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What Is a Document Camera and How It Works?

A document camera is a device that can project and magnify images of objects, paper notes, and transparencies. It is described as being similar to an old overhead projector that almost every classroom consisted of in the past. However, a document camera is more modern, smaller, and can work remotely over Wi-Fi.

Majority of users would classify document cameras as high-resolution webcams that have arms to ensure their placement over documents, objects, or papers. Teachers, professors, and world-wide educators find document cameras to be very useful because they can write notes on paper and then present the notes to the audience of students through the document camera.

A document camera for the classroom is essentially a portable version of a high-resolution web camera. The camera typically comes mounted on a flexible arm attached to a base. It can project images of documents or other objects clearly to a display screen. 

Document cameras are available with built-in LED lighting and microphone and wireless connectivity that allows teachers to use the camera on the internet. Other features include a remote so teachers can walk around the classroom, a split-screen function and the ability to take photos and store them on the camera or a connected computer.


The classic overhead projector has stood the test of time because it allows teachers to interact with an entire class. The document camera does the same thing but in an advanced way. It is a powerful tool for teachers to connect the physical world of the classroom with what’s available in the digital world.

Some of the benefits of the document camera include:

  • Allowing students to see text or an object from anywhere in the classroom (it’s an absolute must for large lecture halls)

  • Sustainability—document cameras remove the need for paper handouts

  • Providing better ways to manage a class, including the capacity to jot down morning bell work and project it on a screen for every student to see, or writing down the daily schedule

  • Giving teachers the ability to put up math manipulatives in front of the entire class

  • Review and discuss quizzes or tests

  • Using high-definition images to support a science lesson (such as the petals of a flower or the details of a dissection)

Teachers use the following reasons to justify the purchase of a document camera to the “powers that be”: it’s many tools in one, it’s easy to use and it decreases the cost of printing.


Enhanced Lessons from Fresno Pacific University teaches educators the best uses of a document camera for the classroom. The course offers information and examples on presenting lessons for teachers, principals, curriculum specialists or librarians. These lessons incorporate creative visual media that meets both local education goals and Common Core Student Standards.

As part of the course, educators create a presentation that includes multiple uses of a document camera. Graduates from the course are ready to apply what they’ve learned to the classroom immediately.

Taking the document camera course counts toward earning a Technology Skills for Educators certificate. For educators who want to make the best use of document cameras, the course will teach them ways to provide students with engaging and motivational content.

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