These days, most photographers spend way more time staring at a computer screen than peering through a viewfinder. Despite this, we sure do spend a lot more talking about lenses and cameras than widescreen monitors. Perhaps that’s because editing tends to be the far more tedious part of the job. With a little investment though, you can make those late nights pouring over the day’s images just a little bit more comfortable.
#1: Get a Decent Monitor
I spent way too many years editing images on the comparatively tiny screen of my 13 inch laptop. When I finally started using an external monitor, the difference was huge. Seeing my photographs fill up a larger screen made me feel like I was seeing the keepers in a whole new way, and helped me to spot the flaws in the duds much quicker.
You’ll want to aim for at least a 27 inch screen if you can, and make sure it features IPS (In-Plane Switching), which eliminates the problem of inconsistent color and brightness when viewing the screen from different angles. These days, it’s easier than ever to upgrade with high resolution monitors available for a fraction of their former prices: you can get this HP Pavilion 27xi for less than $300. That’s not chump change, but I bet it’ll make a bigger difference in your workflow than that $2000 lens you were looking at.
#2: Color Correct!
So you’ve got your fancy new monitor, now you need to make sure it’s portraying accurate colors. This is especially important if you’re doing your own printing. I know what you’re thinking: “I just spent hundreds of dollars on my new monitor, it better damn well show colors correctly!”
You may have a point there, but keep in mind, color rendition on a monitor can vary depending on the ambient light in the room and the brightness setting of the monitor. Even if your monitor was color-accurate on the factory floor, it’s going to need calibration in your living room to make sure you’re getting the best possible results.
Fortunately, calibration tools have been getting cheaper too. You could bust the bank on a $1500 color management system, but there are also more reasonable alternatives, like the Datacolor Spyder4Express Display Calibration System, which you can find for less than a hundred bucks.
For the dedicated bargain-hunters out there, there’s even free online software like Calibrize that’ll do a serviceable job. Remember though, you get what you pay for.
#3: Sit Smart
Recent studies show that sitting for long periods of time during the day can cause negative health effects, like weight gain, bone density loss, and hypertension, even for those who exercise regularly. It turns out that sitting in a dimly lit room to edit thousands of pictures is bad for more than your back and eyes.
Fortunately Chris Kresser over at the Huffington Post has some advice for those looking who can’t avoid working at a desk. You could invest in a stand-up desk, or add a shelf to the top of your desk to convert it to a stand-up desk.
If that’s not an option, or if you’re like me and can picture your knees giving out after 45 minutes of standing in one place, Kresser suggests sitting “more actively” by using a yoga ball or “active sitting disk” in lieu of a standard chair. I’m not saying you won’t look a little silly trying these health-saving strategies, but you also might give yourself a few more years of active shooting later in life, and isn’t that worth a few snide remarks about your office setup?
#4: Try out a Graphic Pad
Sure a mouse will work fine for your favorite photo editing software, but if you’re looking to upgrade anyway, why not try a graphic pad like the Wacom Bamboo Create Digital Tablet?
It’ll help with tasks requiring smooth sketching strokes or precise selection, like isolating a subject for editing or transposition. On top of that, it opens up a number of editing options that are only available while using a pressure sensitive pen and pad. Not to mention, it’s a sleek addition to your desktop that screams CREATIVE PROFESSIONAL at the top of its lungs.
Much like monitors and calibration tools, the cost of graphic pads has come way down recently, and you can find a simple one for as little as $75.
#5: Headphones Matter
Sometimes a good playlist and a big cup of coffee is the only way to push through a nasty round of editing. If you’re still relying on the earbuds that came with your iPhone, you’re doing yourself and your music a disservice.
Once again, it’s not hard to find big upgrades at reasonable prices. CNET has a great piece on solid pairs of headphones for less than $100.
Don’t have any decent music? That’s fine too. A free membership at Spotify will get you access to a nearly limitless collection of streaming music. If you don’t want to be distracted by occasional adds, you can buy an add-free experience for just $5 a month.
For photographers, long hours of editing are a sometimes-annoying necessity. So why not put that next camera purchase off for a little while to invest in your editing studio? Your photography will benefit from it, and you just might find yourself enjoying the time in front of the screen just a bit more.