Considering a maxed-out 2012 Mini for Lightroom, Photography business

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by WilPhoto, Nov 30, 2012.

  1. WilPhoto, Nov 30, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2012

    WilPhoto macrumors newbie

    Nov 30, 2012
    I'm a full-time professional photographer, I shoot weddings and need a desktop that can perform well for photo editing. I'm thinking about getting the current 2012 Mac Mini and basically maxing it out. I'd get the 2.6GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7, install aftermarket RAM, and I'd opt for apple to include their 256GB Solid State Drive.

    After considering my priorities, I just need a machine that can run blazingly fast in the following mission-critical applications: Lightroom 4.x, Photoshop, PhotoMechanic, and InDesign (for wedding albums).

    The Mac Mini is attractive because I have a good monitor that I already like, and my current editing machine (a 2007 white macbook) is having trouble performing in those apps, especially Lightroom. Ideally, I'd like Lightroom to be completely "fluid" and cut the lag when switching between photos in the develop module as much as possible, and have near-instant results when adjusting the sliders, etc.

    Also, I'm using an external firewire drive to store my photos— the Lacie 2Big, which has a 3TB drive with my photos and another 3TB drive acting as it's clone in RAID1 configuration. I connect to the drive via firewire 800 but it also has a USB 3.0 slot. Any idea which one is best for my intended use? If maximum performance is my ultimate priority, should I be considering an upgrade to their Thunderbolt series instead?

    Also, a quick question on the monitor setup: I use a 24" IPS monitor (the HP LP2475w) because color accuracy is also important to me. HP now has a 30" IPS monitor that I'd like to eventually add, and run a dual monitor setup (24" on the side and 30" in front of user) Anything I should know about running a dual monitor setup with the Mac Mini? I know on my macbook, I can only run one or have one color-profile for the system, are there any limiting factors on the Mac Mini for two monitor setups?

    Additionally, I will need to consider options for cleaning up, and stabilizing the power to the computer and harddrives, such as a uninterrupted power supply (UPS). I may also need to add surge protection for any physical connections to my system. Any advice here would be greatly appreciated.

    I'd appreciate any comments, feedback, and advice with regard to building this photo-editing system.
  2. Mojo1 macrumors 65816

    Jul 26, 2011
    A long-time pro here (editorial and commercial location photography...).

    The Mini should serve you well as long as you don't do a lot of edits that benefit from a discrete GPU:

    I wouldn't worry about Thunderbolt at this time... Stick with your Firewire drives unless the data transfers are taking so long that you notice it. When it comes time to upgrade the enclosures there will hopefully be more and less expensive TB options. USB 3.0 is no slouch and you can get enclosures now at reasonable prices.

    You don't mention offsite data backups. If you don't have that yet it should be a top priority. I use CrashPlan.

    I use APC UPS units. They also "condition" the electricity. The battery backup is great should the power go off before you have saved your work.

    I cannot comment about multiple displays since I use a single 24" NEC. But keep in mind that the Mini's Intel GPU has a problem with HDMI connections. (LOTS of posts elsewhere on this forum...) Intel says that a fix is in the works but if your display only has HDMI you may want to wait until the problem is fixed. I connect to my NEC via an Apple DVI to Mini DVI adapter and I don't have any issues.

    If you haven't been to it has a very active wedding photographer crowd that can offer their insights. A less contentious forum with a lot more bonafide pro photographers can be found at

    One last piece of advice: Don't spend any money that doesn't provide a direct benefit to your productivity and the growth of your business. Don't neglect to save money so you can make it through any lean-times, get yourself health, disability and liability insurance (or plan to do so ASAP). And make certain to charge enough to earn a decent profit over and above your salary and overhead so you can afford to do the above recommendations and be able to replace equipment when it becomes necessary to do so.

    Good luck with your photography biz!
  3. WilPhoto thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 30, 2012
    Thanks for that link, I was not aware of the GPU issue. However, for my intended use I might be ok. I'll research this a bit more.

    I agree that offsite backup is important.m. I do have a system for this in place (a 3tb drive that I store off site which is a monthly clone of my photo drive)

    Thanks I am aware of APC and their s units, just wondering if there is a specific model I should look at...

    Thanks for the heads-up there. My monitor has a few connectors but I currently use the DVI port converted into mini dvi that feeds out of my MacBook. As far as I know, the hdmi port is the only way to connect to a the monitor on a Mac mini if I want to leave the thunderbolt port open... Guess ill have to use that thunderbolt port after all.

    Overall, thanks for all the good advice. I will check out that forum ( I am typically on FMforum a lot, in their wedding photographer section.)

    Also, I agree it can be easy to spend more than necessary in this business, and we should always keep profits a higher priority than having the latest and greatest gear... However in this case I really do need to upgrade my editing machine because my current Mac is just running too slow. I am actively avoiding some of the work I need to do because its just so painfully slow to use lightroom. I think that having a faster editing experience will increase my quality and speed of lightroom edits, so my clients will be getting better photos quicker than my current system is allowing for.
  4. Mojo1, Dec 1, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2012

    Mojo1 macrumors 65816

    Jul 26, 2011
    FWIW I think that an off-site backup that is updated only monthly is asking for trouble. How many weddings do you shoot in your busiest month? Now consider the ramifications should all those images be lost before you update your offsite backup...

    APC has a calculator on its website for determining the proper UPS unit. The Mini draws hardly any power so just about any unit will probably do... You can decide how much to spend based on the other things that will be plugged into the UPS and the amount of time you want to be able to run your hardware on battery power.

    I think that the computer upgrade is a wise idea; I was referring to the external drives. Figure out where your bottleneck(s) are and spend your money accordingly. Lightroom will likely benefit greatly from a faster CPU and more RAM; I'm not familiar with the program so I don't know how much it uses the GPU. You can easily figure out if the data transfer times to the external drives is worthy of an upgrade; FW800 is plenty fast for me but YMMV. As I add external drives I'll be moving to USB 3.0; TB is currently too freakin' expensive for what you get.

    My closing advice is based on seeing more than a few photographers get carried away with the cool camera/computer gear and the creative part of their work while neglecting the business end and being inadequately prepared when they run into trouble. If you have already taken care of things you are way ahead of much of your competition and can look forward to a long, successful career.
  5. jack92029 macrumors member

    Oct 23, 2012
    Not for Professional Photography

    I have a Late 2012 2.3GHZ Mini w/8 Gb of ram. Lightroom 4.x works fine but I shoot M43 and my raw file size is approx. 25 Mb each.

    If you are a Pro I presume that you are shooting FF and the new Nikon D800 has 75 Mb files.

    If I were shooting FF as a Pro, who will be doing post processing on thousands of files, I would NOT buy a Mini. I would get a computer with the best dedicated video card that I could afford.

    The Mini's strength is not graphic processing. Photos and video processing are becoming much more intensive as the file size increase.

    The computer is a tool that should fit the job, just like selecting the correct lens for the shoot really matters.
  6. Mojo1 macrumors 65816

    Jul 26, 2011
    I wouldn't assume that just because the OP is a pro that he uses a full-frame DSLR. Many pros use DSLRs with smaller sensors for a variety of reasons. Some photographers switch between full-frame and so-called "cropped" sensor cameras depending on what they need for a particular subject.

    Like I wrote in my original response, your computer hardware needs are dependent on a number of factors. I specifically mentioned the Mini's integrated GPU as being one thing to consider when comparing Macs.
  7. mjoshi123 macrumors 6502


    Apr 14, 2010
    most of what he covered here and I'd add one thing, for digital photography, there is nothing that requires dedicated GPU. Get Core i7 with 2.6Ghz and add RAM + SSD on your own. It is easy to do and I did it myself based upon online video. Also one thing I'd advise is keeping LR on SSD - it makes your imports and edits simply fly thru it compared to going with fusion. I added 500GB SSD in addition of 1TB HDD that came with mini and I could say that after moving all my Lr catalog and files I'm editing onto SSD I do gain some noticable speed compared to keeping data on HDD and Lr on SSD.
  8. Mojo1, Dec 2, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2012

    Mojo1 macrumors 65816

    Jul 26, 2011
    Mjoshi, take a look at the article at the link that I provided. Some Photoshop edits take considerably longer on a Mini compared to Macs with more powerful discrete GPUs. And as another person noted, the size of your image files is something that should be taken into consideration when looking at computer specs. It's not just the size of the RAW file right out of the camera; an extensively edited file can be substantially larger when you are done fiddling around with it.

    If you don't do the kind of editing that relies on the GPU or it is an occasional thing then a Mac with an HD4000 Intel GPU will probably be just fine.

    I do very little heavy lifting when it comes to editing images. Coming from years of shooting transparencies I tend to get it done in the camera rather than in post-processing. But since I shoot digital I do need to do the usual basics such as sharpening, minor curves, that sort of thing. I can easily batch-process my images because I generally apply the same basic edits to all images. (I use Nikon Capture NX2, Aperture, Photoshop and Topaz plugins.) Photojournalism and editorial standards generally limit the amount of PP that can be done to an image file. It isn't uncommon for newspapers and wire services to require that photographers only shoot JPEGs with little or no editing allowed prior to submission. Commercial photography doesn't have those limitations.

    When I do the rare extensive edit I don't mind having to wait longer because that sort of thing isn't an integral part of my digital workflow. If I needed that extra GPU power on a regular basis then I would be looking at an iMac, MacBook Pro or MacPro because when you are a pro photographer time really does equal money.
  9. mjoshi123 macrumors 6502


    Apr 14, 2010
    Thanks but still I would prefer mac mini over iMac because most of my edits are in Lr4, I make trip to CS6 to run bunch of customized actions that I've and I run on most of my images. Keeping everything on SSD really helps with my LR4 edits along with 16GB RAM & i7 processor. I know what you are talking about in terms of .tiff files, but I've not seen any performance degradation using .psd files when converting from CS6 back to Lr4. Most of my work is on 5Dmk ii and raw files on it are not as bad as D800.
  10. Mak47 macrumors 6502a

    Mar 27, 2011
    Harrisburg, PA
    I think you'd be fine with a Mini. Other machines will offer better GPU performance, but at a substantial cost increase over the Mini. The new iMacs will offer excellent performance in this area, but are all in ones, negating the monitor that you already like. 15" MacBook Pro's would also do the job, but you'll double your cost.

    My advice is this:

    Get the $799 Mac Mini, don't pay to upgrade anything when you order. Replacing your own RAM and SSD/HDD is very easy in the Mini and much less expensive than Apple's upgrade costs.

    Get a 16GB RAM kit and at least a 256GB SSD from any number of sources. They'll perform just fine and at a fraction of the price. You can even install a second drive if you wish, though you may need to buy a cable from a site like ifixit.

    The biggest benefit you'll see is in RAM and SSD speed. You want to store any project files you're currently working with on the SSD, so you need adequate space.

    Your USB 3.0 drives will be perfectly suitable for your needs. Thunderbolt is a great option, but you won't see a realistic difference between the two until the technology matures a bit more.

    As for multiple displays, the Mini will run two displays without a problem. One through TB/MiniDisplayport, the other through HDMI. The only disadvantage here is that I don't think the HDMI will run anything greater than 1920x1600. the displays you're looking at in the future are higher resolution, you may be disappointed.

    The Mini will however support two displays, even high resolutions through Thunderbolt. Unfortunately, there aren't many options for thunderbolt displays aside from Apple's product. Perhaps the new ones will be superior to the current models in terms of reflectivity.
  11. drew.bowser macrumors regular

    Sep 23, 2008
    I dont really agree with this statement. I am a full time photographer shooting FF RAW files out of a 5D2. WHile not quite as big as the D800, still large. The bottleneck in the photography workflow (especially with Lightroom) is NOT the GPU. Its the hard drive speed and transfer rates. I am switching from a 2011 iMac i5 with 16gb of RAM to a 2012 Mac mini i7 because I will be able to utilize the USB3 and i7 CPU.

    The mini is MORE THAN CAPABLE to handle shooting and editing professionally as a photographer.
  12. blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    For weddings any computer is fast enough (and any camera is good enough, including an iPhone 3G). They can live with 4 mpixel pictures as long as there is one very high quality print with the "happy" couple including full gown and shoes. Woman that got married are not interested in the pictures. They just want prove the dress looked gorgeous on them.
  13. CausticPuppy macrumors 65816

    May 1, 2012
    For your use it won't make much difference. At any rate, it's all relative- even Intel's integrated HD4000 is many times faster than the integrated graphics (GMA 950) in your white macbook. So even with the integrated graphics you're getting a huge leap in GPU performance over your current system.

    Go with a quad-core Mini and Fusion drive.
  14. 7enderbender macrumors 6502a


    May 11, 2012
    North East US

    I'm in the same exact boat for my part-time photography business - only I also want to use for audio recording. The current Mini seems very much up to the task.

    I have confirmed with Apple that you can run two different color profiles for each monitor. Just be aware of the maximum resolution you can get depending of how you hook them up. I'll be going with two 24" screens as they seem the sweet spot between resolution and size. The really big screens (including the 27" iMac) don't really work for me. Either way, just check if you're two screens can run at their maximum resolution at the same time.

    Two other things to consider: I'm waiting for a more definite answer/solution to the problem that a lot of people are experiencing with the Intel graphics card in the machine. Important if you are on a two monitor setup.

    The other is that if you (like me) want to have an internal SSD plus an internal high(ish) capacity magnetic drive. The current version of OS X that comes with the new Mini will look at that setup as a "fusion" drive which is something you may or may not want. Seems like there are ways around it but I still have a knowledge gap regarding some of the details. But it sounds like you'd be going with just the Apple SSD solution and manage everything else externally. That should be fine.


    Interesting. So, you added a 500GB SSD and left the 1TB Apple magnetic drive in place, right? How did you go from there to make sure the Mini's OS X doesn't turn the two drives into a "Fusion" drive? How did you do the reinstall after adding the SSD? Did you replace the recovery partition or the version of Disk Utility that come with the i7 Mini?

  15. Cory Bauer macrumors 6502a

    Jun 26, 2003
    What I love about the maxed out 2012 Mac Mini is that - outside of applications which utilize the GPU - it's as fast as Apple's most expensive MacBook Pro but for nearly one-third the price. I went with the 2.6Ghz i7, 16GB RAM (from Crucial) and Fusion Drive and it absolutely flies for Aperture work. There should be absolutely no issue using a maxed out Mac Mini for professional photography or audio work because, again, same specs as Apple's $2,999 MacBook Pro.

    Fusion drive is fantastic because the photos I've currently imported and are working with are clearly being accessed from the SSD, while the majority of my Aperture library is obviously off on the spinning drive; this saves me from manually having to shuffle my library around, or from having to pay exorbitant amounts of money for an SSD large enough to house my ever-growing Aperture library.
  16. propower macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2010
  17. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    Feb 12, 2007
    Neander Valley, Germany; just outside Duesseldorf
    I have precisely this, and the same 24" HP display that you have. :) I have 16 GB of OWC RAM and a 240 GB OWC 6 GB/s SSD as a fusion drive with the OEM 1 TB hard disk that came with the Mini.

    I use Aperture because it's substantially faster than Lightroom on edits because it uses the gpu extensively. I have a 5D mark II (21 mp raw files) and a Sigma DP1 Merrill (~30 mp Bayer equivalent) and Aperture renders adjustments of these files in real-time with the Mini's HD4000 gpu. It is the first mini capable of doing so.

    Lightroom is mostly tied to the cpu, which is why it's slower than Aperture. Aperture takes advantage of the i7 and hyperthreading, but it also uses the 16 processing cores of the HD4000 gpu in the new Ivy Bridge Mini. Can't tell you how LR will perform on the new Mini, but my experience with the trial versions of LR are always slower than Aperture. File exports will be about the same speed (Aperture uses the cpu for this, too), but for brushes and most other edits, Aperture is the speed king.

    USB3 is what I'd use. I have two drives connected to my FW800 bus in daisy chain; one for media files for my iTunes library (Apple TV) and Plex, and one as my Time Machine volume. Unless you need daisy chaining, USB3 is the way to go for constant disk access where speed is needed.

    The 24" must be connected to HDMI so that the 30" can get full resolution from the dual-link Mini DisplayPort connector. HDMI on the Mini (and most other computers) is single-link, thus limited to 1920x1200 ppi.
  18. Mojo1 macrumors 65816

    Jul 26, 2011
    It's good to hear that people are getting good results using the Mini with relatively large image files and a variety of software. That kind of first-hand experience is just what the OP needs to read.

    I guess that I am a dinosaur when it comes to display resolution; I'm very happy with my 1920X1200 display. I think that the current obsession with Retina and other high-resolution displays is the new CPU GHz-war now that processor speed isn't much of a selling point any more. The computer companies need something to keep people spending money on new hardware and high resolution monitors are the new must-have thing.

    This weekend I finished making the move from my 24" iMac to a 2.3GHz i7 Mini. I'm impressed with how smoothly (and fast) everything is working even with the relatively pokey 5400rpm stock drive. I expect that an SSD drive is my next upgrade now that prices for the Samsung 830 are hovering in the $150 range for a 256GB drive. But the stock drive isn't slowing me down and it's just fine if a person doesn't have a need or the cash to upgrade.

    One very pleasant surprise: I printed some of my first images Sunday with the new hardware. I was amazed at how good the stock NEC profile is; the prints are nearly identical to the display, within 1-2%. Comparing the printer output to the screen it's difficult to see a difference. (I'm printing from Aperture 3 to an HP printer with the software handling the color output.) I'm going to go ahead and calibrate the display but I would be surprised if I wind up with better prints.

    I waited a long time for the new Minis and I am very glad that I did. It's a terrific computer at a very attractive price. And I appreciate having the ability to open it up and do my own upgrades/repairs. It's a keeper!
  19. elliotn macrumors regular

    Sep 5, 2011
    Any feedback on how the new mini copes with the latest Adobe Camera Raw? Performance is painfully sluggish with last year's mini (2.7 i7, AMD graphics, 16Gb ram + 27" Eizo screen). Slider adjustments take several seconds to update on screen.
  20. WilPhoto thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 30, 2012
    Thanks everyone for all the feedback provided. I was very happy to hear some first-hand experiences from other photographers!

    For the record, I'm using Canon equipment for my photos, I use the 5DIII and I have the 5DII and 5DI as well. I think my RAW file sizes are typically about 16-24MB. Most of my work, probably 90% is in Lightroom. From the responses I've gotten in this thread, it sounds like the mini will work for my intended needs.

    I'll be going with the Mac Mini 2.6 GHZ i7, factory installed SSD is the easier option for me, but I'll be installing my own 16GB or ram. For now, I'll use the firewire drive for storage, but I'll experiment with moving my current jobs to the SSD drive to get faster performance (if necessary).

    One last question:
    Do you think it is important to keep the Lightroom Catalog files on the local SSD drive? In my current system, I give each wedding it's own catalog, and I like to keep that catalog file with the original RAW files, as it makes it easy to find things if I need to. (Those original RAW files, along with my catalogs, will typically be stored on the external firewire drives.)
  21. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    Feb 12, 2007
    Neander Valley, Germany; just outside Duesseldorf
    The problem isn't your Mini, it's ACR. It is tied to the cpu for nearly all of its functions. This is why Aperture smokes ACR for raw image manipulations. Adobe is populated with poor programmers.
  22. mjoshi123 macrumors 6502


    Apr 14, 2010
    yes keep everything in SSD when using LR4 and it speeds up things a lot along with 16GB RAM.
  23. WilPhoto thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 30, 2012
    Thanks for the tip.

    One more thing I'd like to inquire about, is the option to eventually add another internal harddrive. If it's easy enough, I'd like to add another internal drive, probably a small, inexpensive drive less than 500GB, just to keep a clone of the SSD via RAID 1.

    Would that be a good idea? Or would it be better to add an identical 256GB SSD drive for cloning?
  24. elliotn macrumors regular

    Sep 5, 2011
    That's probably true, but sadly I'm tied to Adobe. Anyway, if ACR is tied to the CPU then the new mini should be faster than the 2011 mini as it's quadcore rather than dualcore. Feedback anyone (on any lagginess when adjusting sliders with ACR or Lightroom)?
  25. mjoshi123 macrumors 6502


    Apr 14, 2010
    I'd sound more like repeating myself, but let me tell you it is not at all hard to add SSD to your Macmini on your own. Get the one with Core i7 + 4GB RAM + 1TB HDD and add SSD on your own along with RAM. There is video of doing it online and I've done it myself. It was at the most 30-40 minute job if you do it with some patience.


    My experience was bit different, initially when I started with LR3 I also worked with Aperture 3.0 on my Macbook Pro and for me Aperture was slow compared to LR3. So I went with LR3 and now on LR4. I'll tell you this you will find tons of more resources for LR4 compared to Aperture online.

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