July 17, 2012, 2:19 PM — You love taking photos. You carry your DSLR or mirrorless camera along wherever you go. Youre always checking out new Photoshop filters or interesting editing applications. You have a Flickr Pro or Smugmug account, and you upload hundreds of photos a year. Now you want a PC that can be responsive and fast when you're editing and tweaking your pictures.
Whether you build your own system or buy one off the shelf, several considerations are key to choosing the right mix of components for a photographer's PC. You want robust storage, a balance between CPU and graphics performance, and a great display. But before I dive into speeds and feeds, lets consider a photographer's requirements.
Meet the Photographer
Every photographer shoots a little differently, has varying workflow needs, and takes a unique attitude toward their photos. In this article, Im going to talk about a PC as it meets my photo-editing needs and my workflow, which may not be the same as yours. Consider this a rough guide, with rules of thumb that apply to most photographic applications.
Currently I use a Nikon D800 DSLR, and I almost always shoot in raw mode. Raw mode captures the pure sensor data, performing no compression or modification on the data it collects. That translates to large files, and the need to have a photo editor that works well with Nikons RAW format. In the past Ive shot with D7000 and D300 bodies. (I'll discuss software in more detail shortly.)
I shoot a variety of subjects, ranging from flowers to landscape to sports action. I've taken the liberty of sprucing this article up with some of my shots to illustrate what a good production rig allows a user to do.
I prefer shooting with ambient light whenever possible, but I do use flash when necessary. I also own a lighting kit for shooting product photos in my home studio. Here's a quick look at the gear I carry.
Whatever gear you use, a good PC for editing and archiving digital photographs will have a few common elements. Assuming that you hang on to most of your photos, youll need lots of storage. Photo editing, particularly involving effects such as HDR and noise reduction, requires good performance. If youre editing large RAW images (12 megapixels and beyond), lots of memory helps. Youll also want to display images as accurately as possible, so a good monitor is a must.
Rather than discuss a lot of hypotheticals, lets take a look at a real-world system: my own production PC. Bear in mind that I dont use this computer only for digital photography--I also use it for some light video editing and PC gaming. Ill break it down by each major component type, and I'll suggest alternatives as appropriate.