Photography doesn’t stop when you press the shutter release. A huge part of making great images is what comes after: the editing. And, there’s some gear you can get to make it easier, faster, and better. Your camera and lenses aren’t the only things that might need an upgrade.
What to Look for in Photo-Editing Gear
Photographers are famously gear focussed, often to the point of ignoring the art side of things. There’s a joke in the community that someone suffers from Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS) when they get obsessed with having the newest and best equipment. With that said, the stuff you use does matter. Just like there are some kinds of photos you can’t take without certain lenses, editing your photos to a high standard is nearly impossible without the right tools.
When it comes to buying photo-editing gear, here’s what you need to look for:
- That it’s useful. All sorts of stuff is flogged online to gear-hungry photographers. Before buying anything, take a step back and make sure it’s a tool that will actually help you work better.
- Designed with photographers in mind. There’s a big overlap between photographers and other digital creatives, but you want to make sure any tools you get have been made for photographers. Otherwise, you can spend a lot of money on something with features that are of no use to you.
- Precise and accurate. Most photo-editing gear is meant to make your edits more precise and accurate—so make sure the gear you get can do it. There’s no point buying a giant monitor with really bad color accuracy. Your photos will look really big on your screen—but the colors will be all out of whack. Anything you send to someone else or print will look totally different from how you saw it.
- Customizable. Every photographer has a different work style and workflow. Prioritize tools that are designed to be customizable, so you’ll be able to adapt it to your needs.
A Graphics Tablet: Wacom Intuos Small
There are certain kinds of edits you just can’t make with a mouse—or worse, a trackpad. It’s almost impossible to paint smooth brush strokes, accurately edit away stray hairs and blemishes, and do any detailed local adjustments.
The solution is to get a graphics tablet, like the Wacom Intuos Small. It lets you accurately paint or draw directly into Photoshop (or your image-editing app of choice). Even better, it’s got over 4,000 levels of pressure sensitivity, which means how hard you draw can determine how thick or dark the resulting lines are. It makes even the most detailed local edits possible. The Intuos Small also has four custom buttons you can program to your most used tools or shortcuts.
A graphics tablet makes photo editing so much easier and faster—and you get much better results. They come at pretty much every price point you could imagine. The Intuos Small is definitely an entry level tablet, so if you want something with even more sensitivity and customization options, take a look at the Intuos Pro Medium.
Wacom Intuos Small Graphics Drawing Tablet, includes Training & Software; 4 Customizable ExpressKeys Compatible With Chromebook Mac Android & Windows, drawing, photo/video editing, design & education
The Wacom Intuos Small is a perfect starter graphics tablet.
A Nice, Big, Accurate Monitor: Lenovo ThinkVision P27u
One of the biggest challenges with photo editing is ensuring that what you see on your screen matches what the photo looks like when you print it or send it to someone else. Screens are rarely color accurate, so color is hard to control, but you can make things better by getting a screen that’s designed to display colors as accurately as possible.
Also, editing photos on a big high-resolution screen is just plain nice, so if you’re getting a color-accurate monitor, you might as well get a big one like the Lenovo ThinkVision P27u-10. It’s got a 27″ IPS panel with a resolution of 3840-pixels by 2160-pixels. That’s a wide 4K display if you’re keeping score. Best of all, it was the most color-accurate monitor The Wirecutter tested, so you know that the photos will look how they’re meant to.
As well as being a great display, the ThinkVision P27u has a USB-C port, so you can use it to charge your laptop, and HDMI, USB 3.0, DisplayPort connections.
A Color-Calibration Tool: Datacolor SpyderX Pro
Even the best factory-calibrated monitor won’t be perfectly accurate or set up for your workspace—and it can lose its calibration over time. If you want to guarantee the most accurate colors possible for every edit, you need a color calibrator, like the Datacolor SpyderX Pro.
To calibrate your screen, you hang the SpyderX Pro over your monitor while its app displays all the test colors. It takes into account the ambient lighting and builds a color-accurate profile. If you’ve got a good screen, you just guaranteed yourself as accurate an editing environment as is physically possible—at least without spending thousands of dollars.
Datacolor Spyder5ELITE – Designed for Professional Photographers (S5EL100)
The Datacolor SpyderX Pro guarantees you the most accurate color setup going.
Some Dedicated Editing Controls: LoupeDeck+
Computers aren’t set up for efficient photo editing. They’re designed to be multipurpose, but mostly writing, machines. If you want to quickly edit lots of photos, you can learn dozens of keyboard shortcuts and give yourself a repetitive strain injury using them—or you can invest in some photo-specific editing controls, like the LoupeDeck+.
Most photo editing involves adjusting sliders so the LoupeDeck+ has loads of dials to twiddle. There are dedicated ones for Contrast, Exposure, Shadows, Highlights, and all the other options you find in Lightroom—as well as eight programmable ones. There are also buttons for undoing and redoing changes, seeing before/after previews, exporting your images, and loads more. In short, it’s like a keyboard, except designed for photo editing instead of typing.
If you have to edit a lot of photos, say after an event like a wedding, the LoupeDeck+ can save you buckets of time. Combine it with a graphics tablet, and you won’t have to touch a keyboard or mouse.
Loupedeck+ The Photo and Video Editing Console for Lightroom Classic, Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, Photoshop with Camera Raw, After Effects, Audition and Aurora HDR
The LoupeDeck+ is like a keyboard—just for photographers.
A Solid Backup Solution: Backblaze
If you shoot lots of photos, the last thing you want is hard drive failure. If your images aren’t backed up, you could lose months, years, or even decades of work.
Backblaze is the simplest way to guarantee all your photos are backed up securely offsite. It’s super affordable, secure, and reliable. But it’s only one part of a proper backup plan. For more, check out our guide to backing up all your files securely. It’s especially important for photographers.