The top four workspace essentials for photographers and designers

I have decided that in order to have optimal efficiency and effectiveness at running a creative business or being in an employee role that requires extended time sitting at a desk in front of a computer, one needs four high-quality essential things:

1. A stable, comfortable, ergonomic office chair that ideally didn’t come from either the sale section of Ikea or from in front of a neighbor’s house
2. A quality, easy-to-use keyboard that enables you to type fast
3. A large, high-quality, high-resolution, properly-calibrated monitor
4. Headphones with good sound and ideally noise-blocking capabilities, especially if one is sensitive to noise interrupting their focus (

Until recently, I had none of those things. I am frugal to a fault, and unfortunately it has taken me this long (12 years in business) to fully understand why spending a bit more money on things I use all the time every day is so critical to my work success. Here’s my current, and sad, situation in my home office:

  • Recently I replaced my beloved but discontinued white leather office chair with a similar but severely uncomfortable tan chair (by the way- not all chairs of that design are created equal). I chose color over function and comfort. Bad idea.
  • I’m using the standard Apple keyboard, which I loathe. (It cuts my WPM in half, easily).
  • Although I love my 2010 30″ Apple Cinema Display (2560 x 1600), it now has weird dark ‘bleeding’ on the upper left part of the screen, and red discoloration at the bottom part. It doesn’t affect my ability to edit images yet, but it will soon I’m sure. I need to cut that off at the pass, because being able to see images properly on a screen is kind of important.
  • I was using cheap, crackly, horrible bluetooth headphones that looked cool but had terrible sound. And somehow they always died when I needed them the most.

Here are my solutions:

CHAIR: I am returning my beautiful-looking but ass-killing tan office chair to Amazon and am scouring Craigslist for used Herman Miller Aeron chairs, which are a dime a dozen here in San Francisco. I’m hoping the chair I get will last a very very long time, unlike the failed VC-funded startup I will most likely buy it from.

KEYBOARD: Tomorrow I will be receiving the Matias Pro Quiet keyboard for mac. It was $144 not including tax. Crazy! But I reminded myself that the only other object I use more is my cell phone. Cannot wait to fire off a bunch of emails with that bad boy!!

MONITOR: I’ll get to that below. I need your help.

HEADPHONES: Last week I gulped hard and bought myself a pair of the Bose Quiet Comfort 25 headphones in white. Lawd have mercy I have seen (heard) the light!! Listening to music while I work and being able to truly tune everything out is incredibly helpful to me being efficient. I’m what’s called a ‘Highly Sensitive Person’, and unfortunately that means that I’m acutely aware of every little sound in my environment (was that a helicopter I just heard over the East Bay?), so these headphones have truly improved my quality of life. Were they worth the investment? Absolutely YES!!

So once I have the keyboard in front of me and can actually type, and am listening to my music through my Bose headphones and have the Herman Miller chair and can sit without my ass falling asleep, that leaves one important thing- the monitor.

This is where I need your help and advice.  

I know 4k monitors are all the rage these days.

Should I get one of those?

Are there specific brands I should be looking at?

Should I wait another six months for the technology to improve and the prices to (inevitably) come down? Does Apple have yet another over-priced yet desirable monitor product up their sleeves for this year? Will it be worth the hype?

What if I go with something that’s close to 4k but not quite? This LG Monitor has awesome reviews and is 3440×1440, has a thunderbolt port and is capable of a 4-screen split. Plus the product picture is very pretty, which is of course important when buying anything new. (Being facetious here).


Advice about monitors would be appreciated!

Do you agree with this list of the top four workspace essentials? What would you add to this list?

2 thoughts on “The top four workspace essentials for photographers and designers

  1. Hi Jamie,
    I was constantly frustrated with how my calibrated iMac didn’t match what was coming from Bay Photo. They explicitly told me that iMac just don’t calibrate as well. I decided to purchase another monitor. I selected the NEC PA272W-BK-SV. It’s one of the high end monitors. Eizo was another recommended brand. Mostly I picked the NEC because another local photographer I know has it.

    The model I chose came with what I believe is an NEC branded Xrite i1 Display Pro. The software has lots of choices to fine tune the white point and intensity which my colormunki for the iMac display did not have.

    However, even though I’ve had it for months, I’m still not convinced I’ve got the calibration right. Bay has told me that metal prints come out darker than paper prints and my Epson 3880 prints more vibrant than Bay. If I can dial it for each situation, what the calibration software allows me to have a save preset that I can flip between if I was printing myself or what type of product Bay was printing.

    As Terri mentioned, I do like having two monitors so I can use both screens. Lightroom on one and Photoshop on the NEC.

  2. I really love having two monitors. One of mine is 30 inches the other 29 inches.

    I am constantly throwing something on the other monitor.

    I also couldn’t live without my Wacom tablet. It’s as important as the keyboard and mouse.

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