How to use the built-in Chrome OS camera software

By - Dan Millward

Updated -

If you’re looking to take a picture or record videos you’ll be happy to know Chrome OS comes with camera software as standard. This means there is no need to install an app because it’s readily available from your Chrome OS launcher menu.

This software has seen many improvements in the last year. One of the most important was the ability to record videos directly from your webcam. Although there are still some limitations for anyone needing to do professional video recording. The ability to now use an external mic rather than your webcam mic is great to see.

In this article, I’ll go over how to use the Chrome OS camera software and all the functionality available to you. I’ll also explain what is missing and what would be good to see in the future.

How to find the camera recording software

It’s really easy to find the camera recording software. Simply click on your Chrome OS launcher menu at the bottom left of your desktop. If you’re using the default launcher menu it will look similar to the image below. I’ve highlighted what the camera software icon looks like that you’ll need to find.

Chrome OS camera icon from the app launcher
The camera software icon to look for from the app launcher

If you’re using the new style app launcher menu then it will look similar to the image below. If you’ve not yet got this menu and would like to install it. Then have a read of the New Chrome OS App Launcher. Again, I’ve highlighted what the camera icon looks like that you’ll need to find from your list of apps.

Chromebook camera icon from app list
The camera icon to look for from your app list

Once you’ve launched the camera app you should see something similar to the image below. If you have a webcam and it’s working you should see an image of you or anything else in front of your webcam.

Chromebook camera software when first opened
How the Chrome OS camera will look when opened

Options for your webcam

At the bottom, you’ll see there are four different options. Video, Photo, Square and Scan. These are the four different options you have to use with your webcam.

  • Video
  • Photo
  • Square
  • Scan

You simply click on one of these options to choose what you’d like to do with your camera. The first two options are self-explanatory. The third option is the same as the photo option with the only difference being the picture taken is square. As you’ll see from the below image. The image dimensions are now square. This is ideal if you want to crop the image before the photo is taken.

webcam picture in square mode
Use the square option to cut out what is showing to the left and right of the webcam

The fourth option is Scan, which is a relatively new option. Using this allows you to scan a document or any other type of image, which then saves as a PDF file. If you want to see how the scan works in practice. Watch my video about how to scan with your Chromebook.

The Settings menu

At the top left of the camera software, you’ll see a settings cog. If you click on this it will give you access to some of the settings you can change.

cog top left of camera software to access settings
Click on the cog at the top left on your Chromebook to access the settings

The settings available are shown in the image below. The settings are grid type, timer duration and camera resolution. You’ll also see a help section and a ‘Send feedback’ option. The send feedback option is great if you experience problems you’d like to let the Chrome OS team know about.

The Grid type option has no direct impact on your videos or photos. You can use this if you want to make sure a certain object, which could be yourself is in a certain position.

settings available for your Chromebook webcam
Settings available in your Chromebook camera software

Timer duration

The timer duration is only used when taking pictures. Very similar to the option you may have on your mobile phone. By using the timer duration it allows you to get into position before the photo is taken. This can be very useful if you need time to adjust or you want to take a team photo using your webcam.

The delay duration options you have are either three or ten seconds. Three seconds is fine if you don’t need to do much adjusting. However, if for example, you wish to take a team photo or you want to stand further away from your Chromebook before the photo is taken. Then the ten-second delay is ideal for this.

You’ll notice there isn’t an option to set the duration to zero in this menu. The only option you have is either three or ten seconds. This is because you can disable or enable the timer duration from the main part of the software. As you can see from the image below.

how to enable or disable the timer duration on your Chromebook webcam
Enable or disable timer duration by clicking on the icon highlighted

Camera resolution

The camera resolution option allows you to change the resolution for both pictures and videos. The photo resolution option allows you to change the picture dimensions and the megapixels used when taking a photo.

The number of megapixels available will depend on your particular webcam. The best settings available on my webcam are a 16:9 aspect ratio and 3 megapixels. You should also see you have other options available to you. For example, you may see an option to use a different aspect ratio for taking photos.

The video resolution option will also allow you to choose different camera settings. The best option I have available for recording is in Full HD, which is 1,920 by 1,080 pixels. You will only see this option if your webcam supports Full HD. Megapixels have no direct impact on the recording quality. The recording quality is dependent on the video resolution. However, cameras with more megapixels usually come with a better lens, which will have an impact on your film quality.

It’s good to see you can change the recording settings. Even though you may have a Full HD camera. You may wish to record a video in 720p, so it’s good you have the option to change the camera settings.

Mirroring

Another option you may wish to use is mirroring. By clicking on this icon it will flip the picture for you. This can be used when taking pictures or recording videos. You can choose this from the main screen either in the photo or video view.

how to mirror video or photos on your Chromebook using camera software
Click on this icon to flip the image vertically in video or photo mode

Extra options when recording video

When recording video you may have access to further settings depending on your webcam. These settings allow you to zoom in. This is a great option if you want to record a video, but your webcam has stuff in the background you don’t want in your recordings.

This option allows you to zoom in, which should allow you to remove any of the unwanted background items from your videos. Once you’ve zoomed in you can then use the directional arrows to adjust where your camera is focused on. This makes it easy to adjust left, right, up and down, so you can get yourself directly in the middle of the camera.

options to zoom in on your webcam when filming videos on your Chromebook
Use these options to centre yourself in the middle for filming videos

You can use an external mic for recording videos

The option to record video on your webcam on your Chromebook is pretty new. When this functionality first became available it was limited. An example of this was only being able to record videos using the mic in your webcam or Chromebook.

This is fine for doing basic videos. However, if you need to do professional videos with better sound. It’s really important to use an external mic. The good news is you can now use an external mic when recording video. Simply plug a mic into your Chromebook or Chromebox and it will use this when recording videos.

The recording frame rate is variable

At the moment any video that you record uses a variable frame rate. This means the frame rate will vary. The average frame rate used across your video will depend on your webcam and how much processing power was being used when filming.

This is fine for filming basic videos. However, it would have been nice to see an option where you can set the frame rate for recordings. Setting a fixed frame rate such as 30fps or 60fps would be useful for anyone who needs to do professional recordings.

If you’ll be using the recordings in external video editing software. It’s very unlikely you’ll get a decent result with a video recorded with a variable frame rate. Hopefully, this is something we may see in the future.

Summary

The Chrome OS camera software for taking pictures and recording video is a great addition. Also, we’ve seen many improvements since it was originally launched.

Having the ability to take pictures or record videos with your Chromebooks webcam without the need for additional software is a great advantage.

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