What Kind of Computer is Best for Photo Editing?

WendyMay

Well-Known Member
  • #1
There are a few things we need to discuss when it comes to transferring to and storing your photos on your computer. We also need to talk about what kind of computer you'll need and how powerful that computer needs to be to edit your photos. I've been doing this a long time and I will tell you that there are many myths floating around online about storing and editing images. I get crazy about all this because of the misinformation, but I'll try to stay sane and tell you what I know.

To transfer your photo files, no matter whether they're JPEG or RAW, to your computer, all you'll need to do is plug a USB cable into your computer and into your camera. Hopefully, you have a computer that's younger than a few years old and that comes equipped with at least USB 3.0. When you plug your camera into your computer, open up a folder and you should see your camera recognized as a drive. It doesn't matter if you own a Windows machine or a Mac. The camera will still be recognized as a drive. Open that drive and click into your camera's folders and you should see your images.

The reason I say that it's best to own a newer computer is because everything you do on it is going to consume resources. The more resources you have, the faster everything is going to be. Sure, you can try to use an older computer, but be prepared to sit around for a while as your images transfer from your camera to it. Especially if you have a bunch of RAW files that need to be transferred.

If you're going to be doing a lot of image editing, I strongly encourage you to work on a desktop. Laptops are great for storing and reviewing your photos, but as far as having the screen space you'll need to edit, it's just not there. Also, to get any amount of power out of a laptop is going to cost you a lot of money. Desktops are less expensive and by and large more powerful.

Okay, let's talk about what you're going to have to look at on your desktop computer. Or laptop if you own one. There are three things; processor speed, RAM, and storage space. We'll go with storage space first, since that's the easiest to understand and the least expensive. If you were to browse Amazon right now, you'd be able to find a huge external hard drive for next to nothing. Don't even worry around what size your internal hard drive is because it doesn't matter. All serious photographers work from external drives. This is why I say you need a fast USB transfer speed - because you'll be transferring data from an external drive to your computer quite a bit. And you don't want that transfer to be slow.

I just looked on Amazon and found a 2TB portable external hard drive put out by Western Digital for $59. That's insanely cheap. Check it out here: https://amzn.to/35KmMo6. Also, here's a portable 4TB drive for around $95: https://amzn.to/2LFDZZ4. I've never seen these things cost so little. And finally (there are many more though), here's a desktop external drive that holds 12TB for around $219: https://amzn.to/35L5yqT. So really, there's no reason you shouldn't be able to store hundreds of thousands of images. No reason at all. Even RAW files. Just be prepared to buy a sweet external drive and not to worry about your internal drive.

One of the best reasons to get yourself a desktop computer is because many of them allow you to upgrade your RAM quite a bit. People out there say that 8GB and 16GB is enough to run Adobe Photoshop smoothly. I disagree with these people. If you want your copy of Photoshop to be as fast as you'd like it to be, I encourage you to upgrade your RAM to 32GB. I did this recently and it's like I'm working on a brand new computer. I upgraded my RAM from 16GB to 32GB for around $89 and everything runs much more smoothly and quickly. Also, rendering video in Photoshop is a breeze now. Doing that used to make my power supply fan sound like it was going to blow up. Not anymore. So my advice is for you to upgrade your RAM as far as it'll go. And if you're purchasing a brand new computer for photo and video editing, either buy one that's already got 32GB of RAM installed or capable of being upgraded to that amount. You can buy some more on Amazon, Crucial, or another RAM supplier later on. It's cheap these days, so don't sweat it.

Finally, we get to the CPU of the computer. My recommendation is to stick with an Intel Core i7. Any one of them. This will give you enough processing power to handle image editing. There's a lot to know about CPU speed that I won't get into here, but rest assured that if your computer has 32GB of RAM with an i7 CPU and over a terabyte of storage, you'll be just fine. The best part is, you can get all of this for under $1,000. So if you're serious, start looking.

When it comes to monitors, the bigger, the better. I've been working on at least a 27" monitor for over a decade. I love the big ones. You really can't work in Photoshop easily with anything less. Things get tight very quickly. And if you're trying to do serious video or photo editing on a laptop, you're going to get frustrated quickly. I honestly don't know how people do it. Granted, I'm on my computer all day, every day, so I need things set up so I can work effectively and efficiently. As far as quality goes, if you were going to buy a monitor today, you can't screw up. They're all good. I dare you to find a monitor that you won't be delighted with. A monitor today that costs $150 is as good as a $300 from five years ago. I remember back when I was in college, a 17" flat panel monitor cost $900. Needless to say, quality has gone up and prices have come down. My most recent monitor was purchased in 2015 and I paid $199 for it. I love it. It's a 27" ViewSonic and it's great, so these things don't need to cost a lot of money.

So there you have it. Focus on monitor size, computer RAM, CPU, and storage space and you'll be rocking and rolling ready for some serious image and video editing. In future posts I'll be writing about how to edit those photos in Photoshop, so stay tuned.
 
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