Photo editing / processing on MBA + external display ?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by FrenchPB, Oct 30, 2011.

  1. FrenchPB macrumors 6502

    Sep 15, 2005
    Hey all,

    I currently have a 20" iMac core 2 duo 2,66 Ghz with 4 GB RAM and a 500 GB HD.

    My activities are mostly photo editing / processing (using Lightroom cause Aperture is way too slow on my iMac). I also use iLife and MS Office, as well as web browsing and watching HD videos.

    I'm thinking about selling my iMac to buy an Apple laptop. I indeed would like to be able to work on my photo when I'm not at home (I spend a lot of my weekends in the family, and I also would like to be able to use my computer in my bedroom or living room).

    Getting to the point :
    - would a MBA be noticeably faster than my iMac ?
    - I think the high resolution of the MBA is awesome, but I'm wary of the 4 GB RAM limit... I already have 4, and I wanted to upgrade that since I think it's very important when doing photo processing
    - when I work at my desk, I'd like a bigger screen to do more advanced work on my photo. However, the Apple Thunderbolit display is too expensive for me.

    What external display would you advise me to use for photo editing. I aws thinking of a 23-inch size maybe...

    Thanks a lot for your help. I have to determine whether the 13-inch MBA is the right choice for me (I'm thinking of the i5 model, not sure the i7 would help me with photo processing), and what external display to get on the side.

  2. joelbechtolt macrumors newbie

    Oct 30, 2011
    The 2011 MacBook Air with the i7 is awesome for professional-level photo editing.

    Hi there, I'm a professional sports photographer and I recently had this same question.

    I was using a Core 2Duo MacBook Pro with 8GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. I was thinking about switching to an 11" 2011 MacBook Air for portability and a speed bump, but had concerns about the RAM limit, video card and processor.

    After a lot of research I decided to go with the 11"Air with 4GB of RAM, the larger 256GB SSD Drive and the bumped up 1.8GHz i7 processor.

    I am happy to report that this is an awesome machine for photo editing. The lack of RAM and higher-end processor (than the current MacBook Pros) is made up for with the Air's solid-state drive. The read and write time is astounding, Photoshop is great and Aperture runs link a dream compared to my Core2Duo MacBook Pro.

    My typical workflow envolves shooting 2-4 thousand images at a sporting event and whittling that down to 100 or so keepers in Aperture, applying both Aperture's adjustments and/or the Photoshop plug-ins that run in Aperture like Nik, Topaz and OnOne. These images are then uploaded via a tethered iPhone to my company's server, usually from a moving car.

    For serious editing I plug the Air into my 24" Apple LED Cinema Display via the Air's Thunderbolt port and it works great. It also adds three more USB ports and charges the Air while I work without having to plug another cord into the wall.

    I also have a current 15" MacBook Pro with 8GB of RAM and the quad-core 2.2 GHz Core 17 in it and without really trying to nit-picky it's hard to tell the difference between the two machines for Photoshop and Aperture work with a monitor plugged in or not.

    I cannot stress enough how much the SSD drive in the Air means in terms of Aperture and Photoshop performance.

    I utilize a couple techniques to (virtually) increase the storage capacity since even the biggest hard drive Apple offers is only 256GB, about half of what I'm used to. I use DropBox, iDisk, a personal server and my Time Capsule is available anywhere I have an internet connection so it and any USB drives (I have 3 and a Drobo) plugged into it are available when I'm on WiFi or tethered to my iPhone.

    I used the MacBook Air with the i5 and the results were not as good. Spring for the bigger drive and the i7 and you won't miss the RAM.

    Hope that is helpful.
  3. FrenchPB thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 15, 2005
    Thanks for the great reply. It's very interesting for me since I'm an amateur sports photographer in my spre time, so your feedback is very much appreciated.

    I'm surprised you chose the 11-inch MBA instead of the 13-inch version. The higher resolution and especially the SD slot made the 13-inch a natural choice for me, and the portability is almost the same. How do you transfer your files from your camera to your laptop ?

    Also, upgrading the processor and SSD on the MBA makes it quite an expensive buy, almost the price of a 27-inch iMac.
  4. FrenchPB thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 15, 2005
    I also would like to know more about how you transfer files. Do you put them directly in Aperture, or do you select the ones you like before in Finder / Preview ?

    How do you quickly delete the ones you don't like ? I'd love to be able to delete files directly form the Finder with one key. Press the space bar to have a preview of the picture, and press one key to delete the file if you don't like it... things like that.

    Does that exist ?
  5. joelbechtolt macrumors newbie

    Oct 30, 2011
    Deleting finder items

    For deleting items from the Finder, I use command-delete, but I guess that's two keys.

    I chose the 11" for maximum portability and form factor. Almost like an iPad Pro. I also have the 15" quad-core MacBook Pro so I can pull double duty if necessary.

    For transfer I attach my camera via USB and let Aperture suck it all in. Aperture lets you check out your images and make adjustments as the photos are importing.

    Most times, after shooting a game, I appreciate having 10 minutes to close my eyes while the photos import.
  6. kwajkat macrumors regular


    Aug 17, 2009
    I have the mac air 11, 4/128GB and it works great for me. Using Lion and photoshop elements. Have been looking at the Samsung 23 inch LED 1080p TV as a monitor. Has good reviews and reasonably priced (250). Want the Apple Thunderbolt but way out of my price range.
  7. odin2free macrumors member

    Oct 10, 2011
    Throughout time and space
    For portability
    macbook air 13 inch is the way to go
    Either one from the core 2 duo or the new sandy bridge will do...I like the Dedicated GPU, But the none thunderbolt port really sucks..Specially if you have a second monitor you can get really nice views...

    But in all i would go with macbook pro with a nice sized SSD and get the memory from an external vendor like newegg...Just because 200 bucks for a ram upgrade is really dumb..

    you can go 15inch or i think 13 inch and get 8GB in there..
    (yes if you really wanted to you could go to OWC and get 16GB but that is super expensive)

    As for monitor youll want instead of spending a grip on a thunderbolt display you can definitely go with an IPS monitor...These are the best for photo editing

    Now that is for reason as to why..

    But you can prob find a good dell IPS monitor for real cheap and get great warranty from there site :D(specially if military or vet)

    That is the real reason in my eyes as to why many say use macs for editing photos and video is only because of the monitor..But that is just me, i know there are other reasons as to why ease of use quick straight to the point no need to upgrade instantly, but room for upgrade is very slim in notebooks to begin with...
  8. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    NEC or Eizo if you can afford it. With NEC don't buy anything older than a PA series. If you're going NEC you want one of the bundles with spectraview and a custom firmware puck. I prefer Eizo. The 90s series displays aren't anything too special. If you can't afford that go something like Dell or LG with an ips display. Avoid LED backlit displays (they don't profile well). Don't ever buy an Apple display. They're too inconsistent.

    I've probably said this before but the SSD makes a difference in photoshop and aperture because laptops lack the ram to hold everything there. Obviously if you're downloading to the laptop drive you'd see a nice speed gain there too. It still can't keep up with the other models. Put an SSD in one of those and the difference becomes even more noticeable.
  9. convergent macrumors 68030


    May 6, 2008
    My experience is similar to Joel. I am also a sports photographer and process many images at a time. I use Lightroom primarily, and Photoshop CS5 rarely. I was coming from a MBP w/6G RAM and 500G drive, 2.6Ghz C2D. I bought a 13" Air i7 with 256G SSD. I can run Lightroom with a full stack of other applications running in background and its still blazing fast. The lack of RAM is not much of an issue with an SSD to page to. This machine is much faster for Lightroom than my MBP. I also have the Thunderbolt display, which is important because it gives me gigabit ethernet access to my NAS.

    You asked about how to process images, and heres the way I do it. I ingest the images by manually copying from my card to the MBA SSD drive. I have a folder called "Lightroom Input" that I put them in. I do this because it sometimes takes me a while to get them processed. I then open Lightroom and ingest the images (don't have Lightroom copy the files). This is very fast on an SSD. I then make a pass through the images in Lightroom and rate them as keepers or not. I don't ever delete any, but just rank them. Then I filter on the keepers and make a second pass through to do crop/adjustments/etc.. Once I'm done, I move the folder form my SSD to my NAS. I think that Lightroom makes this easier to do than in Aperture. Also, if I need to work on anything while mobile, I just copy those folders back out to my Input folder (from the NAS). But, that is only needed if I'm going to export the images, because you can do any adjustments without the masters being on the machine... from the full size previews in LR's database.

    I think you will be very pleased with the MBA. I thought 11" was too small for my vision, so I went 13". The thing you want to think about is where your media storage will be - USB2, FW800, thunderbolt, or NAS. You don't have a high speed connection on the MBA for FW800 or Gigabit Ethernet unless you get the Thunderbolt Display, OR, you get one of the "coming soon" adapters or hubs. There are some "near gigabit" USB adapters that are much faster than Apples, but still not ideal to manage a lot of images. The TBD is a perfect solution.
  10. mikekey macrumors newbie


    May 11, 2011
    I went this route as well. I do amateur photography, but during my day job I'm a web designer/developer. So I'm working with Photoshop quit a bit.

    I went from a MacBook Pro 2009 core2 duo 2.5ghz to a 2010 13inch MacBook Air with 4gb mem, 1.8ghz & 251gb ssd. The SSD really makes photo processing fast.

    Great laptop for travel and in the field work. I often go backpacking and I've never really been able to take a laptop (kinda silly to take your laptop into the wilderness) but with the Air the weight is light enough I can carry it along with my Camera and do some work on site which has also been helpful when putting together some climbing videos.
  11. ecib macrumors regular


    Jan 4, 2011
    As an MBA owner, this right here says MBP to me. You are going to get so much more for your money with a MBP for what you use it for.

    That being said, if you don't bother to compare the two and look at the MBA on it's own, it is quite capable. Are you taking this into the field? MBA looks even better.

    Another thing to consider is that colors and contrast look much better on a MBP. Like, a *lot*. I thought people were kind of being nit-picky on this until I got my girlfriend the 13" MBP. Media looks much better on it than the MBA. Colors are richer and there is much more contrast. The MBA display just seems washed out by comparison (though the resolution on the MBA is better).

    I dunno. They're both great, but I'm of the opinion that they are tools, and you should purchase the best one for your main use case. I'd personally do a MBP with a maxed out processor and 8 gigs of RAM, then toss in an aftermarket SSD.
  12. simsaladimbamba

    Nov 28, 2010
    The 2010 MBA did not have a dedicated GPU, the 320M was just integrated as the 3000HD is, though it is a slightly better integrated graphics processor (IGP) as the 3000HD in the 2011 MBAs.
    And the 2010 MBA also has a Mini DisplayPort for connecting an external display, Thunderbolt is just the name of a more versatile port, which in addition to being able to connect external displays, is also able to connect other devices, like storage units or what have you.

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