7 Psychological Advantages of Using a Wide-Angle Webcam for Remote Meetings
By: Amber Stefanson | April 11, 2023
Did you know that webcams with a wide field of view can have huge mental health benefits for remote workers? FOV is the secret sauce of webcams — it’s not as flashy as features like 4K resolution or 60fps, but it has a profound effect on the quality and outcome of your Zoom calls. Wide angles can improve your focus, make it easier to communicate, and drop subtle cues to make your colleagues like you more. They can even mitigate some of the effects of Zoom Fatigue — the condition that describes the burnout and anxiety you get after participating in too many remote meetings.
To reap these benefits, the best webcam to choose is one with at least a 100° angle. Ideally, you should try to find a webcam with an angle of 120° — my top pick is the 120° angle N980P — because that angle is the most similar to the actual FOV of human vision.
1. Wide angles inspire trust by simulating human vision more accurately
In fact, the 120° FOV of the N980P is identical to the standard FOV of human binocular vision, or vision that is shared by both eyes. The following chart depicts the combined 200–220° FOV of two eyes and the 120° within that area that is shared by both eyes.
Binocular vision is crucial because it’s where our depth perception and hand-eye coordination come from. When someone is used to navigating the world using binocular vision, it can make them feel more hesitant to make decisions and navigate obstacles without it. Compared to a wide-angle webcam, a webcam with a narrow angle of 70°–85° FOV can make people feel like important contextual information is being hidden from them.
120° webcams, on the other hand, simulate real-world scenarios with more accuracy such that others in your remote call will feel like they’re seeing the full picture. This may give your colleagues the extra visual information they need to feel comfortable thinking on their feet, leading your team to have more productive discussions.
Webcams with angles any wider than 120° are few and far between, and often require special fisheye lens attachments in order to capture an FOV closer to the total 200–220° of combined binocular and peripheral vision. These solutions also create heavy distortion, and so they’re better used in artistic applications than for remote meetings or other professional uses.
Fisheye distortion using a 220° lens attachment
(Image Credit: Entaniya)
Luckily, an angle between 100–120° is plenty for inspiring trust between you and your colleagues. Webcams with FOVs in this range will create a clear, realistic image with little to no distortion, depending on whether their wide angle comes from a larger sensor (which will create no distortion) or a curved lens (which can create distortion near the edges of the lens).
2. Having room to move and stretch helps you stay focused
Narrow angles can be extremely limiting to your mobility. To remain visible within a small frame, you have to stay pretty still. However, research suggests that the ability to get up and stretch throughout meetings improves your ability to think clearly.
According to research done by Stanford University, you can boost your creativity by taking a walk. Contrary to popular theory, it doesn’t matter whether you walk inside or outside — you can benefit from walking regardless of where you walk. So, if you meet up with your colleagues for creative workshops and brainstorming sessions, having a little extra room to pace can go a long way.
Likewise, stretching improves cognitive function, particularly for those with sedentary lifestyles. This means that when you work a stationary, full-time desk job, it’s especially important to carve out some time to stretch at your computer if you want to quickly solve problems and stay focused during long meetings.
Unlike narrow-angle webcams that cut off around your shoulders, wide-angle webcams create enough breathing room around you that you can stretch freely without moving out of frame. They can also capture more of the room behind you, giving you a wide area to pace around in while still remaining visible to others on your call. In the long run, this extra fidgeting space can lead to a clearer head and — hopefully — a healthy dose of creative inspiration.
3. You appear to be farther away, which makes your colleagues feel like you’re respecting their personal space
It can be helpful to use a webcam with a narrow FOV to limit how much of your space is visible in meetings — but did you know that this practice could be triggering your colleague’s fight or flight response?
That tighter frame you get with a narrow FOV makes your colleagues feel like you’re invading their personal space. Although intellectually, we understand that our colleagues are not in the same room as us during remote meetings, on a subconscious level our brains have a different read on the situation.
According to research by Stanford University, the brain cannot always discriminate whether someone’s presence in the room is digital or physical. To visualize the impact of this phenomenon when it comes to the angle of your webcam, compare these photos taken by webcams with different fields of view.
Notice how the image with a narrow FOV looks cropped by comparison. Now imagine that we were in a Zoom meeting together. Better yet, right-click the photograph taken by the N930AF and open the image in a new tab. Blow it up. Make it fullscreen.
My photo should now be large enough to cover most of your screen, as it would if we were in a remote meeting one-on-one. The total effect of using a narrow-angle webcam makes me look as if I’m only a couple feet away.
“When someone’s face is that close to ours in real life, our brains interpret it as an intense situation that is either going to lead to mating or to conflict.” (Vignesh Ramachandran)
Still from Rent-A-Pal (2020)
This simulated closeness makes viewers feel like their personal space is being invaded, which can keep your colleagues adrenalized and lead them to burnout over the course of your meeting.
In fact, this situation is one of the primary causes of Zoom Fatigue. If your colleagues seem stressed or disengaged during your meetings, a wider angle could help them stay engaged by creating a safe, comfortable distance that’s more appropriate for friends and acquaintances.
4. Nonverbal cues make it easier to communicate
So much of our daily communication is nonverbal. When someone points their feet or squares their shoulders towards you, it’s a powerful indicator that they’re interested in what you have to say. Meanwhile, eye contact combined with a nod or eyebrow raise can signal to your colleagues that they should finish their thought because you have something to say.
Without this sort of nonverbal feedback, it can be difficult to conduct meaningful, productive discussions. And unfortunately, the digital medium limits body language substantially. This is why in-person meetings tend to run more smoothly than remote gatherings.
When there are multiple people on the same screen, it’s impossible to point your shoulders towards just one of them. Furthermore, eye contact during remote meetings is performative and one-sided, since you must look at your webcam rather than your colleagues to appear as if you’re making direct eye contact.
Under the limitations of video calls, most nonverbal communication is done with hand and head gestures. Yet many webcams don’t give you much room to talk with your hands. There’s a pretty small area where you can gesture while you speak without causing a distraction: the space between your neck and your waist, also known as the box.
Anything outside of this range will distract your colleagues from the point you’re trying to make. The problem with narrow-angle webcams is that they cut off around your shoulders, severely limiting the area where you can visibly gesture.
A wider angle generally captures you from about a foot above your head all the way down to your waist, giving you access to the whole box. This offers more opportunity to present your ideas in a clear and engaging way.
5. Intentional framing makes you more attractive due to familiarity bias
The extra space you get with a wide angle also enables you to get more creative with how you frame your video. Ideally, your video feed should follow the Rule of Thirds — a framing guideline that has been broadly recommended for filmmakers, photographers, and painters.
“The Art of Painting” by Johannes Vermeer
The power of recognition
When things are familiar to us, we’re more likely to favor them. This phenomenon is usually referred to as Familiarity Bias or the Mere-Exposure Effect. It’s the reason why you read a new word everywhere right after you’ve learned what it means, or why you tend to order the same few dishes from a restaurant every time you go.
Since The Rule of Thirds is extremely popular, people will pick up on it when they see it in your video feed. Whether they realize it or not, that spark of recognition will catch their attention and draw their eye to you.
The more time they spend looking at you, the more familiar with you they will become, and hence the more they will like you. If you use this simple framing device well, it has the potential to endear others to you, giving you a leg up for promotions or job interviews.
Applying it to your remote meetings
In case you’re unfamiliar with how it works, The Rule of Thirds requires that you visualize a grid that evenly splits your video into three rows and three columns.
There are a few important things to consider when you frame yourself with this grid.
- The most interesting or important thing in the frame should be at the points where the lines meet. Ideally, your face should touch one of these intersections. Each of these vertices is marked by a green ‘X’.
- Your eyes should rest on the top third line, which is highlighted with a solid blue stroke. This will ensure that your head has enough room to breathe while your shoulders remain visible.
- For the best effect, avoid centering yourself on the frame. Instead, center yourself over one of the vertical lines. The resulting asymmetry is more interesting to see than a perfectly balanced frame.
There’s a great article by Penn State University that explains in more depth how to apply the Rule of Thirds to your Zoom meetings. Once you learn how it works, you’ll notice it everywhere. Even if you don’t realize it, you see the rule of thirds all the time in popular media.
Still from The Queen’s Gambit
Here it is in The Queen’s Gambit. As you can see, both subjects have their eyes on the upper third line, with each of their faces touching an intersecting point on the grid. Even without the grid in place, you can visualize the upper third line slicing through their strong line of eye contact.
Still from Wednesday
Even with many people in frame, the Rule of Thirds helps to direct you to the focal point, which in this case is Wednesday’s face. She’s the only one centered on one of the vertical lines, and the only one with her face on an intersecting point in the grid, which helps to reinforce that she’s the protagonist in the scene. If you take your remote meetings in a shared space, you can use this trick to center attention on you, rather than on those in the background.
Still from The Office
This still from The Office is a great example of how The Rule of Thirds applies with only one person in frame. The asymmetry in this scene reminds viewers that this private interview is within view of the whole office. It also creates tension between Dwight and his coworkers who are barely visible through the window.
In your remote meeting, you don’t want to create tension, but you can certainly decorate the empty space that you create by sitting slightly off-center. In this way, intentional framing not only draws your colleagues to you, but it creates an excellent opportunity to express yourself and create a visual balance between you and your background.
6. Staged backgrounds make you look and feel more professional
Even when you don’t speak a word, your background in remote meetings says a lot about you. The right background can make you look more put together to your colleagues and more memorable to those who are meeting you for the first time. And, with the right mood-boosting decorations, you will also feel more calm, focused, and inspired.
The broader frame of wide-angle webcams creates more opportunity for you to decorate your space in a way that reflects well on you and makes you feel great.
How your background affects your colleagues
Your background has a huge influence on what people think about you. It’s not enough to have a clean background — having a thoughtful, decorative background can make you look particularly put-together and detail-oriented.
If you have a creative role, some tastefully arranged art or furniture can tip those off in your remote meeting that you have a good eye for design. If you have a role that requires meticulous attention to detail, some plants or well-organized shelves can let people know that you’re consistent enough to keep plants alive and your surroundings tidy. Someone in a role that requires a lot of analytical thinking might also benefit from having a bookshelf in the background.
Anecdotally, ever since I colorblocked the shelves behind his desk, my partner gets compliments on his background every time he enters a meeting with a new person. It makes a big impression during interviews, and people even bring it up when they meet him in person because a great background is just that memorable.
If you’re not yet convinced of the difference made by staging a great background, take a look at the Zoom backgrounds of Barack Obama and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s background
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s background is extremely neutral, and while there’s nothing wrong with having a neutral background (it’s better than a messy background!) it doesn’t say anything about her. It doesn’t stand out.
Barack Obama’s background
On the other hand, Barack Obama’s background is full of personality — the symmetry of his background carries a connotation of stability and balance, while small pops of color breathe life into an otherwise neutral backdrop. He also has a good balance of books, decorations, and empty space on the shelves that makes his background look curated without feeling overdone.
Whose background do you gravitate towards? Whose background are you more likely to remember next week?
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, alternate background
Look at the difference it makes when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez decorates her background. Instantly, her Zoom call seems less impromptu, and we glean more of her personal sense of style and personality thanks to the art she uses to decorate her shelves.
It’s also important to keep in mind that execution is just as important as content when you decorate your remote background. A background with too much to look at in the wrong spot can distract others and weaken your efforts at making a great impression.
The trick to staging a great Zoom background is to only decorate the space around where your head will be. You should minimize the detail directly behind you so that it doesn’t distract from your face. Your goal should be for your background to complement your professional persona, not to compete with it.
How your environment affects you
When you consider how to stage your home office space, it’s important to consider the impression that your decorations will give others — but don’t forget to pick out decorations that make you happy. The right decor can even make you feel calm and engaged.
For instance, introducing at least one plant per square meter can revolutionize how that space makes you feel. There’s a lot of data to support that indoor plants have massive mental health benefits to workers, improving everything from anxiety to memory retention.
Meanwhile, painting your home office certain colors can change your mood. Green can make you feel more creative, blue can make you feel more calm, and yellow might make you feel happy — though if the yellow is too saturated, it could end up making you feel stressed or anxious instead.
Keeping your home office tidy for the camera can also improve your mental health, as clean spaces make you feel less stressed and more focused than cluttered spaces.
7. Physical visuals are easier for most people to remember
Did you know that 65% of people are visual learners? This means they absorb and retain new information best when they can see it, rather than hearing it or reading it. To benefit visual learners, you can incorporate illustrations, charts, and diagrams into remote meetings. You can also use colors and arrows to create visual hierarchies that are easier for people to understand than plain text.
(Image Credit: Harvard Business School)
Unfortunately, remote calling apps like Zoom cater primarily towards auditory learning styles because they’re primarily conversation-based. PowerPoint and whiteboard apps like Miro can make for a quick fix to this problem, but most still prefer learning from physical media because they facilitate a slower pace of information than PowerPoints, which are easier to rush through.
Although learning styles are a more common consideration in education, bringing a variety of instructional materials to the workplace can help you get your ideas across easier and make sure everyone gets the most out of your meetings.
Using a wide-angle webcam in meetings can make a huge difference for the many learners because wider FOVs make it easier to incorporate physical visuals during remote meetings. Physical whiteboards and other drawing surfaces also enable you to use a marker to illustrate topics as you explain them. This interactive process is difficult to recreate digitally if you don’t have digital art skills.
If you incorporate physical media into your remote meetings, just make sure that your Wi-Fi is stable enough that your whiteboard is fully visible after compression. You should also make sure that your video isn’t mirrored, or else everything you write will be backwards and impossible for your colleagues to read at a glance.
You can find a wide FOV at every price
So if you’re wondering which FOV to look for in your next webcam, know that you can optimize your online experience with a wider angle. Although I recommend the 120º N980P (link to the product listing) for the best experience, a webcam is not a one-size-fits-all experience.
Below are some photos taken by a few of my favorite wide-angle NexiGo webcams. Each picture is taken at the same distance from the camera, under the same lighting, so that it’s easy for you to compare each webcam.
N980P Webcam (1080p, 120°)
Photo taken by the N980P
If you find that some days you need to forego the benefits of a wide-angle webcam in exchange for some extra privacy, I recommend the Iris (link to the product listing), which features a 100º angle and the ability to zoom in and save different FOVs as presets. The Iris has a wide suite of advanced features, such as a full settings menu with programmable lighting presets, a picture-in-picture mode useful for writing on whiteboards, and an AI-powered auto-tracking feature perfect for those who like to move around during meetings.
Iris Webcam (4K, 100°)
Photo taken by the Iris (fully zoomed out)
My top pick for a tighter budget is the N60 (link to the product listing), which is our most popular and most affordable 1080p webcam. It also has some of the clearest picture quality for an entry-level webcam. The N60 also features a generous 110º angle — wide enough to optimize your next remote call — and a minimalist feature set to keep prices low.
N60 Webcam (1080p, 110°)
Photo taken by N60
Any of these webcams have the power to transform your experience in remote meetings. But if none of these webcams are quite right for you, please check out our Webcam Comparison Table to quickly find webcams from our catalog based on FOV. Also check out our guide to streaming lights to learn more about how to optimize your remote meeting setup.