In an alternate reality, I am writing this article on my 5th cup of expensive coffee from the local hipster cafe in town. I have spent more money on hot beverages than I earned and wasted an hour on public transport.
In another universe, I am bored in my apartment, distracted by last night’s dishes and mounting piles of laundry. Both chores seem far more enticing than actually sitting down to write or edit photos. But neither of these scenes apply. Today, I am virtue signalling by working in my public library, warm and focused, and entirely for free.
Many photographers are freelancers and don’t have the luxury of a studio or regular work colleagues. However, there are many great places where you can retouch your photos without having to spend your weight in avocado toast or go out of your mind in isolation at home. When all you need are a laptop (or iPad) and wifi, here are a few ideas of places where you can work that you might not have thought of yet.
The public library
As I mentioned above, I recently started working from my local village library. It might seem obvious to anyone over the age of 45, but the younger crowd may not have considered it. Amidst many funding cuts, I have to admit that I’m lucky to still have a library to go to. It also feels good to be getting something back from the taxes I’m paying.
The advantages of the library are many, with few disadvantages. It’s warm in winter and has a/c in the summer, fast internet, plenty of free desk spaces and plug sockets. And the best part for those of us who are easily distracted? It’s quiet, and there is no background music.
You are admittedly stuck with their opening times and cannot take phone or video calls. But there’s nothing better for those hours of deep focus. I achieved more in 2 hours in the library than I usually do in 4 at home.
An artist’s studio
Co-working spaces are quite pricey, and they get busy quickly. One option would be to invent your own type of co-working. Most photographers know other creative people, whether they be visual artists, dancers, musicians or designers.
If you know any of these people, it’s quite possible to ask to share their studio space for a morning or two a week, just to change things up a bit. All you need is wifi, and a laptop, after all. They might also appreciate the company. I find a little bit of peer pressure can be great for focusing the mind.
A phone booth at the airport
I can’t take credit for this one. Retoucher Pratik Naik posted about this on Facebook recently. As a busy retoucher, he is often forced to find solutions when travelling. Business lounges are expensive and not usually open to those of us in economy class.
However, Pratik got around it by finding a lovely little private corner with a chair and desk. Yes, that’s right, the seldom-used phone booth on the concourse. He joked that it even provided complete privacy for those who needed to edit NSFW images!
Outside in a park or garden
Catch up on your vitamin D by working outside, especially if you live in a climate that allows you to do so. If you need wifi, you can simply set up a hotspot from your phone. Many public parks have picnic tables which make for excellent makeshift desks.
A friend of mine regularly takes his laptop to work in the local park when he’s sick of working from home. He finds the natural greenery energising and the sounds of birds quite relaxing. Give it a try, but check the weather forecast first!
The bank in the city centre
Yes, you read that correctly. While smaller bank branches have been closing, banks seem to be funnelling their profits into creating working hubs with coffee in their larger spaces. It’s usually free, you don’t have to bank with them, it has comfortable spaces and it’s quiet. There’s usually wifi too. What’s not to like?
I can think of at least 5 banks offering freelancers free co-working spaces in my city. And well, if you decide you’re finally sick of the travelling digital nomad lifestyle, you can always check out their mortgage deals!
Be creative, avoid cafes
For me personally, a busy cafe is the worst choice to work from. It’s often very loud, with conversations, small children, clinking plates and whirring coffee machines. You’d be surprised how loud a couple of Spanish abuelas can get.
Additionally, when I’m not working, I want to actually sit and enjoy my coffee. I find it irritating when the place is full of freelancers with laptops, nursing a flat white.
So as freelance creatives, let’s collectively find better places to retouch our images to break up the monotony of working alone.
Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever retouched photos?