Why is my Webcam Flickering?

I brought a webcam in the last lockdown and plugged it into running team video call sessions, but alas, it kept flickering whenever I turned it on.

If you are experiencing the same issue whenever you turn on the webcam, you are not alone.

However, your webcam is not to be blamed!

The webcam flickers when your camera shutter speed does not match the light source or light frequency emitted due to differing refresh rates/speed. To fix the flickering webcam, change the refresh rate to either 60 Hz or 50 Hz.

webcam flickering
webcam flickering vs. non-flickering (Source: Red.com)

A light bulb receives pulses of power rather than a constant stream which creates constant flickers. It happens way too quickly for human eyes to grasp but is a different story for a webcam.

Read on to find out the causes of flickering webcams and how to fix them without calling up a technician quickly.

What Causes Webcam Flicker?

A webcam flickering is not a unique phenomenon. If you point your cellphone towards the light bulb and turn on the video, you may notice the same constant flickering.

It occurs due to the interaction between the camera shutter speed (frames per second) and your room’s light frequency.

Difference between Flicker vs Flicker Free
Difference between Flicker vs. Flicker Free (Source: Hato.Lighting)

And, here is a reason behind it.

The light fixture installed in the house runs through an alternating current or AC, which rapidly oscillates the electricity, creating significant light flickering. This is known as the “strobe effect.”

Measured in hertz, it remains imperceptible by human eyes, but a video device like a webcam is very good at observing this flicker.

A cycle of electrons in one second is known as hertz or Hz. In one hertz or cycle, the bulb turns off two times since the electron moves in and out.

This exact frequency of the oscillations varies between countries, such as electricity in the US operating on 60 Hz and the rest of the world at 50 Hz.

50 Hz vs 60 Hz
50 Hz vs. 60 Hz frequency (Source: Wikimedia)

To put that in context, your light bulb is turning on and off between 100-120 times per second.

When the camera shutter speed moves either too slow or too fast compared to the light’s frequency, it will flicker.

The higher the shutter speed, the more intense flickers will be. Hence, one effective way to reduce flickering intensity is by lowering the shutter speed.

For example, if your webcam is running at a 60 Hz refresh rate, but the room light’s frequency is at 50 Hz, you can reduce the speed of the webcam shutter to 50 Hz to align with the frequency of the room light.

The same goes for video camera devices set at different shutter speeds, such as DSLR, cellphone, camcorder, built-in webcam, etc.

Note: Maintaining the shutter speed in a Digital camera like DSLR or camcorder may be easier, but doing so in a webcam can be tricky.

How to Fix Webcam Flickering?

Webcam flickering can be annoying, but it does not have to ruin your perfect video meet.

Here are a few proven ways to reduce, if not eliminate, webcam flickering to provide a seamless video experience.

 1. Adjust the Refresh Rate of the Webcam

One of the quickest ways to reduce flickering is by adjusting the refresh rate via webcam software.

Every webcam can be accessed through software that adjusts various settings, including refresh rate.

For example: when using an external Logitech webcam, open the Logitech webcam app on your computer or cellphone and go to Advanced Settings.

Go to the Anti-Flicker section and change the refresh rate to either 60 Hz or 50 Hz, matching the light’s frequency.

Similarly, most laptops have a built-in webcam and supporting software or application. Simply open the Search Box and search for camera to open the Video settings.

Note: It may not be available for a webcam connected via a dongle that directly captures the video.

2. Adjust Flicker Reduction from Windows Settings

This option is readily available for a webcam that is built-in to the device but an external webcam.

You can quickly fix the flickering issue by adjusting the flicker rate in the Windows camera settings.

  • Type “Win+S” or tap on the Search box located at the bottom-right corner of Windows 10.
Windows camera app
Windows camera app
  • Type Camera and open the camera application from the search results.
  • Click the Settings and scroll below to find the Flicker reduction menu.
  • Set the flicker reduction setting to 50 Hz, effectively solving the issue.
windows cam setting
Windows cam setting

Pro Tip: For users with Linux, consider pressing the Super key to search for applications.

3. Adjust the Refresh Rate via Video Call App

It may be tricky because not all video call apps work the same.

A flickering may be happening in one video call app but is working fine on the other. You would need to fix flickering through the video call app itself.

Consider checking the video call app manual, which you can easily find online.

If you are using Skype

  • Select your profile picture and tap on the settings icon.
  • Select Audio & Video and navigate to Webcam settings to customize the flickering.
  • Adjust the flicker rate from 60 Hz to 50 Hz to eliminate the flickering issue.
Skype Video Setting
Skype Video Setting (Source: Evaer)

If you are using Microsoft Teams

  • Open the Microsoft Teams and navigate to the top to find the three-dot menu.
  • Click on Settings from the drop-down menu and navigate to Devices to open camera settings.
  • Scroll down to the bottom right corner to find a drop-down labeled “Powerline frequency (Anti-flicker).”
  • Next, change the frequency to a suitable level to eliminate flickers.
Microsoft Team Video Setting
Microsoft Team Video Setting (Source: Globe2.net)

If you are using Zoom

  • Open the Zoom app and navigate to Settings.
  • Select Video and tap on Advanced.
  • Next, change Video Rendering Method to Direct3D11.
Zoom video setting
Zoom video setting (Source: The Windows Club)

Note: In some cases, screen flickering in windows devices may be caused by incompatible apps or video display drivers. You will find this Windows troubleshooting helpful to run diagnostics.

4. Adjust the Light Source’s Brightness

Although rare, you can fix the flickering issue by adjusting the light source’s brightness. However, it may only be possible when using external light fixtures with software or analog settings.

Some light bulbs intended for home use may also come with software that allows raising or lowering the brightness according to your mood.

Instantly lower the brightness (lumens) to make it dull, which will have a less flickering effect.

Adjust the brightness settings of the camera to overcome the darker video frame.

 

Read our article about choosing the best light for work.

5. Get Away From the Light Source

Alternatively, get away from the light source to eliminate flickering issues.

When you move out from the troubling light source, your webcam will readily adjust to the natural light; hence, reducing the flicker.

However, the video frame may appear dark due to a lack of light.

Using webcam in a natural light source
Using webcam in a natural light source (Source: Unsplash.com)

If possible, move close to the sunlight or vamp up the brightness setting in your device and video calling app.

In some cases, a slow USB port may have an issue connecting to high-resolution video with a higher frame rate, which creates a flicker.

If you think the USB is an issue, consider replacing it with a different one or get a high-speed USB connection.

Conclusion

Now you know why your webcam keeps flickering. Try different methods given above to diagnose the issues and find a reliable solution.

In most cases, toning down the frequency from 60 HZ to 50 HZ would work. For others cases, consider adjusting the light brightness to suit your webcam’s shutter speed.

Related Article: Best Lighting Tips for Computer Work

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