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Six Essential Non-Photography Items That Make My Work Easier and More Enjoyable

If you're a photographer, retoucher, or videographer, you likely spend a lot of time at a computer. And since you're spending all that time there, it makes sense to make sure you're as comfortable and efficient as possible. Here are six non-photography items I use to make my workspace better.

I'm a firm believer that the more time you spend doing something, the more thought you should put into customizing both your process and workspace not only to make you more efficient, but simply make the tasks more enjoyable. After all, if you spend a lot of time in one place, why not make sure you're as comfortable as possible? Here's what makes my process easier.

A Quality Tea/Coffee Maker

Photographers are in general a caffeinated bunch, and if you're the type that idly sucks down mugs of the stuff all day like me, having a proper tea maker or coffee maker can make a world of difference. I love loose leaf tea, and my Breville BTM800XL One-Touch Tea Maker is fantastic. First of all, it's the only tea maker I know that can brew on a timer like a coffee machine (thanks to its basket that automatically moves along a magnetic track), which means I can wake up to tea like one wakes up to coffee instead of stumbling out of bed and inevitably burning my hand on the kettle because I'm too tired to be handling boiling water. And while that alone makes it worth it to me, it can also brew an entire kettle and keep it warm for the afternoon. It also has built-in settings depending on the type of leaf (green, black, oolong, etc.) you're using and the brew strength you prefer, which ensures consistent and yummy delivery of caffeine every day. I personally think the investment in a good tea maker or coffeemaker is well worth it.

Space Heater and Humidifier 

If winter is cold and dry where you live, the air can get mighty uncomfortable. However, wintertime heating is also really expensive, and it's not very budget-friendly to heat your entire home to 72 degrees when you're spending the majority of your time in one room. While you can always get a normal 1,500-watt space heater, consider getting a parabolic heater. At 1,000 watts, it costs a third less to run, and it provides a focused beam of heat, perfect if you're sitting in a chair all day and just want to keep yourself warm. On the same token, breathing in dry air all day isn't particularly pleasant, and I've found a humidifier makes a great difference in comfort level. If you get an ultrasonic model, I suggest using distilled water to keep from shooting fine dust into the air that'll coat everything around it.

UPS

A UPS (uninterrupted power supply) is basically a power strip/surge protector coupled with a large battery that automatically kicks on if the power goes out, giving you time to save everything and safely shut your equipment down or even keep working for a bit, depending on the size of the battery. While computer gear is generally more reliable these days, it's still not a good idea to just randomly cut the power to spinning hard drives and the like. I'm a fan of my APC Power-Saving Back-UPS Pro 1500. I get about 45 minutes of working time with my full setup out of it, but the real kicker is the USB connection. I typically leave my computer running overnight to back up to Backblaze, so if the power went out, I wouldn't know. I have my UPS set to wait 10 minutes for me to intervene, after which point it automatically saves every open window, then shuts the computers and hard drives down. Nifty.

Speakers

You're probably cranking the tunes while you edit, right? Maybe I'm more sensitive than most since I'm a musician, but trust me: once you hear sound on a good set of speakers, you'll never go back. You don't need to go all audiophile level 9,000 either; just a decent set will vastly improve your experience. I personally have a pair of KRK Rokit 6 Active Monitors on my desk. Studio monitors are speakers designed to have a near-flat response across the frequency spectrum, making music sound as it did when it was mixed (as opposed to the EQ tricks speaker manufacturers play to make their devices sound more expensive than they are). It sounds a smidgen strange at first, but you'll notice you hear your music with much more clarity and nuance than ever before. Mine sit on a pair of ISO Acoustics Monitor Isolators for extra accuracy and because they make nice stands.

Gaming Mouse and Mousepad

Even if you have a tablet, you still probably spend a considerable amount of time using a mouse. Gaming mice are designed to be precise and highly customizable for gamer's needs, but those same requirements make them great for photographers. I use a Logitech G502 Proteus Spectrum Gaming Mouse. It has 11 customizable buttons, adjustable weighting, absolutely perfect ergonomics, and multiple profiles, meaning I can switch tracking speed in one key press, making it easy to slow the mouse down for precise work or speed it up to fly across the screen. Couple it with a proper mousepad and you'll wonder why you didn't make this upgrade years ago. 

Chair

Though it's perhaps the most obvious of the six items, I can't stress this enough: a good chair will keep you comfortable and healthier by promoting good posture (make sure you're doing that on your own as well). It doesn't have to be one of those $3,000 ultra-executive models that make you look like you sit in a skyscraper, banging your fist on a desk while yelling orders to interns. Nonetheless, upgrading from that wood chair you borrowed from the dining room table will make a huge difference and certainly make long editing sessions much easier on your back.

Do you have any favorite items that make your work easier or more comfortable? Tell us about them in the comments! 

Lead image by Pexels user Negative Space, used under Creative Commons.

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24 Comments

robertc's picture

Nailed it. I have invested in every single one of theses haha. The UPS has saved me on multiple occasions already, and the space heater under my desk is a must for long edits.

Ken Flanagan's picture

A candle, dimable lighting, and a nice soft rug is nice in my space.

LA M's picture

Add a bottle of wine and your choice of a prophylactic.... you have a party....

Ken Flanagan's picture

I thought that was a given, so thanks for clarifying.

Otto Beyer's picture

Bubble bath

Erik Stenbakken's picture

Damn, Alex. You nailed them! Only one I'm missing is the UPS (had several, and they crapped out a while back). My apps do the crashing for me now -- power outages are not my issue now (but yes, do have surge protectors).

I'll add one more: QUALITY KEYBOARD TRAY. I made a custom desktop 97" wide x 37" deep (yes, it's a luxury!) and I put a super-adjustable sliding keyboard arm undermounted on the desk. I have a gel palm rest, and the arm adjusts up/down/swivels, tilts and slides in/out. Makes it MUCH more ergonomic -- and healthy. Something to consider as you get a few more years on the odometer.

Alex Cooke's picture

That's a great point; I do keep my wrists at a kind of rakish angle that can't be particularly healthy. Thanks for reminding me to fix that!

Benton Lam's picture

The UPS quoted is line-interactive model, which is nicer than the cheaper offline ones (at around $50CAD price range).

They can help deal with brownouts and overvoltages.

An acquaintance kept having dead computers everywhere, and the one that he hooked up to a line-interactive UPS ends up being ok.

Marius Pettersen's picture

Indeed. It's a nice comprimise. On-line models can be rather expensive.

Alex Cooke's picture

Yes, I love it. It keeps the voltage output exactly where it should be, which is great, especially considering I live in an older building.

David Bolender's picture

#7: a wife who understands what you're doing and not just "playing around with the computer" !!

Ken Flanagan's picture

Those are too expensive for most photographers, and they rarely come standard issue with this "understanding". Not their fault, as we do tend to play quite a bit too.

Kevin Newsome's picture

Truth, brother, truth.

Alex Cooke's picture

You win the workspace contest!!

Alexander Petrenko's picture

If your computer is well-specced and you actively work, you don’t need a heater.

B In SEA's picture

Put your desktop on a rolling rig so you move it right near your feet in winter and across the room in summer! Would make for some interesting cable management...

Hans Rosemond's picture

Oooh, the speakers have me drooling.

Alex Cooke's picture

They're fantastic!

Ralph Hightower's picture

Yup! A UPS is absolutely essential.

olivier borgognon's picture

A few of the ones I personally love are :

a Herman Miller Aeron chair : http://amzn.to/2FOWJ0G the price has gone down so much it's a blast

The other item which has seriously made the place look cool was a FatBoy Lamp : http://amzn.to/2DJQ0od

And finally If you have place... this is just a dream at a reasonable price for retouching the Asus PA329Q : http://amzn.to/2DIdGJB

chrisrdi's picture

The logitech g502 is a great mouse and it's really inexpensive.

William Kelly's picture

Nice list. A reliable backup hard drive and a natural light desk lamp. Simplisafe alarm system to give peace of mind protecting the gear. A large desk pad allows me to occasionally switch hands on the mouse.

Suzi Pratt's picture

Just got that space heater this winter and it's been a game-changer! For lights, highly recommend Philips Hue. The ability to add your own colored mood lighting is so cool.

Alex Cooke's picture

I use Hues! Love them!