Consider Ergonomics as a fundamental element of your workflow. The goal should be to determine and establish a working environment that promotes safety and increases productivity.

The list of key ergonomic "must dos"
Other considerations
Best practice ergonomic habits to form and keep
Planes, trains and automobiles
Good investments
Links to check

Bad example

Figure 1 Do you find yourself in this position often?

The list of key ergonomic “must dos”

  • Use common sense.
  • The top of your monitor should be at eyelevel and directly centered in front of you.
  • The monitor should be at arm’s length in front of you.
  • The level of your desk should be approximately at your belly button.
  • Your elbows should fall at a 90-degree angle, slightly below the desk surface, when you type. Ideally, your arm should be supported from fingertip to elbow.
  • Chair armrests should be level with your keyboard.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor.

dropped keyboard
Figure 2 A good solution is to use a dropped keyboard and a tablet

tablet in lap
Figure 3 This is an example of using the tablet in your lap which forces you to sit back into the chair to support your back and keep your feet flat on the floor.

tablet example 2
Figure 4 A pressure sensitive tablet can be used on the desk itself or the drop-down portion where you would have the keyboard. The buttons on the side of the tablet can be programmed to save you from needing to mouse or in place of key commands.

neck pain Figure 5 Notice that the model is looking down on the laptop, and eventually, this will cause neck and spine pain.

prop the laptop
Figure 6 An easy solution is to prop up the laptop with something as simple as a 3-ring binder

Other considerations

Chairs come in different sizes. Depending on your height and size, you may need a chair with a longer seat length. This one change can make a huge difference in your leg comfort – where does the end of the chair line up with your leg and is that comfortable for you?

If you sit cross-legged or with one leg crossed over the other, be sure that your back is straight and that you have proper support for your spine.

Some of us like to work standing up or to have that option during a work session. Adjustable height work surfaces are available as well as chairs and stools that will move with the table height. is a good place to look for this option.

Do you have two or three monitors? Most ergonomic sites do not address this conundrum for us. Depending on your setup, you will need to play with keyboard position, pressure sensitive tablet, angle and position of monitors as well as have an easily moveable and adjustable chair.

Sit in front of your monitors and ask yourself:

  • What is the pattern you use for moving your head?
  • Does the current set up force you to angle your head and neck?
  • What is the relationship between your back, spine, neck and head movements?
  • Then add your keyboard, mouse and pressure-sensitive tablet.
  • Pay attention to your movements and how you feel after a long work session.
  • Adjust elements until you can work without pain, twinges and annoyance.
  • Some have keyboards that drop down from their desk. These allow for height adjustability depending on the kind of work you are doing.

Best practice ergonomic habits to form and keep:

Good ergonomic habits will make you much healthier and more productive:

  • Develop the art and habit of pushing yourself away from your monitor.
  • Blink your eyes, shift focus, refocus – do this frequently.
  • Stand up, stretch, walk around a bit, and then begin working again. This will improve your circulation, get your blood flowing and refresh the energy to your brain.
  • Pay attention - be mindful and conscious of your positions and how they are impacting your body.

Have difficulty remembering to take a break? Simple. Automate the reminder. Use one of the many electronic devices that surround us and set an alarm of some kind to remind you to blink, stretch, get some air, etc. Apps abound for iPods, cell phones, computers.

Planes, trains and automobiles

Working in the field, on location, airports, planes, trains and automobiles and hotels or wherever you can open your laptop, can pose serious risks and potential problems. Awareness is the most important element. Pay attention to your body and become aware of what causes you to hurt a little or all over and then do whatever you can to remedy the problem.

  • Prop up your laptop with any object that keeps the machine safe and also prevents you from hurting any part of your body.
  • Pay attention: as soon as you feel something (not an hour or day later), change the position. Stop what you are doing.
  • Use and apply common sense.
  • Ever notice how warm that laptop can become? Do you really want that much heat on your lap for extended periods of time? The heat it generates impacts the performance of your CPU as well as your body parts. Something to think about! If you have something, a jacket perhaps, to put between you and the laptop, you can alleviate the heat problem to a large extent.

what not to do a good compromise
Figure 7 What NOT to do.

Figure 8 A good compromise.

Good investments

  • A really good chair that fits your body – one with armrests and movable wrist supports, whenever possible. Shop, sit in many kinds and notice how all parts of your body feel.
  • Consider armrests for the chair. Many come with one arm that moves with your hand and supports your wrist.
  • A pressure sensitive tablet.
  • This is one of the best investments you can make! Not only does it make many of the tools you use in PIEware and Photoshop more powerful, it gives you enormous flexibility for posture options. Of course, you may also want to consider a Cintiq by Wacom – be aware, once you work on one, it is highly habit forming!
  • An ergonomic wireless mouse.
  • Ambient lighting that does not conflict with your studio monitors. See the color management section for more details on this.
  • Prop-up objects (notebooks, boxes, adjustable trolley carts, etc.) for laptop use in the studio, on the road, on location, at your favorite coffee shop – review the list above to be sure the height and angle are good for your body.


  • Take breaks – stand up, stretch, and walk around. This will revive your body and give you a better perspective as you work.
  • Breathe – this calms you down, helps to clear your head and focus on the task at hand, makes you more efficient and productive.
  • Invest in your body’s health. Its priority level should be higher than purchasing more RAM, disc space, speedy CPUs and the latest camera.
  • Most important, pay attention to what your body is saying. Know your body's weak points. Be smart and treat it well; it is the only one you have and you need it to cooperate and collaborate with you for a long and happy imaging life.

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Last Updated September 22, 2015