Computer for photographer

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by nrvna76, Sep 29, 2018.

  1. nrvna76 macrumors 6502a

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    #1
    hi folks, starting to research a new computer for my wife for Christmas to use to run her photography business. She’s new to the business (less than 2 years) but is doing fantastic. Her windows laptop is very slow and causes her a lot of problems. She isn’t exactly high on Apple products but I’ve converted her to iPhones and Apple watches and now she will never buy anything else.

    Anyway, quick research has shown that an iMac is an excellent choice for photo editing, however since I haven’t owned a computer myself for a few years I don’t know what to get. Any suggestions on the minimum specs that will last her a few years? Large internal storage, or external storage, processor, etc...
     
  2. Gravydog316 macrumors 6502

    Gravydog316

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  3. Apple fanboy macrumors Nehalem

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    #3
    Does she use the laptop on its own or connected to an external monitor?
    iMacs are not the best for photographers due to there glossy screens. You’d be better of with a dedicated screen (like a BenQ SW2700) connected to a Mac.
    As the hard drive gets filled up pretty quick with photos (and video if she moves into that), an external raid system would be best.
    An i7 processor and 16GB of RAM would be high on my list. As would a decent graphics card.
    Unfortunately all this will add up to an expensive machine. But photography isn’t a cheap hobby. Just look at my signature!
     
  4. nrvna76 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #4
    Thanks! I’ll give that article a read.
    --- Post Merged, Sep 30, 2018 ---
    She uses it on its own, no external monitor. That’s the first I’d heard about the glossy screens so thank you. Thankfully it isn’t a full ‘hobby’ as she’s making some money from the business, however I am hoping to keep it under $2k.
     
  5. Apple fanboy macrumors Nehalem

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    #5
    I’m hoping for a new Mac mini next month in that sort of price range. But if it doesn’t have separate graphics, I’ll be pricing up a MacBook Pro and using it in clamshell mode.
     
  6. Clix Pix macrumors demi-goddess

    Clix Pix

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    #6
    Whatever you choose to buy, be sure to also factor in the cost of an external drive or two for backup and storage. All of Apple's MacBook Pros come with SSDs now as the internal drive, and while one can get a 1 TB or 2 TB or more in the configuration, this can be very expensive. The thing is, with these laptops the internal drive and RAM are not user-replaceable, so the buyer has to know from the get-go exactly what configuration he or she needs.

    Rumor has it that there will be a refresh of the iMac line this fall, possibly in October, so definitely a good idea to hold off on any purchase until it becomes clear whether or not this is happening. The current line of iMacs has retina screens rather than the older models' glossy screens. Baseline 21.5" iMac comes with a HDD as opposed to an SSD, and that hard drive is a 5400 rpm, meaning that it is slow. S-L-O-W. The iMacs can be configured with a 1 or 2 TB or more SDD. The current 21.5" iMacs are again not user-upgradeable in terms of the HDD and the RAM (although a store can replace the RAM). The 27" iMacs have a "drawer" that the user can open in order to replace RAM/add RAM. The current iMacs also come with the option of a fusion drive, which is a combination of an SSD (very small capacity) and a HDD (in the 21.5" iMac, again that same 5400 rpm, and in the larger 27" iMac, the HDD is 7200 rpm).

    Using a MacBook Pro with or without an external monitor can work nicely for photography. I have a 2015 15" rMBP set up on a stand with external peripheral (Apple BT Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse 2) and have been editing images on it for a while now. When I bought the machine I had every intention of getting an external monitor but at the time wasn't really processing many images so just never quite got around to it. Now I am contemplating the purchase of a new MBP and will continue with my same setup of the machine on a stand, etc., but am more seriously thinking about also getting an external monitor this time, as I have been getting back into photography and editing images more intensively again.

    My current MBP has a 512 GB SSD, and this has been fine for me because I use several external drives, both SSD and HDD, for current storage, current backups and archival storage and backup. I have had a couple of iMacs in the past, but have found that I much prefer the flexibility of a laptop as opposed to a desktop, and that I can have the best of both worlds by setting the MBP on a stand and using external keyboard and mouse. As AFB mentioned above, an MBP can be put into "clamshell" mode, meaning that the machine can be connected to the external drive, set aside on the desk and closed, while the user has the external monitor in front of him or her and uses external BT keyboard and mouse. Or alternatively, as AFB also mentioned, one could choose a Mac Mini (if there will be a new version released this fall) and use it as a desktop with peripherals.

    As for processor, regardless of the type of machine chosen: yes, i7 and 16 GB or more of RAM are preferable, especially if one is using any sort of editing program which is RAM-intensive or processor-intensive. Ideally, separate graphics as opposed to integrated graphics. Unfortunately, as mentioned, this is not going to be an inexpensive purchase, depending upon the configuration and type of machine chosen (desktop [iMac, Mac Mini] or laptop [MacBook Pro] and including in AppleCare and at least a couple of external drives or a NAS. If your wife is going to be using this for a photography business you may be able to get some tax breaks, though, if you're in the US.
     
  7. Apple fanboy macrumors Nehalem

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    #7
    Retina screens are still glossy.
     
  8. nrvna76, Sep 30, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2018

    nrvna76 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #8
    Really appreciate you guys taking the time to reply. Yes, I know I will be awaiting the hopeful refresh of the iMac. She currently uses a 2 year old HP envy x360 core i5 12 Gb RAM, 1TB SSD/HDD drive. It is starting to lag and feeders on her quite a bit, especially when applying her presets in photoshop.

    The 27” iMac with 3.4 GHz i7, 16GB DDR4, 1TB fusion, Radeon pro 570 is $2k.

    The 15” MacBook Pro with 2.2 GHz i7, 16GB DDR4, Radeon pro 555X, 256 GB SSD is $2400.

    Since she doesn’t need the portability I’m leaning iMac m, but we will see if they update next month.
     
  9. Apple fanboy macrumors Nehalem

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    #9
    No worries. PS/LR can be quite laggy whatever the computer from what I read.
    I have the 1TB fusion drive, but I’d go strictly SSD next time. It’s been okay, but I think full SSD is better.
     
  10. dwig macrumors 6502a

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    #10
    Step 1: Inventory all software she uses. THIS IS CRITICAL; ignore any and all hardware research and advice until this task and #2 are completed, period.
    Step 2: Sort through the software list to determine each app's hardware requirements.
    Step 3: Investigate the computer or computers needed to run the needed software.

    You say she has a business. This implies that she runs one or more "business" apps. These frequently run better, or only, on Windows. You may find that adding an iMac to her stable of computers is the better choice than merely replacing her Windows notebook with a Mac. Retain the existing Windows notebook for the "business" stuff&nonsense (e.g. Quicken, QuickBooks, ..., other accounting and/or job tracking apps, ...) and moving only the "art" apps to the new more powerful desktop. Even if you need to retire the old notebook, it is very often better to replace it with a new Windows machine for the "business" stuff than to deal with the effort (and possibly equally expense) of running Windows under macOS.

    Personally, I vote for getting a decent desktop computer with a large monitor (and later a second monitor). Windows machines can be just as good an option for running the Adobe suite, but if you go Mac I'd suggest a nice 27" iMac with a lot of RAM (32Gb at least), a decently large SSD (512Gb or larger), and several exterenal HDs (3 minimum) for primary storage, TimeMachine backup, and off-site backups.

    My setup at work (I work for an art photographer) is and iMac (32Gb, 1Tb SSD) with:
    • one set of external HDs for primary storage (13Gb total)
    • one TM backup (5Tb)
    • two sets of external backup drives, each set used in alternating months, that are stored off-site
    • one external HD for creating bootable clones of the iMac's internal SSD monthly (4Gb with 4 1Gb partitiions).
    I don't do any of the critical "business" stuff. That is done by the bookkeeper on a separate Windows 10 machine as the key application is Windows only. We also have a POS system that runs on another Windows machine, and various other people run less demanding apps (email, web based tools, word processors, ...) on a variety of Mac and Windows machines.
     
  11. Clix Pix macrumors demi-goddess

    Clix Pix

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    #11
    Like AFB, I wouldn't mess with a fusion drive, I would go SSD all the way. Yes, it is more expensive but it is more than worth it. I really hope that in their refresh that Apple finally drops that stupidly slow 5400 rpm HDD altogether (and drops the fusion drive as well) and offers just SSD options, which makes much more sense in 2018-2019.

    I agree with dwig that it is important to review and scrutinize all the software that is currently being used and also anticipate future software possibilities prior to making the purchase so that in the end you'll get what is actually going to best suit the user's current and later needs. As for the RAM, these days 16 GB is considered pretty much the standard, so in looking ahead it might be better to go with 32 GB RAM. My 2015 MBP has 16 GB RAM and my next one, which I will again be keeping for at least three years, will have 32 GB RAM. My current machine has 512 GB SSD but the next one will have 1 TB SSD -- and so on, looking ahead several years as my usage may change and my requirements of the system and the software I use is more than likely to change.
     
  12. monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

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    #12
    Unless I missed it, no one has asked about her photographic equipment, but I'd say that's at least as important a parameter as anything else.

    Does she shoot RAW, and if so, what's the typical size of her RAW files?

    That can make a huge difference. For example, I had a late 2014 i7 iMac (loaded) and with Adobe Lightroom CC and my Nikon D810 RAW files, processing was OK. A little slow but not troublesome.

    Then I got a D850 and it was all over for that iMac. It was nearly impossible to edit the RAW files. I'd move a slider and count one two three before seeing a result.

    I hit the good ole home equity line of credit and grabbed an iMac Pro, one a step up from the base model, and all's well again.

    Bottom line is that she really needs to learn whether a proposed Mac is going to choke on her files, or not. And if she's thinking about upgrading her equipment, that needs to be factored in also.
     
  13. nrvna76 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #13
    Lots to reply to here but...

    my intent was not to get rid of her current laptop, but to supplement with a device targeted just for photo editing (which is why I don't think the 'premium' for portability in a Macbook is necessary). For the main purpose you mentioned, she can run the business stuff from the laptop if necessary and then edit on whatever other machine. We currently have a wd mycloud for home that she is utilizing for backup of the business, but she is going to need something better soon as well, we are going to have to put her setup together piecemeal due to cost.

    As far as her actual photography equipment, she is using a Nikon D600 and does shoot in RAW, I have no idea how big the files become however she uses Adobe lightroom and photoshop CC and what you describe is what she is dealing with on her laptop today. I certainly hope she doesn't need an iMac Pro as that is quite far out of my price range.
     
  14. redkamel macrumors 6502

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    #14
    Honestly, most of the mid to upper macs are totally fine for photography. The intensive stuff only takes (at most) a minute or two longer. Editing large files might be a little laggy on an older computer. I am using a 2013 MBP, am an impatient hobbyist, and never feel "held back". I've done multiple photo trips out of the country, edited a thousand photos at a time, and I certainly don't think its worth a couple thousand dollars to save a few minutes every day.

    If she is doing high volume photography (>500 photos a day ) or highly complex photoshop editing, a higher end MBP or iMac would be ideal, as it has the power to do large batch processes/manage multiple layers quickly. I would also recommend a screen calibration device if she is printing and is interested in one. Its really the accessories and backup system, IMO that make photography gear better and are essential tools..not a few minutes saved on export/import. All the "speed" tests only matter if you are exporting 100s of photos a day or editing multiGB files. If you look at the comparisons on barefeats the difference between the highest end and middle devices is usually just a few seconds to minutes.

    A good setup would be:
    A MBP 13inch, mid to high end, at least 512gb storage and at least 16gb RAM, with a 21 UltraFine monitor (it matches the colors etc with the MBP)
    A MBP 15 inch +/- a monitor
    Any of the iMacs.
    Consider the highest end stuff if she is shooting weddings as a team, or performing lots of photoshop work with >20 MP files. If she doesn't have a backup system, she really, really needs one. All it takes is a stolen laptop or an accident to lose thousands of dollars of work, reputation, and time.

    useful accessories:
    -An external SSD drive: these are a couple hundred bucks for 256 to 512gb but can give you an off computer library with fast access, its portable and very, very small.
    -A large volume HD or two for backup...dont want to lose photos.
    -A screen calibrator/color checker (Colormonkey/Xrite): if she is a very exacting person, these allow you to make sure the colors in real life match the colors as shown on the computer which then match the printed colors. This is mostly useful for studio work or landscape stuff...not for weddings/general photography
    -A monitor; the LG-Apple ones can use the laptop sensors to match color temp and brightness, as well as react to the laptop controls for volume/brightness etc. I am a big fan of these.

    Whatever you get her should be fine (unless you get her a MacBook). Its hard to go wrong. I would generally recommend not getting the highest end computer, as the money can be spent on other accessories which make the photo life a lot better. I am not sure what your budge its, but as an example, a loaded MBP 15inch is ~3500. A solid MBP 13 is ~2500. That extra thousand can buy a refurbished external monitor, 2 hard drives, an SSD, and color checkers.
     
  15. monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

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    #15
    D600 files are smaller, typically around 25 mb. The D850's files are typically about twice that size.

    I hear you about the iMac Pro. I didn't want to invest in a regular iMac (this was in July) because I thought they were due for a refresh, and I also wanted at least 8 cores (for other reasons). Believe me, paying for the iMac didn't mean dipping into petty cash.

    I think she would be fine with a regular iMac -- if you go in the iMac direction -- but I'd wait to see if there's a 6 core offering. I see LR using all 8 cores on mine.
     
  16. ignatius345, Oct 1, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2018

    ignatius345 macrumors 68020

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    #16
    The 27" iMac lets you add your own RAM. You can save quite a bit of money (and speed the machine up a LOT) by maxing that out. I have 24GB in mine and Photoshop absolutely flies.

    I have to disagree here. Of course an SSD is fastest, but the Fusion Drive is not sluggish at all -- after all, as long as you make sure you get the 2TB version anyway. You're getting a 128GB SSD built in, and the machine is actively moving your active files onto that SSD and using the HDD for bulk storage. In the real world, with photo editing, I find everything quite zippy on my Fusion Drive, even when I work with RAW files. (The HDD-only option is of course total trash and should be avoided at all costs).
     
  17. dwig, Oct 2, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2018

    dwig macrumors 6502a

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    #17
    That's a good approach.

    Based on that approach I'd recommend a "big iMac" (read: 27", 512Gb-1Tb SSD) and a set of fast external drives for image storage. Our approach at work is that the internal SSD is for apps and temporary exported files. All camera originals, all work files, and all "final" print versions live on external drives. We have multiple backups, but being able to immediately connect the externals to a new/replacement/backup computer is, for us, a valuable thing. Also, being in a hurricane prone area, being able to evacuate with the files is easier when all I have to grab are the external drives; nothing critical is buried in the computer so it can swim for itself.
     

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16 September 29, 2018