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Useful Workstation Gear for Retouchers and Photographers

Useful Workstation Gear for Retouchers and Photographers

While a photoshoot takes just a one day, retouching may take several days spending hours on Photoshop. Here is a list of some items and gear that may help you to make this long process easier and uninterrupted.

Plus Ergo Grip for Wacom

If you’re doing retouch, you probably spend most of your time using your Wacom tablet. Wacom has different tablet models for different disciplines, but usually photographers use the Wacom Intuos Pro series that comes with a Wacom Grip Pen. Unfortunately, Wacom doesn’t offer many options in terms of modifying your pen, besides nibs and grips. The grips included in the Wacom Accessory Kit are used without a side-switch on your pen, as there are no holes on the regular and fat grips that come with the kit. You may want to use them as is, but depending on my experience, especially when using Photoshop, it is impossible to use your pen without buttons. So, here comes Plus Ergo Grips. This thick, rubber grip allows you to use your Wacom pen for long hours without creating stress on your finger nerves. It is ergonomic and definitely better than the standard Wacom grip. Currently, it is only compatible with Wacom Pro Pens and Wacom Grip Pens.

The Plus Ergo Grip is approximately twice as wide as the standard Wacom grip. A greater girth reduces pressure making it conducive to a more relaxed hand.

Wacom ExpressKey Remote

As is evident from its name, Wacom ExpressKey Remote is the remote version of the built-in express buttons and touch ring on Wacom Intuos Pro tablets. Personally, I find the buttons sufficient for my usual workflow, however, this product would be handy for those who want extra control and more custom key modification. You can place it anywhere on your desk, so for instance it can be placed on the left side of your keyboard, which will allow easier reach when using Photoshop shortcuts. This wireless device charges in 2 hours and the battery lasts about 160 hours. Another good point is that you don’t have to own a Wacom tablet to use this device; just install the latest Intuos or Cintiq driver and it will be ready to use on any PC.

Wacom ExpressKey Remote has 17 buttons and it presents more options for custom key configuration.

Palette Cube

Palette Cube is a portable color digitizer that allows you to capture the color information on any surface and record it or import it to Photoshop via software. This tool is vital for retouchers working on products, who are obligated to give the most accurate colors to clients. Well, actually all retouchers want to achieve the real colors, but here is the good part: if your whole system is calibrated and if you match the product’s colors on Photoshop with Palette Cube, you’ll get the real colors on print. One of the most compelling features is that it supports color systems like RGB, HEX, CMYK, LAB, and LRV. Also, it seems like a good product for photographers as well. For instance, if you’re shooting a catalog of dresses with different tones of colors, you can simply sample all the tones and use that information to match the colors in post-processing. So far, Palette Cube is the most affordable product in comparison to other brands' products, and with its portable features and ease of use, it is definitely one of the essential items that retouchers must have.

Palette Cube is both compatible with Mac and PC, and it can also be used wireless to transfer the captured color data.

Monitor Hood

Even if you don’t have a high-end, wide gamut monitor such as Eizo or Nec which usually comes with a monitor hood, you can still buy third-party monitor hoods for various screen sizes. Monitor hoods are really useful to prevent the reflections of lights and colors that are created by external factors. They stop all the reflections and glare coming in from the side and above your monitor. More significantly, monitor hoods also let you work when your curtains are open on a bright day without distracting your vision. Plus, if you are using a desk lamp, this is a must-have item preventing the light leaks.

In my opinion, all wide-gamut monitors should be sold with hoods by default.

Monitor Calibration Device

Everyone already knows about the importance of regular calibration already, but which device should you go on with? Basically, the two most well-known manufacturers that sell reliable and affordable products are X-rite and Datacolor. Both companies’ products have good reviews and are used by several professional photographers and retouchers. They work well, last long, and most importantly they change your monitor's colors to a standard. Whether your work will be used in digital or print, this is one of the most important must have items that retouchers should own. Just one thing to remember: be sure that your calibration device has an ambient light sensor on it as that will definitely create better results.

UPS Power Backup

If you’re living in an area where electricity cuts occurs often, you should get a UPS power backup. Even if your area is free of electricity cuts, there is always risk of a short power outage caused by overload of other electrical devices in your house, which may shut down your PC suddenly. To prevent this, UPS power backups (uninterrupted power supply) give you enough time to save your work and shut down your PC in a safe way. Basically, they are big batteries with surge protection systems that keep your PC running for an extra 5-10 minutes for saving your work securely. They’re also beneficial for supplying persistent and uninterrupted energy to the peripherals connected to your workstation. They can save your hard disks from possible failures. They even supply extra energy for a short amount of time to your PC and monitor, and they can keep your modem running for a long time. Also, if you want to buy a UPS, be sure to check the total wattage on your system before buying one.

If you have any other items that makes your workflow easier as a photographer or retoucher, please share in the comments section below.

Burak Erzincanli's picture

Burak is a photographer and creative retoucher specialising in fashion and advertising, working with international clients from Canada, Europe and Australia.

Currently lives and works in Manchester, UK.

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Great article! One other thing I may add as an alternative to the Wacom remote is one of the razer macro keypads, such as the Tartarus. Save some of your more complex but frequently used actions in PS and assign the key combo to one of the buttons. It gives you access to multiple actions with just a single key press. It has saved me so much time.

X-Rite calibration devices can read colors from surfaces, show their values in sRGB and even show harmony colors, so I think Palette Cube and similar devices are only for retouchers with very specific needs.