Clamshell mode

A good workstation for editing pictures is something that all photographers should have. For quite a few years now I have favoured having a good monitor married to a fast laptop. I have tried using an iMac and I have owned a couple of desktop computers but having a high end (MacBook Pro) laptop and a quality monitor has provided me with a very flexible set up that allows me to grab the laptop and work on that if I need to be away from home without the complication of having multiple computers. Well, that’s sort of true; I do have multiple laptops and use the MacBook Air when I am travelling light and on longer trips I take my spare MacBook Pro along to either use as a makeshift server or as a back up “just in case”.

My home office is a relatively small one and so my set-up is somewhat dictated by that. I am always evolving what I use and the way that I use it and my current monitor is a three year old 25″ Dell Ultrasharp (now discontinued) which has not only served me well but has been packed up in a flight case many times to go with me on trips where I have been working as an editor. When I’m at home the monitor is wall-mounted so that I can get it as far away from me as I can and give me as much desk space as possible. It is connected to a dock and so there is only one Thunderbolt 3 cable that needs to be plugged into the MacBook Pro.

The lack of desk space means that having multiple screens isn’t really an option and so I have become used to using the laptop in what Apple call “clamshell mode”. That basically means that the laptop lid is closed and to save space I have it in a bracket which holds it vertically and neatly out of the way. I did the same with the previous two MacBook Pro models that I owned – although they both needed more than one cable plugged in with the relevant docks that I used at the time.

Several photographers have asked me to help them set up similar systems and so I have seen many different monitors, docks, brackets and hubs first hand. My current set up involves using the Dell monitor with its built-in USB3 hub and USB charging port to its fullest potential. The monitor’s hub cable goes into the Henge dock as does another four port hub from HooToo. The dock also has an Ethernet port and a Mini Display Port and all of that data along with the 87w of power required to charge the 15″ MacBook Pro comes down that single Thunderbolt 3 cable. I guess that’s quite a lot of cable and quite a few accessories but it all adds up to a very simple set up to use.

I have looked at the LG 27″ 5K monitor that they sell through the Apple Store and I have to say that it looks great. At well over £1,000.00 it isn’t cheap but when my Dell needs to be replaced I will seriously consider the LG. The idea of a monitor with Thunderbolt 3 and USB Type C hubs built-in is attractive. The 27″ 4K Dell is also a great looking option as is the BenQ model aimed at photographers. At around the £600.00 price point there’s a lot of choice including an LG 4K model.

I have had Eizo monitors in the past and, if money were not a factor, I’d probably go for one of those again. I have helped set up a couple of them for other photographers and they have a lot going for them. Built-in calibration, super stable displays and industry-leading colour accuracy come at a hefty price and I have always practiced a cost versus benefit analysis approach when it comes to buying kit. I am also impressed with the top end NEC models – although I have never actually worked on one.

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