You can edit your photos on pretty much any computer, but if you are here, we are going to assume that it is, at the very least, a need you have as a business. Maybe you are a freelance graphic designer, or even wedding photographer producing images for the happy couple.
Whatever your line of work, you will need a machine that doesn’t slow you down. Time is money in any business, and having a computer that enables you to carry out your job quickly and efficiently will ultimately help you make more money.
Depending on what you do and how serious you are about getting a machine to purely speed up your work in photo editing will likely also affect your budget, so here are a range of machines to suit all pocket depths.
How We Picked
We set out to find the three best pre-built machines across a range of budgets. We weren’t looking for anything that could play the latest Call of Duty on the side; rather we wanted precise, functional machines that could speed along with editing, batch processing, and cataloging large numbers of images as efficiently as possible.
Best computer for photo editing
Great power for a small unit
Bit of a one-trick pony
Not overly cheap
It can seem almost too easy to just drop a load of Apple products into any review of machines for creative people, but you simply cannot get away from the fact that they produce remarkably good computers for people working in this space.
The Mac Mini is a computer that you could almost say is designed specifically with this kind of task in mind. You aren’t going to buy one for games. It’s not really powerful enough for any serious video editing. If you just need a computer for writing reports or doing homework, there are options that are far-better priced, but for this kind of job, the Mac Mini is, well, perfect.
You can spec it out until your heart is content, add extra ram and storage in the mix, but the baseline product is still great with powerful Intel processors driving everything.
The biggest bonus could be one you didn’t consider. Because it is so tiny, there is no reason a photographer couldn’t pack it in their kit bag and bring it along to a shoot with them. You would need to work out some kind of screen, but there a few apps such as Luna in the App Store that allow you to use an iPad as a screen for the Mini.
This adds a whole new layer of versatility to the job. You could potentially supply a selection of images to the client at the shoot there and then, even if they are just drafts. That kind of thing could be the difference in you getting rebooked for the next job.
Besides everything else, as we have said, MacOS is just great for these tasks when paired with Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. It is all the kit you will need – besides your camera obviously!
If you really want the most stylish PC you can find to live out your photography dreams – but aren’t enamored by the offerings from Cupertino, then the Microsoft Surface Studio 2 is for you.
This, quite frankly, gorgeous addition to the Surface line-up, is the PC of dreams for artists, photographers, and any kind of creative alike.
The cost is astronomical in comparison to the other two machines on show here, but you are paying not only for the high-end components inside but fantastic styling and build-quality. This oozes top-of-the-range, and for many people, that is as important as performance.
A Core i7 CPU is ably backed up by a GeForce GTX 1060/70, depending on the build. Ram and storage can also be tweaked, but it is the amazing 28” display that is the show stopper here. Photos pop on it, and working with detail in Photoshop doesn’t get much better.
With Windows 10 as the OS, you aren’t necessarily stuck with Adobe’s Creative Suite even though it will be the go-to application of choice for the majority.
We highly recommend the Surface Studio 2. Its price puts it firmly in the professional arena, but in terms of style and performance, we love it.
The basis of the best system you could have
Almost infinitely upgradable
Need to add your own components
Not an instant solution
Let’s start off with what a NUC is shall we? The Next Unit of Computing is a tiny 4”x4” motherboard made by Intel that is designed to be a small form-factor that you can easily expand. They have no internal power supply and generally come without any kind of storage or ram, so yes, this is a niche choice, but it might well be the intelligent one.
This NUC is barebones, but that lets you build an incredibly powerful yet tiny system to your own specs and then carry it around with you. The Core i7 and inbuilt Radeon graphics are powerful enough for some low-end VR action, which is crazy when you think of the specs needed for that.
You can add an external GPU should you need one, but for what we are doing here, you won’t. You can easily go the route of creating your perfect box for the job. It’s like the ultimately customizable Mac Mini ever.
We are giving it our Best Value award not because it is the cheapest but because it is the basis of a value-packed system that could be just what you need. It isn’t plug and play like the other two, and you are going to have to put more work into it and spend some more money if you don’t have any spare ram and storage lying around, but you end up with pretty much an infinitely upgradable work box that could potentially stay in your business for many years with small additions here and there. It’s a smart solution.
Things To Consider
Do you need portability?
This is a big thing. Whether you work in a studio or at home full time will affect your thought train on this. How much use would you get out of a machine that you could take on the road to a shoot with you? Would you prefer the stability of a machine that just sits on your desk in a risk0free environment, or would it genuinely be useful to carry it around with you?
Windows or Mac?
You are probably using Photoshop and Adobe products if you are in any serious form of photo editing, but if not then Windows probably has more options for apps you could use that the MacOS environment.
The Mac Mini wins here because it is a solution that works right out of the box and gives you great performance at a not unreasonable price. It is the perfect machine for this line of work. It can be as portable as you need it to be, and even if it is going to stay at home on your desk, there are no photo-editing tasks that it can’t handle with ease.