What computer set up do you use for photo editing?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by aaaaaaron, Aug 20, 2010.

  1. aaaaaaron macrumors regular

    Jun 30, 2010
    I am in the market for a new computer, after being on a MacBook (1.83 ghz Core Duo, 2gb ram) for the last couple years, anything will be an upgrade :), but i still want to make the right choice.

    I was originally interest in a MBP or iMac, but then people made me interested in a Mac Pro, maybe 3.2 quad or the 3.33 hex, pricey i know (is the hex too powerful?), but I still am not sure what my next computer purchase will be.

    So what do you all use to edit images (computers and monitors)? Any help is great and appreciated, thanks.
  2. mtbdudex macrumors 68000


    Aug 28, 2007
    SE Michigan
    Current set-up:
    $2.9k; Late 2009 iMac 27" i7 8GB RAM 2TB Internal HD plus 2TB TimeShare HD for backup.
    I'm not professional, ie, don't sell my photos.
    (IMO pro = make money from images)

    This works very well with multiple apps open; Aperture 3, CS5, Firefox, VMWare Fusion running WinXP sp3 on 2 cores, etc.

    I've read if you want to sell photos, make money, need to have top notch monitor/printer calibration best not to use a iMac, rather a MacPro + external monitor + calibrate your monitor/printer.

    For my "hobby" usage the 27" iMac is fine, big screen, does not bog down.
  3. Matty-p macrumors regular

    Apr 3, 2010
    You'll need to be more specific for us to help you better for example if you were a hobbyist and just want to use photo shop to manipulate jpegs from your consumer dslr or p&s then a 21.5 " base iMac would be fine if you were a professional photog you would want a iMac 27" i7 with 16gb ram 2tb hard drive ect or a mac pro with eizio or nec colour sync'd monitors
    Are you a professional photographer?
    How long might you spend on it a day?
    Is a desktop ok?
    What I your budget ?
    What programs do you want to use ?
  4. Eaton Photos macrumors regular

    Jun 23, 2010
    Technically, a Pro Photog', is considered someone who makes more than 51% of their income from Photography. There are hobbyist, that sell photos too, and though, they do not make a living from selling their images, they do make some money & sometimes some really good money.

    Also as was pointed out, though a Glossy iMac is not an ideal screen to edit on, if it is calibrated & accurate (not saturated colors), then you can make it work. However, if an iMac is the chosen route, then an external Matte Display is definitely the best way to get the most accuracy possible, without the saturation issues, that the iMac's suffer from.

    This is the BEST starting point.

    We can all make recommendations, but those recommendations may exceed whatever you can actually afford to spend.
  5. VirtualRain macrumors 603


    Aug 1, 2008
    Vancouver, BC
    I use a 2.93GHz, Quad Core, Mac Pro with 6GB of RAM and a mix of SSD and HD storage. I like the Mac Pro over the iMac for the ability to easily upgrade storage, graphics card, and run multiple monitors.

    Quad core is plenty enough processing for Aperture (it rarely uses more than 500-600% CPU or 2-3 cores). 6GB of RAM seems like a good amount as I rarely get page-outs, even working with large RAW images in Aperture.

    An SSD for housing your OS/Apps and Aperture Library is perhaps the biggest upgrade you can make to any computer... it's shocking how much more responsive the system is running from an SSD.

    However, if you're not inclined to upgrade things on your computer, then the iMac represents much better value (bang for the buck) compared to the Mac Pro... and is just as capable.
  6. aaaaaaron thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 30, 2010
    budget, hmm

    well, i have $2300 saved at the moment, but will save more if I should be buy a better system. I will pretty much save however much I need to save in order to get a computer that will last me a handful of years. I plan on running Dreamweaver, Lightroom, Photoshop, and other various plug-ins, as well as using the computer for other daily tasks, like email, web browsing, etc.

    I also hope to eventually make this my full time job eventually. I have been trying to this for the last nine months, but have gotten a very slow start, but now business is picking up a bit and after buying just about all the equipment I could need for what I shoot, the computer is my next upgrade.

    Thanks for all your input so far.
  7. Matty-p macrumors regular

    Apr 3, 2010
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    Aron I'd suggest one o the following options

    27" iMac with i7 processor , 8gb ram , 2tb drive with couler syncing device/software and that should be good for a good few years if you find as you become a well paid pro you"ll want to fork out for an external display like a nec or eizo

    Opt 2 buy 15" MacBook pro with i5 processor 4gb ram 500gb hard drive with a couler syncing device/software then buy a external monitor like a nec 24" would be ok for budget this as you get more money with said job upgrade mbp to 8gb ram a bigger faster hard drive and posibly a better externAl display ( plenty for what you want to do I've pushed 2gb Photoshop file on a MacBook with only a c2d . processor and 3gb ram . This option is good If you do travel photography or go to 2 day events where you want to look at and download photos to laptop also good for taking to a coustomers house or at event and showing them the photos or website as part if a sales pitch or meeting . Plus the obvious personal advantages like movies on a plane sitting on the couch working (email maybe web desigh) or iChat . This set up could last a long time once you do upgrades you could have these specs 8gb ddr3 ram 1tb 7200rpm hard drive core i5 processor , whatever external monitor you wan with watever res whatever keyboard / mouse that will be a very capebel machine


    Opt 3 buy entry level mac pro quad core no extras apart from 2tb drive and external screen and coler syncing stuff this setup will do very well to start with and after 2 years as your income is up and ram prices down upgrade machine to either 8gb or 16 gb ram (depending on weather 8gb modules work in them intel say processor should but we don't know about logic boar support) also put in a SSd at Least 128gb and over 200 mb/s read right speed for os and programs and you"ll have an awesome future proof machine with loads of upgradeability

    Opt 1 a ok desktop with minamul investment now

    Op2 good mobile and desktop option

    Opt3 very very expandable and hase huge potential maxed out with all posible upgrades could last 6-7 years but big investment now and some investment in 3 years time with ram hd ect

    Ps don't ever forget back up ESP when your a pro photog this may be a few roatating external hard drives or online or network backups or a mixture a good guide i use is found here its old but the theory is bang on (substitute the word tapes for hard drives !) visit http://www.taobackup.com/
    I know backups are a pain but if you hd fails youve lost everything family photos coustomer /bushier photos /work business data EC you will thank god that you make back ups !!
  8. Edge100 macrumors 68000

    May 14, 2002
    Where am I???
    Penryn 15" MacBook Pro @ 2.5GHz
    4GB RAM (soon to be 6GB)
    250GB internal HD (holds my working RAW files and LR catalogs)
    OWC Slim eSATA card hooked to a LaCie D2 1TB drive (holds my main LR catalog and archived RAW files)
    LaCie Rugged XL 1TB (backup of the D2)

    This has served me very well. It runs LR3 at a more-than-acceptable speed. The only thing I would add is an external IPS LCD screen, for colour correction and just getting additional space to work with. That said, I have calibrated the MBP screen and my prints look exactly as expected.
  9. mdatwood macrumors 6502a

    Mar 14, 2010
    Denver, CO
    I'm not a pro at all, but use a i7 MBP hooked up to an external monitor. IMHO, dual monitors are so much easier to work on.

    I know this is a mac forum, but a pro friend of mine uses win7 on whatever the newest hardware he can buy. He gets some flak for not using a mac, but it's purely a pragmatic decision. He can upgrade any and all of his hardware easily with a standard PC and it's cheaper to boot. This where the mythical tower between the iMac and MP would come into play.
  10. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    There is another option, as well.

    Start with a Mac Mini (add 3rd party RAM) and the best monitor you can afford. A fast computer with a mediocre monitor will let you make almost colour corrected images very quickly. You didn't mention whether you were going to print at home or send out or provide digital files only. But you many need to budget for pro printer too.

    A big expense is going to be the software. When you have enough to upgrade the Mini all of that investment is preserved. Also, as you need external storage solutions you can make sure they will also move to a Mac Pro. When you are ready to move to the Mac Pro everything just slides over and your workflow continues as before. You can also take your time to watch the refurbed Mac Pros and pounce on a good deal when one comes up.

    I spent a year and a bit editing 1GB on a Mac Mini. I would do chores around the house everytime I saved a file. But, it was hooked up to 23" ACD, had the then current CS suite, etc etc. When I got my 2008 Mac Pro octocore the only thing that changed was the box everything was hooked up to. That and 12GB more RAM. :)

    Getting a year old Mac Pro should still be a system you can keep for 4 years or more. Photographers don't tend to need "fast" GPUs or high-bandwidth HDs in the same way that video and audio pros do. I don't mind waiting a few seconds occasionally if in return I have $1000 or $2000 to spend on glass.

    If you haven't seen it already, check out MacPerformanceGuide for some good tips on buying, configuring, optimizing Macs and Photoshop.

    2008 Octocore MP
    23" ACD
    Epson 3800
    Epson V700 ('cause I have a whack of film images I want to scan)
    Waiting to take delivery of a Phase One digital back for my medium format 'cause I have a whack of money invested in some cool lenses.

    Good Luck.
  11. chiefroastbeef macrumors 6502a

    May 26, 2008
    Dallas, Texas/ Hong Kong
    home office:
    Mac Pro Quad Core 2.93ghz with ATi 4870, raid 0 scratch disk
    30" ACD

    This setup is of course flawless with no slowdown whatsoever on Aperture 3

    away from office:
    MBP 2008 Penryn 2.4ghz, 6gb ram, 500gb scratch disk in optibay (dvd bay)

    I get the "loading" icon for 2-3 seconds before photos sharpen up for viewing/editing. It is definitely okay, though I wish my laptop was faster because I do most editing on the mbp before I import the project onto the Mac Pro.
  12. aaaaaaron thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 30, 2010
    Being that I will only buy one computer, would recommend a 2010 2.8 quad? Do you think upgrading to a 3.2 quad for $400 is worth it? And do you know of any good alternative to a ACD? Only because they are phasing those out and I am not interested in the glossy display so much.

    And I think I will have $4000 for a computer by December, I've got a bunch of jobs lined up and almost everything I make (after bills of course) will go towards this purchase. And I am hoping not to buy another computer for at least 4 years.
  13. Matty-p macrumors regular

    Apr 3, 2010
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    Try nec and eizo the latter are good but very expensive tho
  14. Presha macrumors regular

    Jun 17, 2008
    Double Down
    I use a Mac Pro with the following set up and software:

    -Dual quad core 3.2 MHz processor ($4500 after college discount)
    -4 1/2 TB with 2 of those TB being external (for backup)
    - 2TB time capsule to backup the backup..lol! (but seriously)
    -10 gb of ram DDR 2
    -2 20" NEC monitors (would go bigger but space constraint) also, second the motion for Eizo or planar monitors!
    -canon pixma 9000 printer


    - photo matix
    - on one software
    - light Room
    - CS3
    - Tiffen filter suite
    - Topaz

    I chose this setup for speed and the ability to do the upgrades myself.
  15. cherry su macrumors 65816

    cherry su

    Feb 28, 2008
    I'm a rookie who plays around on iPhoto from time to time. Currently I am learning what all the adjustments do and am getting used to them.

    Here's my setup:

    MacBook Pro 2.00GHz Core Duo/2GB/160GB Intel X25-M G2/ATi X1600 256MB
    iPhoto '09

    I really should backup my photos. All 25GB of them.
  16. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    Yes you should. At a minimum, an external sitting right next to your laptop. The chances of the MBP hard drive going click click click poof are several times more likely than some of the other dire dangers. Once you have a good backup going, then start getting paranoid and thinking about what hazards can take out the MBP and the external. But first.... start with just a backup of any sort. The first step is the hardest.

    Don't be afraid to go really weird with the adjustments. One of my good photos is a screen capture of iPhoto showing in blue what areas I had totally blown out.... it's pretty cool.
  17. cosmokanga2 macrumors 6502a


    Jan 7, 2008
    Canada, where we live in igloos.
    I work in the editorial, press, event and travel area of photography so a laptop was a must for me. If I didn't need the portability or the powerful portability of a Macbook Pro I would have chosen desktop and/or cheap lightweight laptop.

    At the moment I use a Macbook Pro 15" 2.4 i5 with 4GB RAM which has two 500GB HDDs, one dedicated to Aperture Libraries and a scratch disk. Upgrades I will be doing is 8GB of RAM and later on I might get the high-res matte screen version. If you go Macbook Pro, get the most expensive/high end CPU you can as you can always upgrade the RAM and HDD later.
  18. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    how much is a "handful"? an iMac will probably get you 3-4 years of use before becoming too slow for the latest applications, more or less like a laptop, just a tad longer since it has better specs to begin with. a Mac Pro will last you until the motherboard is obsolete (assuming you don't do extensive video or 3D work).

    2.8 and 3GHz 8-core '08 Mac Pros are going for around $2300 on eBay, btw.

    strictly speaking, a 3.2 is not worth $400. at best, it gets you 14% more performance, so you shouldn't pay more than 14% extra for the processor upgrade. the 3.2 costs 16% more.

    NEC, Lacie (I hear they just rebrand NEC though), Dell, and LG all have good monitors, as do a few other companies (HP?).
  19. joaoferro99 macrumors member

    Feb 14, 2008
    S. California
  20. VirtualRain macrumors 603


    Aug 1, 2008
    Vancouver, BC
    Thats one way to look at it. Another way to analyze the value of the upgrade is to consider the time it will save you on computer processing tasks over the life of the computer. In photo editing this may not be much, but if you amortize the cost over the life of the computer the cost isn't much either.

    My philosophy is buy the fastest CPU you can since it's not usually viable to uograde it like other components.
  21. NeGRit0 macrumors 6502a


    Apr 19, 2008
    Las Vegas, Nv
    Lets see... I do my work on a 2.4C2D Blackbook w/4gb RAM and a 500GB 7200RPM WD HDD. Also have a 19"HP monitor for extended desktop (my day job got me used to dual monitors, now its a requirement). I use PS CS5, the entire Topaz Suite, iPhoto (but have recently been using Bridge more), and on rare occasions Photomatix. For being two years old I'd say it holds its own, but does get a slightly bogged when using the Topaz plug-ins in CS5 (maybe 3 seconds to load the plug-in, then up to a few minutes to apply the changes made with the plug-in).
  22. FrankieTDouglas macrumors 65816

    Mar 10, 2005
    I use a Mac Pro with 5 gigs of RAM and two 23" cinema displays, and a wacom tablet. I have around six hard drives hooked into it, creating around 4 TBs of information.
  23. steviem macrumors 68020


    May 26, 2006
    New York, Baby!
    Please back them up. I lost a year of photos from a drive failing on me and it was pretty much heartbreaking. I was left with what I uploaded to Facebook, Flickr and Picasa, most of which being low res uploads.

    Now it's a local backup, as much as I can fit in dropbox and I'm going to buy an external drive to keep at my fiancée's so there will be an offsite backup on another continent! (I'd rather get an Acer Revo and leave it running at hers, but I'd need to spend time setting it up and everything.)
  24. Kronie macrumors 6502a


    Dec 4, 2008
    I use a 17" MacBook Pro 2.8Ghz with 8 GB of RAM hooked up to a 22" IPS monitor.

    It does pretty well unless I am editing lots of full size 5D MK II files at 22MP.

    My problem is that I have upgrade fever. I tried the new 27" iMac (three times) but can't get one with a screen that's not yellow so I think a Mac Pro is a better fit for me. Or possibly a i7 laptop just for the speed bump but honestly its rare that I max out my processor now.....
  25. peskaa macrumors 68020


    Mar 13, 2008
    London, UK
    I use a 2009 2.93Ghz Quad Core Mac Pro, 8GB of RAM, ATi 4870, then a bunch of 7,200rpm hard drives. Works very well for Aperture 3, and I currently use a 23" Cinema Display for colour.

    The 2010 2.8 Quad is a good choice for editing, and no, I wouldn't bother with a marginal CPU upgrade either. It's either sit on the 2.8 and spend the cash on other extras, or go all out for the Hex. However, I would definitely not ignore the older models - namely the 2009 2.93 Quad and the 2008 2.8 Octos. The downside to the 2008 models is the cost of the FB-DIMM memory modules. Cash saved can again go on extras.

    As for screens, if you don't like glossy then look at other makes. NEC and Eizo are where it's at - I'd heartily recommend a nice Eizo.

    Agree totally. Mac Pros are the only way forward for large storage assemblies, and actual upgrades for anything but RAM. Quads have plenty of power too.

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