If there are just too many dead spots for the Wi-Fi in your home, all is not lost. Powerline adapters can extend your Wi-Fi coverage simply by plugging them into your electrical sockets. They're a clever piece of technology that can make a huge difference, and usually without making too much of a dent in your bank account.
Read our colleagues' guide to the Best Powerline adapters for more information on what they are and how they could give your home connection a boost, and thus video quality as well.
How can I improve video quality on FaceTime?
There's little you can do to alter how FaceTime behaves on your iPad or iPhone, but if you're struggling to get good video then it might be worth using your Mac instead. Not because the FaceTime HD cameras in modern Macs are better (they're generally not great) but because you can easily attach an external webcam and use that instead.
For more details on using Apple's video-calling service read How to use FaceTime on Mac.
How can I improve video quality on Zoom?
Zoom seems to have become the default video conferencing option for people recently, so it pays to make sure you're putting your best face forward with your video settings. In the Zoom app, click on your profile picture in the top-right corner, select Settings then Video.
You'll see various options but the one you'll want to turn on is Enable HD. This means, so long as your camera is of a good enough spec, your video will be shown at the highest resolution.
How can I improve video quality on Google Hangouts?
Hangouts, like many of the other services on this list, automatically adjusts the video quality to match your connection. But on the desktop version you can at least push the maximum quality up to 720p (possible more, depending on your camera).
To do so, open the app on your Mac, click the video call option (ensure you've given the app permission to access your camera) then click on the cog icon in the upper-right corner to access the settings menu. In here, select the Bandwidth tab, then change the Outgoing video so that Up to 702p (HD) is enabled.
Click Done and hopefully you'll now see some improvement.
How can I improve video quality on Skype?
There aren't any settings as such that will instantly pep up your Skype experience, but Microsoft does recommend that you first check that you're running the latest version of the app. You can do this by opening the app and clicking on Skype in the menu bar at the top left of the screen then clicking Check For Updates.
Another handy tip is to check the Skype Status web page to see whether the service itself is having any problems.
If, after all of these tips, you're still struggling with bad video it might be worth considering a switch to a faster internet provider. Take a look at our guide to the Best broadband for streaming to see what would best suit your needs.