MacBook Pro Recommendation for Photography

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by trinigen, Jan 22, 2015.

  1. trinigen macrumors newbie

    Jun 17, 2008
    Hi there,

    I have a question regarding the best portable set up for digital photography. My wife has been starting up a wildlife photography business and has been using our current 2009 13” MacBook Pro (Mid level, Maxed out RAM, upgraded 750G hard drive). Lately it has started to seem a little bit long in the tooth. Lots of hang ups while editing (Photoshop Elements 12) or even in iPhoto. She has been shooting with a Nikon D3100 (14MP – I believe) so the files are pretty good size. As her business and photo library grows, what would be the best bet for a new MacBook Pro Retina? What configuration should we look at (RAM, Processor Speed, Graphics, Storage, etc.)?

    My other question is around what everyone else does for storage. Right now we have the upgraded 750G HD. Our iTunes library resides on a NAS, but all of her photos are on the MacBook. The MacBook is currently backed up to a time capsule multiple times a day. I have read where people have multiple external hard drives to store their photo libraries on. Is there an easy way to set this up where the library resides on an external drive and PS Elements recognizes it? And is it easy to make a second and third back up through PS elements just in case something happens to the original? I would like to have her set up for success. She is obviously the creative part of the team and I am pretty much playing the role of the GIS Help Desk.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. Natzoo macrumors 65816


    Sep 16, 2014
    Not sure where i am
    Right now i have the 15" retina with dual graphics and its great but i don't use it for photography that much. The config i would get if i were you is maybe 16gb of ram and 512gb of memory (or 1tb). But its your choice to get the 15" or the 13". And for the second question I'm not sure how to answer that.
  3. jsagurton macrumors member

    Aug 6, 2014
    Is she shooting in RAW or JPEG? (I'm going to assume RAW from here on out unless you tell me otherwise)

    I shoot a D800 in RAW, and was seriously considering upgrading to a rMBP myself, but decided that since it wasn't really in the cards at the moment, I'd drop in an SSD instead. WORLD of difference. Accessing my Aperture library went from an aneurism-inducing delay to nearly instant. I still plan on upgrading in another year or so, but you might consider trying the SSD. :).
  4. Xeridionix macrumors regular

    Jan 6, 2015
    I'd recommend a 15" MacBook Pro for the screen estate, you've got a fair bit more space to work with and it just makes it more comfortable for editing overall.

    You could probably get away with the base model 15", and if you wanted to bump the storage up to 512 GB or 1 TB (although the latter costs quite a bit more) even though if you were to store your photo library on an external disk (which is a good idea for keeping your photo library safe and especially if you shoot in RAW) it shouldn't be an issue to point Photoshop Elements to use the external disk.

    At the end of the day it'll come down to budget in terms of what you can afford. I wouldn't necessarily recommend the dual graphics model for what you're looking to do as the single graphics model with Intel Iris Pro should be more than fast and powerful enough for what she needs to do and it'll run a bit cooler with better battery life as well (important if she's on the road with it at all).

    Best of luck and have a great day. :)
  5. simonsi macrumors 601


    Jan 3, 2014
    Presumably she will learn to prune her shots so she is only keeping viable shots or learning material. That way even the 750GB should last quite some time (I shoot a D300, 12Mpixel and shoot uncompressed RAW now, my library is over 600GB at 80,000 images (approx 20,000 RAW, balance are jpeg).

    I'd keep it simple and keep it as you have, all images on the 750GB, back that up to the TC regularly. Then consider 1 or 2 offsite backups, I have one drive that rotates to my office, another that gets an annual swapout with my daughter 12 timezones away so short of a global disaster I shouldn't lose everything....

    Your wife will also need to consider securing the images in her shooting workflow, many photog's have lost shots that cannot be reproduced (esp with Wildlife), by accidentally formatting the card, or physically losing it. She will need a good habit of shoot, copy, secure, return to base, copy, secure, format card. Basically you can become totally paranoid about what could be lost and when and put as much effort in as your workflow, time and patience will allow (and profit if this become serious revenue-earning).

    The laptop. Well your wife needs to consider how long that will be a prime (sole), editing machine, the time may come where she wants either a bigger screen at home, or a dedicated iMac or similar to edit on at base, then you could go either way with the MBP depending on which route. For me, I'd do what I have done (no surprise :) ), and get a cMBP, throw away the DVD and put a second drive. That could be as I have (asymmetric for speed and space), or you could have twin drives and internally backup so single drive failure is unlikely - bear in mind a prime editing machine that is mobile is more at risk from damage/dropping/theft/loss....

    Decisions, decisions....hope that has given you some food for thought, I'm not commercial so my workflow and security is built around the sentimental value of my library, not a commercial one.
  6. Reality4711 macrumors 6502a


    Aug 8, 2009
    When read this post my mind ways bounced back to my move from pro-am to Pro just before the digital revolution.

    This was my first successful setup.

    12" MBP (40GB) + Photoshop 1or2 (unsure) which and an external RAID 1. for storage.

    This was a very good system for the first 18 months using a 6.5Mb camera (two cameras).

    I then realised that with my cameras outputs growing to 20Mb and the number of shoots growing also the office
    needed to grow faster.

    Mac Pro G5 became the centre of this office, internal raids and external raid for backups. Totalling 4Tb + 6Tb-backup..

    Ultimately I ended up with a studio setup which provided control and specifically for my subjects (animals) portability; including its own MBP and seperate display.
    The office had a resident image editor/administrator (young lady), the Original G5 as a server and two iMacs for editing and printing.

    Not a detailed history but more an example of what can happen and how fast it can do so.

    My point is really that if you grow your photographic skills and hopfully your client numbers your office/studio will need to grow faster.

    In order of importance.

    1/ Take more photos than you think you should-many more!
    2/ Keep control of everything!
    3/ Backup-backup-backup and never do it for a favour. Charitable work is not a favour it is a commitment, they are different.
    4/ Find your style and grow

    Good Luck

    Regards Sharkey
  7. SDColorado, Mar 4, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2017

    SDColorado Contributor


    Nov 6, 2011
    Highlands Ranch, CO
    I don't use Elements to manage my libraries, using Capture One instead. But I am guessing Elements has a similar feature where you can either store photos inside the catalog (managed) or you can store them outside the catalog (referenced) in their existing locations. I use a referenced library, which exists in the pictures folder, but the photos reside elsewhere, in my case an eternal Glyph Atom SSD RAID.

    Edit: I should mention that even with a fully managed catalog, where the photos all reside withing the catalog, it is still possible to store the catalog on an external drive and back it up to another external source.
  8. zarathu macrumors 6502


    May 14, 2003
    If you upgraded to the late 15 inch 2013, for example, which for your use is only about 4% slower than the current, for which I paid POWERMAX about $1600, you would have amazing abilities. The differences between your model which I had, and my new to me late 2013 quad i7 2.6 are astounding. I used to make iMovies with the model you have and it took a morning to finalize the movie. On my iMac late 2011 i5 quad 2.5, it would do it in about an hour. With the late 2013 MBP 2.6, and on the the integral non discrete Iris Pro graphics card, it does these same movies in about 5-6 minutes. There is nothing in still photography that it wouldn't do instantly.

    I'd recommend getting 16 gb RAM and at least 256SSD. Most of my photo storage is not on the mac. I keep it in a separate 3 TB HDD that will last for ever since I don't use it except for storage. Transfer at USB 3 is fast. And I keep the stuff in file directories that I have decided on, not in some proprietary format like Aperture used to do.
    --- Post Merged, Mar 4, 2017 ---
    I never could understand why anyone needed some program to manage the libraries when simply devising your own file system works just as well.
  9. SDColorado Contributor


    Nov 6, 2011
    Highlands Ranch, CO
    Digital Asset Management, within the program that is used to edit the photos, is not really that foreign a concept or difficult to understand, but whatever works for an individual is always going to be the best way to manage libraries. There is no right or wrong answer here.
  10. CaptRB macrumors 6502a


    Oct 11, 2016
    LA, California
    #10 we go with the answer you need!

    I'm using both the 13" and 15" Touch Bar machines for professional (still life catalogue) use.

    Cameras typically used: Nikon D810 and Nikon D500. I will occasionally process files from medium format as well.

    13" touch bar with 8 GB RAM, 256 GB drive
    The 13" handles full photoshop with ease and elements even more easily. Even monster RAW and Tiff files pose no problem for the more compact MacBook. The brighter screen is very useful when shooting in the field as is the smaller form factor. These machines are perfectly fine with big files from sensors in the 40-50 MP range, so don't buy into the 16GB as a must-have.

    15" touch bar, 16 GB RAM, 256 GB drive.
    Okay, this is real desktop power. Very fast and snappy performance that does make the 13" feel a bit sluggish if you use them together. The i7 quad core chews threw more files and doesn't blink. For the small difference in price, you get a lot with the 15" but it does feel a lot bigger and heavier to me.

    Much of the prowess of the new machines is in the super fast SSD drives, but these new brighter screens are amazing for photographers. But at the same time I would NOT get hung up on screen size because neither screen is great for editing. They are just two small and a proper 27" 4K monitor is not very expensive. The larger screen is key in working out composition and cropping as well as the tweaks to sharpness, color and DR.

    I'd also throw this in: The D3100 is not a great tool for your wife. It's slow and low in pixel count; two things you certainly don't want in a wildlife camera. Then there are the lenses. I'm assuming that she's lacking in good glass as well. I'd upgrade the camera and glass FIRST even if the old computer is limping a bit. For wildlife the 1st rule is "Get close and stay back!" To do that you need a long lens and a sensor that can stand cropping

    Best typical pick for wildlife: D500 plus a good long lens, or at least a Tamron 70-300 to get started. For less money a D7100 would be very good as well, but stick with crop sensors unless you can afford and handle giant lenses. If she's shooting scenic and wider angle stuff, there are a ton of great choices.

    Best of luck!

  11. Reality4711 macrumors 6502a


    Aug 8, 2009
    Perhaps I did not understand your question.
    My advice is simple.
    Max your Mac is always the way to go.
    Put more money into taking the photo. than into playing with computers and all the work that is not taking photos as soon as you can afford it.
    Editing is not where you will develop as a photographer; dealing with people, places and action with your eyes wide open is.
    In other words, get the best equipment you can afford, take your camera everywhere you go, always say yes to any commission, watch the background and provide a service. Easy really.

    Oh yes the D500 is a great camera for anything moving add the D810 and £10000 in lenses:eek::(
  12. ZapNZs macrumors 68020


    Jan 23, 2017

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11 January 22, 2015