For my creative process, I live by Apple, Adobe, and Wacom — with absolutely no use of a mouse. To begin with, I am a commercial advertising food and liquor photographer with two iMac stations: one where I shoot my jobs tethered in my loft studio, the other I use for my retouching station (home base archive/storage/catalog). During the span of my 30-year career, I have never used a mouse. From the infancy of Photoshop, I have always had a Wacom tablet attached to my computer.
I recently had the opportunity to try out the new Wacom Cintiq Companion Hybrid tablet to see how it fits into my workflow. This tablet has now become the most efficient “hammer” in my toolbox. Now, even my assistants favor the Wacom tablets in my studio because I just don’t “mouse” around.
I do a lot of commercial advertising photography, and I insist upon retouching 95 percent of my work prior to delivery. Photoshop CS6 and Lightroom 5 are my most commonly used applications. This Cintiq Companion Hybrid tablet assisted these apps to maximize efficiency. Additionally, there is no longer a need for track pads in my studio as it is incorporated right into the tablet. Now I rely solely on the tethered (or wireless) Cintiq.
Once you get past the learning curve and watch a few tutorials, the Cintiq Companion Hybrid will reshape the way you use Photoshop and the develop module of Lightroom 5. There is no comparison to using a mouse for pressure-sensitive brushstrokes once you have gotten used to the hand-eye coordination on the tablet. There are a lot of preferences that you have to set up beforehand in order for it to work smoothly. I personally split my keyboard commands up on the ExpressKeys and also onto the Rocker Ring. Then I further split up my keystroke commands into the Radial Menu. This is just a matter of preference. Whatever lets you work the fastest while still using the pen on the screen is best. It’s all about increasing the speed of your retouching skills. Time is money my friends.
When using Photoshop, I find the touchpad functionality of the Cintiq Companion Hybrid to be the most timesaving combination. Using the standard finger gestures, one can zoom in and out and rotate while using my favorite tools: healing brush, clone, erase, magic wand, and pen (for creating extremely precise paths). This sharpens my masking technique. I’m not just using my learned hand-eye coordination from my previous tablet experience, but now I can see it on the screen underneath my pen while zooming and rotating to create faster accurate paths. This combination of activity really saves on wrist movement, and my hand is less fatigued. I have increased delicacy and accuracy by combining finger gestures with pen use.
When using the healing brush and cloning tool, there is no greater sensitivity when applying a pressure-sensitive pen with the brush size set at the correct hardness for smooth feathering and blending. This smoothness in the final image can never be attained using a track pad or a mouse, period! Using finger gestures, I can zoom in and out of the retouching area and check on ultra- fine details down to the pixel level. This feature is insanely accurate and awesome. Seamless results are the mark of my technique, and now I get there faster. Also, because of the huge storage on the Cintiq Companion Hybrid, even my largest Photoshop files are instantly rendered, which was a concern of mine in the past. Video files (doing a lot of HD time-lapse) that I tested ran fast and viewing was smooth.
As a side note, I set up an ExpressKey for the launch pad (MAC) so that I can open other apps with the click of the pen while retouching hovers in another window. Absolutely no more time is spent grabbing another mouse or track pad.
For comfort, I tend to rotate between having the tablet in the stand at its maximum angle when using the pen and once in a while placing the tablet on my lap for a change in my body posture. The color quality and HD look of the screen are fantastic. The anti-flair surface is superb when reducing flares from different light sources when it’s in my lap.
I loaded the Cintiq Companion Hybrid with Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom 5, so when I travel back and forth to New York (as I often do) I can be doing some postproduction and editing on the go. The USB port allows me to have an auxiliary storage device just for that. It’s great to now use travel time for editing.
When you purchase a Cintiq Companion Hybrid tablet, you’ll enjoy the fact that your production time will decrease while the accuracy of your work increases. I value the decreased production time. I must note that I still quote my retouching fees per hour (so I need to be careful not to make my retouching fees too inexpensive). Having a great tool in your toolbox can only make you more money and save time. My overall consensus — go for it!
Sid Hoeltzell is an award-winning commercial photographer who has been an industry professional for more than 30 years. Focusing primarily on food and still life photography, Sid works with clients such as Burger King Corp., Carnival Cruise Lines, Bacardi, Dewar’s, Corona Extra and more. With his extensive experience and innovative lighting techniques, Sid makes every job he gets a masterpiece. Check out his online portfolio here: https://www.sidphoto.com/.