The photographer’s most important tool of the trade is camera, but to actually make something out of the photos he captures, a computer is required. If you are a recreational photographer, chances are you already have a desktop or laptop with which you’ve been successfully working on your images. It is true that almost any computer can do just fine for a shutterbug, yet if you are very serious about your hobby – or you’re a professional – you might want to pay attention to your next desktop purchase. After being a hobbyist photographer and working with image editing for five years, I have compiled this checklist for paparazzi shopping for a new computer.
1. Sufficient Performance for Photo Editing Software
Nobody likes a computer that is lagging, especially those who work with them for long hours, possibly every day. Very often, photographers fall in this category – they must upload images from camera which takes time, they must edit the images with often resource-heavy programs, after that the photos are usually uploaded to Internet which can last, as well. All in all, it’s a long process to get your images done, at least if you like to hone them to the finest detail like me!
In essence, I recommend shooting for a desktop computer whose processor says Intel Core i5 or Intel Core i7. The popular Adobe Photoshop – which is probably your go-to photo editor – hogs system resources, so should your desktop feature a poor processor there is an imminent danger of Photoshop running slow. Moreover, the manufacturer recommends 8GB system memory for Photoshop, so be sure to get enough RAM. Actually, the program is notorious for reserving memory, so I would get 16GB RAM just to make the computer as lag-free as possible!
An important thing to remember is the graphics card, as the same system requirements sheet recommends 2GB of dedicated video memory. That essentially means a dedicated graphics card, however me – and countless of people – do just fine with an integrated graphics unit. The dedicated graphics card mostly helps with special features, such as 3D rendering.
2. Plenty of Storage Space to Host Your Photos
Unlike text, images eat a plenty of storage space. Thus, a photographer must be sure to get enough space. If you don’t have a big hard drive you simply can not store your photos on your computer. Obviously, this will be a sad thing for a photographer, although he might be able to use online cloud services as a remedy. However, the primary option is to use local storage, and for that I recommend a terabyte (1024 gigabytes) hard drive. Doing some basic calculations, if the JPEG photos coming out of your camera are 5 megabytes a piece, you could theoretically store two hundred thousand of those images on a terabyte hard drive. I personally used a drive of this exact size and found it sufficient for frequent use and storing.
Another thing to consider is the type of drive. Hard drives (HDD) are golden as far as the actual storage size is concerned, however they are not very fast units. Solid-state drives (SSD), on the other hand, are the opposite: they are often 256 or 512 gigabytes in size, but offer much better performance compared to mechanical hard drives. Now, if you choose an SSD, Photoshop will damn sure to open and close, perhaps even operate, faster than on a hard drive. But with a solid-state drive, you will also reach the storage maximum faster. What I would suggest to do – if you want the best of the both worlds and can afford it – is to choose a solid-state drive with one terabyte storage. However, if budget limits you, go for one terabyte conventional hard drive.
3. Large Display for Detailed Work
You should put some effort in finding a good display if photo editing is a frequent thing you do. It will be annoying, probably even tiring for your eyes, to look at a bad quality display for hours and hours. I had a 22” BenQ Full HD monitor a few years back, and it was all I needed. Honestly, I didn’t put too much effort in choosing the monitor because I wasn’t taking photos yet. Only later, the photography bug bit me, and the monitor I already had thankfully turned out to be great for images, too.
However, in 2017 that display is rather old, so I don’t recommend buying it anymore. What I suggest is to look for a large – 24 inches or more – monitor. It will be comfortable to work with such a big screen, more so when the resolution often goes north of 1920×1080 pixels (also known as Full HD). In essence, I don’t recommend choosing a monitor with less than Full HD resolution, as the screen estate provided would be too small to accommodate large photos. Another thing to look for is a good color gamut, the monitor’s ability to display a wide range of colors.
4. Some Ports and Interfaces Come Handy Too
The gap between your camera and computer must be bridged somehow; after all, how else would you get access to your photos and edit them on your desktop? In my opinion, the handy way to do this is through the computer’s memory card reader. In fact, most of the laptops have such a card reader, but the situation is different in desktops – some have it, some don’t. If your desktop doesn’t feature one, you can always opt for an external memory card reader. It will connect to your desktop’s USB 3.0 port which are a staple in any computer’s selection of interfaces. Just make sure card reader supports the type of the card your camera utilizes, otherwise you’ll need to buy yet another card reader or use an alternative method of data transferring, such as USB cable between your camera and desktop.
These are the essential tips if you want to get an excellent desktop computer for photography and image editing. Depending on the software you are using, you want at least decent performance because the image editing programs tend to use a lot of system resources. Another thing you want take care of is the local storage space, as it might be inconvenient to upload huge photos to Internet cloud storage and back. The large display is an obvious one; who likes to work with big images if you have a small, possibly low resolution monitor at hand? Finally, you will want to include a media card reader on your desktop so you can transfer the photos from your camera easily. These things truly make a photographer-friendly desktop, and by following the guidance in this article you will be sure to get a computer worthy of the beautiful photos you snap, edit and publish!
About the author: Akseli Niemelä is an amateur photographer, blogger and programmer. His recent works include Tech Editorials, a blog which explains and reviews technology trends and products.