The Best Computer for Photo Editing

By |2018-10-17T12:48:14+00:0017 Oct 2018|
~ Updated: 2018-01-17 (Original Post: 2017-07-14)

We are often asked: what is the best computer for photo editing? If you have the cash to burn, you can simply go out and buy the best computer to run Photoshop and Lightroom. In the real world, however, buying a computer for photo editing is a daunting and expensive experience; especially for new photographers who have just started out. After buying a camera, lenses, and all the extras, your cash reserves might be depleted. The reality is, that all your expensive camera gear, will come to nothing if you don’t have a reliable and fast computer system, on which to edit your photos.

In this article, which we will update regularly, we shed some light on what we think is the best computer for photo editing and hope to save you a lot of time, money, and heartache…


Desktop, or Laptop?

high end desktop pc

“High-End Desktop PC”

Another uncertainty is whether you should buy a Desktop Computer or a Laptop?

The first question you should ask yourself is; do you travel around a lot, or do you mostly work from home? Desktop PC’s have great upgrade potential but are a hassle to move around. Laptops, despite their limitations in terms of specs and upgradeability, are better for people who are constantly on the move. 

Another aspect you should take into consideration is screen size. Editing on a big monitor is much more pleasant than struggling with a smaller laptop screen. If you consider buying a laptop only, then also consider buying an additional large screen for photo editing. 

What most professional photographers do, is buy a laptop for on-the-road work, and then have a beast of a system at home or office, for editing that demands a lot of disk space and processing power.

We recommend staying away from All-in-One PCs (where the hardware is built into the screen) as they seriously lack upgradeability.  It’s also impractical for photographers who need multiple drives for storage. The general exception, however, would be the Microsoft Surface and the iMac, which both have impressive specs and offer excellent monitors. These high-end, very expensive machines, will last years before needing an upgrade.


PC, or MAC?

for editing, the iMac will run the latest photoshop and lightroom apps seamlessly

For editing, the latest iMac will run the latest Photoshop and Lightroom apps seamlessly.

One of the most frequently asked questions and a widely-debated topic is: which is better, Windows or MacOS?

My advice is, get the system that you are most comfortable with. I grew up with a PC and am often a bit confused when using MAC. However, the opposite will be true for someone that really knows their way around MAC. One definite advantage of MAC is the more “limited” product range compared to the vast variety of Windows-based PCs. In other words, if you buy a new MAC, which only comes with medium – high-end specs, you can be pretty sure that it will be able to run your editing programs seamlessly; whereas an uninformed user, might buy a low-spec PC, which can’t do the job. On the other hand, if you do your research and buy a proper PC, you will get more “bang for your buck” as well as future upgradeability.  


  Windows PC MAC


  • Best
  • Limited
  • Vulnerable to viruses and malware due to the open nature of Windows
  • Less susceptible to viruses and malware due to the exclusivity of macOS
Battery Reliablity
  • Depending on the brand
  • Best 
Affordability (SA) 
  • Affordable
  • Expensive 
Availability of Peripherals 
  • Best 
  • Limited 
  • Windows has a greater variety of software available, especially if you are into gaming
  • MacOS has a very limited choice of software as it is a specialised operating system
  • Third-party software for syncing across devices
  • Interconnected ecosystem for all Apple devices
  • More susceptible to random errors/freezing
  • Less prone to errors


Hardware Requirements

The five most important hardware components for editing in Lightroom and Photoshop are:

  • Storage Drives
  • Memory (RAM)
  • The Processor (CPU)
  • The Graphics card (GPU)
  • Monitor


1. Storage Drives

a photo of a samsung solid state drive

“Solid State Drive (SSD)”

The Hard Disk Drive (HDD) has been around for so long that all drives are generally called Hard Drives. In recent years, however, the Solid State Drive (SSD) has become ever more popular. In a nutshell, the difference between a Hard Disk Drive and a Solid State Drive is that the one has rotating disks inside it and the other is solid, with no moving parts. This in effect causes the SSD to be able to access data extremely fast, whereas the HDD has to wait for the rotating disks to warm up before you can access the files.

I’m listing the storage drive first as I believe it to be the most important part that will save you time. It determines the speed at which the computer can access the data stored on the drive. This is where Solid State Drives come in handy as it can reduce your computer start-up (boot) time to under 10 seconds! If that got your attention, then the next question is, probably; how much storage capacity should my SSD have? SSD’s generally have smaller capacities than their older HDD counterparts and the larger ones are quite pricey!

That is why we recommend using an SSD to run your Operating system, software,  Lightroom catalogue and cache drives while using a large capacity hard drive for storage. Typically, a 500GB SSD will be adequate for your OS, Photoshop, Lightroom, and any other software you might be using. We then recommend getting a second or even third Hard Drive of  2 – 4 TB which you will then use as storage for all your photos, data, and documents. Obviously, you will need an additional external hard drive(s) to backup your Photos and Lightroom Catalog(s). 

Minimum Specs

Recommended Specs

2 Hard Drives:

  • 2-4 TB HDD to run the OS, and hold your data, program files, and photos
  • 2-4 TB External HDD (Backup)

3 Hard Drives: 

  • 500 GB SSD or higher (System and Lightroom catalogue) 
  • 2-4 TB HDD (Photo storage)
  • 2-4 TB External HDD (Backup)


2. Memory (RAM)

make sure you have a minimum of 16gb ram if you are running the latest cloud applications i.e. photoshop cc 2018 and lightroom classic cc

“We recommend 16GB RAM if you are running the latest Creative Cloud applications i.e. Photoshop CC (2018) and Lightroom Classic CC.”

RAM is the second most important hardware, as it increases the number of tasks the CPU can handle at the same time. Simply opening Lightroom or Photoshop uses around 1 GB RAM each. Once you open a file (PS) or start scrolling through your pictures (LR) they each start using up to 4 GB RAM. Combined with the Operating system using about 2GB RAM for itself to run the latest Lightroom “Classic CC” together with Photoshop, we recommend a minimum of 16GB RAM. Anything less will cause your PC to slow down or even stop responding; especially when carrying out strenuous tasks like creating an HDR or Panorama.

Minimum Specs

Recommended Specs

Not Recommended

  • 8 GB DDR4 2400MHZ or higher
  • 16 – 64 GB DDR4 2400MHZ
  • Anything less than 8 GB RAM


3. Processor (CPU)

intel core i7 best cpu for photo editing

“Intel Core-i7 CPU”

The CPU (Central Processing Unit) is the part the computer that is commonly referred to as the “brains” of the computer. It is responsible for carrying out all the tasks you (or any software) give. How effective Lightroom will work when applying filters or adjusting sliders, depends on how good the CPU is. Adobe’s software is usually built to better support Intel products. Therefore we recommend the Intel “Core-I” CPU Range. Don’t buy anything that has “Pentium” or “Celeron” in the name, unless you like wasting time or hate yourself!

From benchmarks available on the net, and from testing it ourselves, it seems Lightroom prefers CPU’s with faster internal clock-speeds. This is great news, as it means that you will get better performance from an affordable quad Core i5 running at 3.8GHz, or a Core i7 running at 4.2GHz than a ridiculously expensive Core i9 with 18 cores running at 3.2GHz. 

Interestingly, this seems to be true for Photoshop as well. Therefore, if you mainly use Photoshop and Lightroom, and are not running any other high-end applications that require many cores, you can stick to the more affordable i5 or i7 CPU’s!

To quickly see what generation an Intel CPU belongs to, look at the first out of 4 digits after the brand name. For example, Intel Core i7 – 6700. The “6” in 6700 indicates that it is a Sixth Generation Intel CPU.

Minimum Required Specs

Recommended Specs

Not Recommended

  • 6th-gen Intel Core-i5 / i7, or higher
  • 7th-gen Intel Core-i5 / i7, or higher
  • Core-i3 or less
  • Anything with “Pentium” or “Celeron” in the name


4. Graphics Card (GPU)

a photo of the nvidia geforce useful for photo editing

“NVIDIA Geforce Graphics Card”

Both Photoshop CC and Lightroom Classic CC will benefit from having a fast, dedicated graphics card. Although Photoshop has been supporting graphics hardware acceleration for some time now, previous versions of Lightroom were under-performing with the graphics processor turned on. However, it seems that the latest version “Lightroom Classic CC” is now taking advantage of the graphics processor. We recommend you enable it and see what it does. For editing, we recommend a dedicated graphics card with at least 2 GB VRAM. If you’re using a large, fancy pants, high-resolution 4K or 5K monitor, we recommend that you get a graphics card that has at least 4GB dedicated VRAM.

Recommending a specific graphics card is tricky, especially since new cards are released frequently. However, we recommend buying a mid-range to high-end NVIDIA, or Radeon card, that supports DirectX 12 or OpenGL 3.3, or later: 

Minimum Required Specs

Recommended Specs

  • Onboard Graphics
  • NVIDIA GeForce 950, 960, 980, 1050, 1060, 1080 or equivalent Radeon. 
  • 2 – 4 GB Dedicated VRAM


5. Monitors

photo of a premium 27 inch QHD dell monitor for photo editing

“Dell 27 inch QHD Monitor”

Buying a proper high-resolution display with accurate colour is essential for photo editing. With Ultra HD (UHD) and 4K monitors on the rise, we can now view our photos with crisp, sharp details. UHD and 4K resolution typically range from 2560 x 1440 to 3840 x 2160. Unfortunately, in the South African context, these monitors are expensive, but getting one now will be more “future proof”. If you’re on a tight budget go for at least a Full HD screen (1920 x 1080). In the case of Windows-based laptops, make sure that you don’t fall into the trap of buying one that supports a lesser resolution than Full HD.

This brings me to another important aspect. Does size really matter? For photo editing, it does! We recommend getting a minimum size of 27 inches or consider getting two 24-inch screens, which is perfect for multitasking and editing. If you have the cash to splash, then consider spoiling yourself with at least a 32-inch ultra-wide, curved monitor and make sure it supports UHD resolution. It will be expensive, but being surrounded by so much real estate will be utopian!

Another aspect you should consider is the screen technology, which determines the image quality, colour accuracy and viewing angles. Go for a backlit LED screen with IPS technology, or similar technologies like PLS (Samsung) or AHVA. Stay away from TN and VA Panels, which don’t cut it for editing.

Finding a screen that offers colour accuracy and a wide range of colour (gamut) is equally critical. The two most important colour spaces offered in screens are sRGB and Adobe RGB. sRGB is the general standard for the Internet and most software applications but covers a limited colour range compared to Adobe RGB. Adobe RGB was developed to represent the full range of colours achievable on CMYK printers. Even though Adobe RGB covers a wider range of colours, it might be counterproductive in that Windows and other software applications will show the colours incorrectly. Photoshop, however, will display Adobe RGB colour space perfectly, whereas Lightroom uses an even larger colour space, ProPhoto RGB, which is not yet supported by monitors.  If you use Lightroom mostly, then the difference between a sRGB or Adobe RGB monitor, will be negotiable. 

Some professional, top of the range monitors offer Adobe RGB and even built-in hardware calibration, to assure absolute colour accuracy. These high-end monitors can cost tens of thousands of Rands and are an overkill for the average photographer. If you wouldn’t spend that much money on a professional screen, consider buying or borrowing an optional calibration tool, such as the Spyder Pro, or X-Rite ColorMunki and buy a monitor that covers 99% – 100% of the sRGB colour space. 

Key specs to look for in a monitor:

Panel Technology 
  • IPS
  • PLS
  • AHVA
  • Full HD 1920 x 1080 (Budget)
  • UHD 2560 x 1440
  • 4K 3840 x 2160
  • Desktop: 24″ and larger 
  • Laptop: 15″ and larger
Colour Space
  • sRGB 99 – 100% coverage
  • Adobe RGB (Expensive)


A note about Colour Management and Workflow:

If you are considering professional commercial photography, where colour accuracy – from shooting to print – will be of the utmost importance, I recommend reading John Fox’s article on Colour Management. This is perhaps one of the most comprehensive articles you will ever find on the topic.


6. Input Devices


  • A critical piece of hardware that is commonly overlooked.  Having a good mouse goes a long way in speeding up and easing retouching. We recommend getting yourself a Gaming Mouse, which will offer ergonomics and improved control. Some gaming mouse devices, even come with additional weights, which can improve accuracy when performing precision tasks! Finally, remember to get yourself a proper mousepad, which will enable you to use the mouse with increased accuracy on any surface.


Card Reader:

  • A compatible USB 3.1 card reader that can read the type of card (s) your camera uses, will save you the hassle of connecting your camera to the PC every time you download photos. 


Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS): 

  • To add an extra layer of protection, you can safeguard your setup by adding a UPS, which allows you to save your work, and safely turn off your computer in the event of a power failure.



Recommended Specs 

Buying a machine according to the specs below will assure fluid and relatively “painless” editing: 





  • 500 GB HDD or larger
  • Additional external HDD to back up your photos and Lightroom catalog
  • 3 x Hard Drives 
    • 500 GB SSD or larger (System, Lightroom catalogue, cache)
    • 2-4 TB HDD (Photo storage)
    • Additional External HDD to back up your photos and Lightroom catalogue

Memory (RAM)

  • 12 GB or more  
  • 32 GB or more

Processor (CPU)

  • Core-i5 / i7, 6th-gen or higher
  • Core-i5 / i7, 7th-gen or higher

Graphics Card (GPU)

  • Onboard Graphics similar to desktop with 2-4 GB dedicated VRAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce 950, 960, 980, 1050, 1060, 1080 or equivalent Radeon.  
  • Minimum of 2-4 GB VRAM 


  • 15 Inch or larger
  • HD, or UHD
  • 24 inch or bigger
  • UHD, 4K
  • IPS, PLS or AHVA panel
  • 99 – 100% sRGB coverage


  • Gaming mouse and pad
  • Gaming mouse and pad
  • Compatible USB 3.1 card reader
  • UPS


How can we help you?

I hope that this article has shed some light on the hardware side of photo editing. Feel free to leave a comment with any questions, or connect with us on our Facebook Group

We also strongly recommend that you read our article on Getting more speed in Lightroom Classic CC

Below are a few other links, related to this post you should read: 

About the Author:

Shawn Marran
I frequently get compared to an Owl because of my love for the night and my unusual sleeping habits! These are no doubt a side-effect of being a gamer and computer enthusiast. My interest in photography lies in taking photos of cityscapes and light-trails at night; and architecture and abstract during the day.


  1. Shawn Marran
    Shawn Marran 2018/12/10 at 12:13

    Hey. Alan. Thanks for the comment.

    Mouses are hard to recommend as they are majorly personal preference. Some like them heavy, others like them feather-light. The best I can do is suggest a few, but it’s ultimately up to you to decide what mouse you like best. The Razer Mamba Elite and the Steel Series Rival product range are both excellent choices. Alternatively, the Razer Lancehead Tournament edition or Razer Deathadder Elite is slightly cheaper, but still beasts. Those would be my personal recommendations, but again you must find the mouse that feels most comfortable to you. If you have big hands or like big mouses, you might not like the Razer’s as they all tend to be small and very lightweight.

    As for Monitors, I would recommend DELL. They make some incredible monitors and their colour accuracy is very good.

  2. Shawn Marran
    Shawn Marran 2018/12/10 at 11:59

    Hey, Dustin. I’m glad you found the article useful 🙂
    RAID is best used with a dedicated enclosure, such as a NAS device. In that case, I would suggest getting about four 4TB HDD’s and then set them up as RAID 5.

    External hard drives I would format to ex-FAT so that they can be accessed on both Windows and Mac. I would also avoid using RAID with external hard drives, especially RAID 0 for if the data becomes corrupt on a RAID 0 it’s gone for good. External hard drives also vary in brand and some are old technology some are new. If the driver controller for the externals differs, they might not be able to be combined or if they do they will most likely behave poorly. Using RAID on older external hard drives will also be quite slow as it would have to access each hard drive individually (and also through USB, making it even slower) before showing you the contents.

  3. Alan 2018/12/10 at 09:37

    Hey Shawn,

    Awesome article. Is there a recommended for monitor and mouse? Is there anything specific I should look for in the mouse specifically aside from it being a gaming mouse?


  4. Dustin Carpenter 2018/12/04 at 03:05

    Thank you for the great information Shawn. I second everyone’s comments of this is a great simple and concise place to figure out what you need. I have one question though. What do you recommend in terms of RAID for the external hard drive and backup? Do you recommend the external be set up as zero for fast access to photos? My with is a wedding photographer and I just bough her a Mac Pro with a 1TB SSD and a 4TB external for Christmas. I’m still trying to find a good deal on a 4-6TB backup.

  5. Shawn Marran
    Shawn Marran 2018/11/30 at 10:40

    Thank you for your lovely comment, Victor. I have heard great things about AMD’s Ryzen CPU range, but haven’t owned one myself I can’t comment on their real-life performance. The lower price sure is something to take into consideration though.

  6. victor 2018/11/29 at 23:57

    Hi Shawn, this article is really helpful, simple, straightforward and dummy proof. I really appreciate this source of information.
    I see you only mentioned Intel CPU’s. What do you think about AMD? They have higher number of cores and threads for lower the price? Meaning more bang for the buck, but what do you think of AMD’s real life performance and task management? Sometimes one has to use Lightroom + Photoshop + Illustrator with After Effects or Premier Pro rendering in the background haha.

  7. Danie Bester
    Danie Bester 2018/11/01 at 17:13

    Maya, I would go for the 2.3 GHz and upgrade the SSD, or simply add another Hard Drive it it does support a secondary Internal Drive.

  8. Maya 2018/11/01 at 17:00

    Thanks for the information! I want to buy a laptop but I cannot make a decision between two laptops. I will use it for basic tasks and photo and video editing. I am not a professional. For photo editing, I will use Photoshop and for video editing Pinnacle 22.

    laptop 1: HP i5 8250U 1.6 GHz, 8GB RAM (upgradable to 16GB), 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD + NVidia MX130

    laptop 2: HP i5 8300H 2.3 GHz, 16GB RAM, 128 GB SSD + 1TB HDD + NVIDIA GTX 1050

    The reason why I cannot make a decision is that I don’t know if the first laptop with 1.6 GHz is powerful enough to work with photoshop. The second laptop has 2.3 GHz, bigger RAM but it has a smaller SSD storage.

    Can someone help me?

  9. Shawn Marran
    Shawn Marran 2018/10/12 at 14:50

    Hey Neelabh. Thank you for your comment.

    There could be any number of things causing her Lightroom to slow down. The number of background software or processes running in combination with Lightroom might be stretching it to its limits, causing the performance issues.

    Adobe themselves recommend 12 GB for optimal performance in Lightroom. We recommend 16 GB because it gives you enough freedom to use both Lightroom and Photoshop concurrently, as well as not having to worry about any other software or processes that might be hogging ram.

  10. Neelabh 2018/10/12 at 13:21


    I am also thinking about getting a new desktop Mac similar to Elaine –
    The 21.5Inch 4k Retina with 8GB 2400MHz DDR4 , 1 TB fusion drive, 3.4GHz quad-core, Intel Core i5 processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz).
    My primary use is Lightroom apart from the usual Microsoft Office and internet browsing.

    I currently use MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Early 2015), 2.7 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB 1867 MHz DDR3 which serves me well but want to get a desktop.

    After reading Elaine’s post that things seem to slow down when using Lightroom i am confused as to why would that is the case on the new desktop which seems to be better in every way without the 16BG upgrade as compared to my existing MacBook Pro?

  11. Yamini Krishna 2018/10/02 at 06:08

    One of the best articles….it helped me understand what i want and what i should opt for…life saver for sure.

  12. Gerda Eilts 2018/09/30 at 00:15

    Thank you for your amazing help:-)

  13. Lora 2018/09/27 at 01:33

    Wow, excellent article. It was very informative and a good read. Thank you.

  14. Shawn Marran
    Shawn Marran 2018/09/21 at 09:54

    Hi, Violet.

    A proper video editing desktop PC will probably estimate around R15 000 – 17 000.

    As far as battery life goes, it only applies to laptops. Asus, Lenovo, Dell and MSi are all excellent brands with very good battery life. The Asus FX504GD Laptop -which goes for around R15 000- is a superb choice for a videographer, as it has a 120hz refresh rate, Full HD display and a really beefy graphics card.

    Good luck!

  15. Violet 2018/09/11 at 13:46

    Hi Shawn.
    I am currently looking to buy a desk top for my son as a birthday present. He is a photographer and videographer. He has used Mac but I don’t think I can afford that. I have read the article above and I saw that on battery life you said it depend on the brand. what brand can you recommend and what is the estimated cost?

  16. Shawn Marran
    Shawn Marran 2018/09/11 at 13:16

    Hi, Elaine.

    As long as the system you are getting has at the very least 16gb memory then it’s ok. Lightroom doesn’t currently use the processor to its full potential so i’d go with whatever will save you money, as long as it has 16gb of memory 🙂

  17. Elaine 2018/09/06 at 14:26

    Thanks for your prompt response Shawn!

    This is the information re the processors on the Apple store website:

    “The processor orchestrates all the tasks performed by the hardware and software that make up your iMac. So the more powerful your processor, the faster your iMac will get things done. Both the 7th-generation Intel Core i5 and i7 processors can easily run professional applications like Final Cut Pro and Adobe Photoshop, and handle larger-than-normal files like RAW photos and high-resolution video. They feature a dynamic performance technology called Turbo Boost that automatically boosts power when you need it, based on your workload.
    The Intel Core i7 processor takes advantage of Hyper-Threading, a technology that kicks in when the processor is handling several big jobs at the same time. It lets each of the processor’s cores run two threads simultaneously, which means it can do two things at once. So it’s as if your iMac has eight cores at its disposal instead of four, allowing it to multitask more efficiently.”

    This all does not mean much to a very non technical person like myself – so not sure whether the i7 processor is ‘overkill’ or well worth it for $200 bearing in mind that I will go for the 16GB version? I would love to go for the 32GB memory but that is an eyewatering $800.00 add on……..

  18. Shawn Marran
    Shawn Marran 2018/09/06 at 12:29

    Hi, Elaine. Thank you for your comment.

    8GB is indeed too low for Lightroom. You want to have at least 16GB.

    I’m not very familiar with the iMacs, but either processor will get the job done. The only reason I can think of that the other one would cost so much more, is that it likely comes with different hardware. Take careful note of what exactly changes when choosing between the two processors.

    As for the hard drive:
    In general I would recommend pairing an SSD together with an additional external or internal hard drive, but due to the lack of upgradability on the Macs, I would rather opt for the fusion drive which will serve you better in the long run and give you the best of both worlds without compromising performance too much.

    Good luck and if you have any more questions, please do not hesitate to ask 🙂

  19. Elaine 2018/09/06 at 11:31

    I am thinking about getting a new desktop Mac as my current Mac is not upgradeable memory wise – its a 21.5Inch 4k Retina with 8GB memory – I have recently started using Lightroom Classic and finding that everything is far too slow – particularly with stitching panoramas and HDR merging, but also with basic adjustments. What are your thoughts re 1 TB fusion drive as opposed to the SSD option? I want to get 16GB memory and have a choice between:

    3.4GHz quad-core 7th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz
    3.6GHz quad-core 7th-generation Intel Core i7 processor, Turbo Boost up to 4.2GHz – will need to pay $200.00 more for this

    Which one?

    I am an amateur photographer and enjoy it as a hobby so don’t need anything with a lot of storeage capacity – but do want Lightroom to work faster! Having worked on a retina display I would definitely also want to keep this option

    Your advice would be much appreciated!

  20. Danie Bester
    Danie Bester 2018/09/02 at 11:47

    Claudine, the Radeon Cards in the MAC systems will be sufficient and no need to fret.

  21. Claudine 2018/09/01 at 23:26

    Thank you for your well informed article. I’m about to upgrade and this has been very helpful. There is one question I can’t seem to figure out and that pertains to the graphics card. You recommend Radeon in the 900’s and 1000’s. I’m looking to invest in an imac 27″ desktop but their Radeon seems to max at 580. That seems to be a significant difference and makes me hesitate on whether or not this will greatly impact running photoshop and lightroom used to edit my photographs. Any additional insight would be very helpful and appreciated. Thank you-Claudine

  22. Rebecca Wright 2018/08/14 at 18:45

    This article has been monumentally helpful to me. Thank you.

  23. Danie Bester
    Danie Bester 2018/08/03 at 08:56

    Hi Darlene, I am glad we could help so far. Shawn meant a single graphics card that has between 2 – 4 GB RAM. By the way, the 1070 is a great card.

  24. Danie Bester
    Danie Bester 2018/08/03 at 08:54

    John, not an easy one to answer! These are both great computers. And might I add, I envy you big time! Both these mammoth computers have their particular strengths. The PC obviously offers more future upgradability, but then again competes against the MAC’s reliability. The big question you need to answer for yourself; which OS you prefer? Which system comes more natural for you?

    I for example, am an ex-gamer and got so used to the Windows environment, that I really struggle with MAC OS. I also like to fiddle with a computer’s innards, which you can’t always do with MAC.

    A bit of advice from me though; no matter which system you choose, get a second screen. For photography, I know that 5K screens are an overkill, especially since it makes your images seems way better than they actually are. I would go for dual 4K screens.

  25. Darlene Shoemaker 2018/08/03 at 03:55

    Shawn, I forgot to ask you a question about the graphics card; when you say that we need a 2-4 GB dedicated VRAM, does that mean that the computer will have two graphic cards? I tried to ask a Dell customer support person this and he kept telling me that I only needed one NVIDIA GeForce 1070. Sorry if this may sound common sense, but I just want to be sure. Thanks.

  26. Darlene Shoemaker 2018/08/03 at 03:49

    Thank you very much, Shawn, for the most excellent informative article. My computer is not what it once was and keeps crashing on me for several reasons. I took the information you gave and am customizing my next computer. I really appreciate that you not only give the details of what we should have, but the fact that you explain why we should have it…..I’m always questioning why…and when I get answers, it helps me remember the details. I think you did a great job with the article. Thanks again.

  27. John 2018/08/02 at 21:37

    Hi Danie

    Please can you advise on what is the better Pc for photo editing as they cost the same

    Appel IMac PRO
    3.2 GHz Intel Xeon W 8-Core
    32GB of DDR4 RAM | 1TB SSD
    AMD Radeon Pro Vega 56 (8GB HBM2)
    27″ 5120 x 2880 IPS Retina 5K Display
    UHS-II SDXC Card Reader
    Thunderbolt 3 | USB 3.0
    802.11ac Wi-Fi | Bluetooth 4.2
    10Gb Gigabit Ethernet
    Magic Keyboard & Magic Mouse 2 Included
    macOS High Sierra
    Special build pc
    4.3 GHz Intel Core i7-7700K 8 Core
    128GB DDR4 2666Mhz High Performance RGB Gaming RAM
    500 GB M.2 NVMe SSD + 2TB 7200 rpm HDD
    NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (8GB GDDR5X)
    USB 3.0 x 3 | USB 2.0 x 2 | VGA | HDMI x 4
    SuperMulti DVD Drive
    802.11ac Wi-Fi | Bluetooth 4.3
    Wired USB Keyboard & Mouse Included
    Windows 10 Home (64-Bit)
    PC Case: Gaming Case USB3.0 6x RGB Fans
    Power Supply: Corsair HX1200 80+ Platinum 1200W Power Supply
    Heatsink & CPU Fan: Corsair H100i GTX Cooler with NZXT LED 120mm Fans
    Motherboard: ASUS PRIME X299-DELUXE LGA 2066 USB3.1 DDR4 Motherboard
    Graphics Card: NVIDIA Quadro P4000 8GB 1792 CUDA Core VR Ready Workstation Card
    Sound Card: ASUS STRIX RAID PRO 8 Channels PCI Express Sound Card
    Primary Hard Drive: 2 x 1TB (2TB) SSDs In Raid 0 Upto 900MB/s+ Speed
    Main Optical Drive: 24x Dual Layer DVD +/- Writer
    Memory Card Reader: External Memory Card Reader
    Network Adapter: 1200Mbps Ultra-fast Wireless AC Dual Band Adapter (WIFI)
    Firewire: 3 Port Firewire Card
    LCD Monitor: DELL 5K 5120×2880 Ultra HD resolution Monitor
    Keyboard & Mouse Combo: Logitech MK710 Wireless Keyboard & Mouse Combo
    Operating System: Windows 10 Professional 64 bit

  28. Rachael 2018/07/12 at 15:54

    My computer just died on me and looking for a new machine. The article you wrote on picking the right computer was super helpful and hopefully, I’ll be back up and running very soon. I’m in the middle of about 3 jobs and more coming so I’m stressing out a little. Thanks for easing some of that stress in knowing what to buy. I had a great machine. Asus. All the good stuff I needed in it, but not enough RAM and now its dead. ha So sad. Anyway, Thanks Shawn! I am a average Photoshop user that needs to learn Lightroom!

  29. Shawn Marran
    Shawn Marran 2018/05/30 at 10:46

    Hey, James. Thank you for the question. Actions such as blurs, colour conversions, hue/saturation or the Camera Raw plug-in can sometimes use up to four or even six cores at once. This is why we recommend at a minimum an i5 6th generation as it has a minimum of 4 physical cores. A newer generation i3 (7th or 8th generation) will still run Photoshop, but when performing a lot of tasks in Photoshop, you might find that it will start struggling.

    On the flip side, you will see a sharp drop in performance increase if you use any more than 6 cores (Like the newest Intel i9 CPU’s). There’s simply no need for so much processing power just yet. So you are right that one does not always need the best and fastest hardware.

  30. James 2018/05/30 at 01:11

    Not understanding this ” Only the fastest will do”mentality. When Core i3 came out, graphic design reviewers were oohing and aahing at the speed with which you can use photoshop. Now you are telling me it won’t work. What am I missing?. Will an older version of Photoshop work with Core i3? I am not a professional, and am only looking to use Photoshop Elements 18.

  31. Tracy Merman 2018/05/29 at 07:49

    Excellent article. My Windows XP computer is dead. I held on as long as I could. Now searching for a new computer with your article in my hands. Thank you.

  32. Ofentse 2018/05/09 at 20:27

    Very informative. Thank you

  33. Kim Hunter 2018/04/30 at 00:05

    I found your article informative and helpful. Most of your comments were directed, understandably, to users of Adobe software. Would they generally hold true for open source software – specifically, GIMP and Raw Therapee?

  34. Danie Bester
    Danie Bester 2018/04/18 at 09:36

    @dyamia I present Lightroom Workshops now for many years, where our students bring their own computers. The most common cause of computer crashes, when working in Lightroom, is a lack of RAM. For example, one of our students recently had lots of trouble with his computer, which consistently crashed. During our tea break, he took his computer to a local shop and upgraded his RAM. After the upgrade, he was able to keep up with the rest! So, I would rather use a Core i5 with 16GB of RAM, than a state of the art Core i7, with only 8GB of RAM.

    Then in regards to your statement about PC and MAC; even though I am a PC user myself, I can assure you, that in the classroom environment, I find the MAC’s outperforming the average PC consistently in terms of performance and battery life.

  35. Shawn Marran
    Shawn Marran 2018/04/17 at 11:33

    Hello dyamia. Thank you for your questions.

    Normally yes, this would be correct, but remember I was writing this article from the viewpoint of running applications such as Lightroom / Photoshop. While a good processor will take you a long way, RAM and storage space is much more crucial when using these applications. If you don’t have enough RAM, then it doesn’t matter how good your processor is, Lightroom / Photoshop will struggle immensely or even totally freeze up when performing strenuous tasks.

    In regards to your other questions, I don’t believe I favoured mac devices over PC devices. I tried to be as neutral as possible. Personally, I’m a PC man myself.

    As for the battery life, I will reword it to convey what I meant better. In general, any Mac device’s battery is very reliable (compared to most of the competition) and will have a long lifespan, whereas the battery quality of other brands all varies heavily between brands.

    We also opted to leave out Surface devices, because of the lack of availability and upgradeability; especially in the South African context.

  36. dyamia 2018/04/17 at 04:18

    You also listed Processors below ram in importance??? almost 100% of the computing speed comes from this singular device and you listed it 3rd… can you explain?

  37. dyamia 2018/04/17 at 04:16

    Any reason the author listed many of the specs in favor of the Apple macbooks? You listed the battery life as Best, when they are only rated UP TO 10 Hours, whereas all surface products, Dell xps products, Lenovo yoga 920,etc are all rated around 15-17 hours… Any particular reason you did not list any of the surface products at all? They have better resolution, battery life, performance (8th gen processors and dedicated graphics on 13 and 15 inch), pen to screen tech for video editing and higher color gamut displays…….

  38. Danie Bester
    Danie Bester 2018/04/16 at 09:05

    Hey Pics Retouch: Stepping up from 8 to 16GB RAM will most definitely improve the overall speed!

  39. Shelly 2018/04/16 at 01:33

    Luv the article. Just starting up my photography business and short on cash after purchasing camera/lenses. Looking for a good computer but not to expensive. What are your recommendations.

  40. PicsRetouch 2018/04/14 at 12:41

    I have 8 GB RAM and i5 processor but sometime my Photoshop hanged and show processing. Can I improve processing speed of Adobe Photoshop in my computer with 16 GB RAM?

  41. Johan Eriksson 2018/04/04 at 22:35

    Nice article. I would like to add that you should consider buying a Wacom for retouch. Pro version of Intous. Small or medium are most frequently used among photographers. It will save your wrist and make for a more professional end result. No, I don’t work for Wacom. Some pros even go for the pen based screen, but that one is expensive.

  42. Francois 2018/03/17 at 22:01

    Thank you Shawn! Google brought me right back to the folks Nita is doing her course with.
    Great article that will certainly help us avoid costly and frustrating mistakes

  43. Mike robinson 2018/02/28 at 22:05

    Great article.

  44. Francine Ellis 2018/02/24 at 11:15

    Thank you. Just what I have been looking for. Now I can upgrade and have just what I need to be built to proper expectations. It is time for me to upgrade anyway. I will take this to the technician.

  45. Dario 2018/02/19 at 19:34

    Excellent, I have been searching to get all these information in one place and you have done it for me. Thank you!

  46. Colleen 2018/01/31 at 19:14

    So helpful, thank you so much!

  47. Dawn 2018/01/31 at 18:24

    Again, many thanks for this. I have purchased an Acer Predator G3 (gaming) desktop – from Costco – with 32 GB memory, 1TB HDD & 256 GB SSD, 8GB NVIDIA Geoforce GTX10170 graphics, Intel i7-7th generation processor. I also purchased a Samsung UHD 28″ monitor – again from Costco. I think this will do the trick!! Now to get it set up.

  48. Mike Tagg 2018/01/31 at 07:36

    Thank you Shawn for your excellent article. About 2 years ago I lots of research and then looked around for a product to meet my needs. Incidentally a PC very close to your recommended specs. I looked around and ended getting my PC built by Loot the online seller. It cost me less than R11 000.

  49. Jane Yates 2018/01/30 at 06:05

    Excellent information, just what I needed thank you Shawn (and Danie). I’m about to shop online for a new desktop PC, monitor and accessories. I could never afford anything really good and after years of buying the wrong thing (mostly because I got the cheapest thing I could find) and suffering with clunky slow laptops, I am in a position to buy what you have recommended. I’ve got my camera gear and after years of messing around myself I am also about to start a short course in photography locally at an intermediate level – but in stumbling across your website, I will be back here to continue my learning along my path of getting serious with photography – so glad I found you! Keep up the good advice and your good work 🙂

  50. Richard Murie 2018/01/29 at 22:44

    I am in my 95th year and my desktop Mac just crashed a week ago. I am writing an ancestry story for the family and have scanned a couple thousand slides and photographs of our family travels and my military documents and photos. I was a June 6, 1944 WW II D-Day Normandy veteran among other action areas. Could you send me the specs, say for a Dell computer, that would be used with light room and photoshop or a Mac desktop? Some one in the family would set it up for me because I am, according to the Veterans administration, 100% disabled. I have no rotator cuffs, so limited arm/hand use and severe neuropathy , spinalstenosos and PAD in the legs and feet, leading to limited mobility. Thanks, I just found your site and I really enjoyed your article.

  51. Lance 2018/01/28 at 04:27

    Just took up photography about a year ago and starting to really get into it. Up ‘til now I e done all of my editing on my MacBook Air. My desktop is an Mac that I’ll toss into the landfill and replace with ?

    Much great help, thanks!


  52. Susan Margeson 2018/01/22 at 21:01

    Thank you. You nailed it. Your summary is a take along for computer shopping.

  53. SwiftPhotograpy 2018/01/17 at 23:15

    Am really impressed by such deep learning beneficial to my upgrading in photography.thanks bro.keep post more of such stuff .

  54. Danie Bester
    Danie Bester 2018/01/16 at 07:29

    I am glad we could be of help Dawn. Good luck with your upgrade process!

  55. dawn 2018/01/15 at 19:56

    Thank you, this article was just what I was looking for! I desperately need to upgrade the laptop I’m using (let’s just say it doesn’t really meet any of your specs!) and was lost to figure out what will work best for Lightroom and Photoshop. After all, if it handles those it will do everything else I need. I have saved this to keep handy when looking at new systems.

  56. Mark Davis 2018/01/15 at 12:03

    Great information indeed. No doubt! I am really impressed by your info. keep posting such kind of information on your page. I will certainly dig it and personally suggest to my friends. I’m sure they’ll be benefited from this website. Thanks a lot.

  57. Martin Slabbert 2017/10/28 at 05:55

    Excellent I wish I could have read this earlier. Now I do have something I can refer friends to see what an expert says. Thanks.

  58. Kevin Richards 2017/10/25 at 07:03

    The latest Lightroom Classic CC is certainly much faster! I agree that if you want to run it with Photoshop CC, you need more RAM.

  59. Wedding Photographers
    Wedding Photographers 2017/10/24 at 17:01

    As Wedding photographers we process thousands of images in a a job. Thanks for this useful information.

    Warren James Photography

  60. Danie Bester
    Danie Bester 2017/07/28 at 11:31

    Buying a Computer for Editing can be a daunting experience. You’ve nailed this article my young Padawan. Our Readers and Photography Students should know that this comes from someone who is somewhat of a geek. Or should we say rather an authority on Computers!

  61. Shawn Marran
    Shawn Marran 2017/07/24 at 10:28

    Adobe has created a survey asking the public to voice their concerns on the ever growing Lightroom performance issues. If you are an avid Lightroom user, be sure to fill out the survey which can be found at the following link –

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