Does a Good Computer Help in the World of Photography and Video?

For a while now I have been into computers and building them properly to handle the work I planned on doing for the next few years. About two years ago, I started to notice that the work I was doing and the cameras I was shooting on was something my computer struggled to keep up with.

I know that everybody is different and that computers slow down over time but the main thing I do for work is create content for others to use as marketing material. If I don't have a computer that can process everything I need it to and keep up with my workflow, I find myself questioning whether or not I can handle more of the work I want to be doing. The longer I sit at my desk waiting for the computer to process files and render video for smooth playback, the more I think about upgrading to something that will take all my troubles away.

Three years into running my business, I am starting to realize things pick up a bit more than expected. I made the transition into using full frame cameras that shoot way better quality than anything I had when I started. I noticed that because of that, I needed more storage for the larger files, faster hard drives to work from, faster cables and ports (USB C, Thunderbolt, Cat 7, etc), and a computer that is able to handle all that I am throwing at it. This knowledge has certainly taken some time to acquire and the speedy workflow has come from the repetitiveness of the work I've been doing. When I look back, I realize this was bound to happen during my journey in the world of photography and videography. When I first started, I didn't have the knowledge I do today and a computer that seemed crazy expensive and good to me at the time has become something that struggles to keep up with the work I want to produce.

So the real question is, will a good computer help you in this field?

My honest answer would be 100%. I think that any piece of equipment with the ability to increase your efficiency is a tremendous help. A computer is one of the most important things we need to run a business these days. We build our websites, we answer emails, we do our finances and most importantly, we edit the content we create. Doing more and more research on computers, I think I realize the value of investing in a machine that will keep up with the work I am doing five years down the road. Any normal person may think you're out of your mind for spending over 10 grand on a computer. However, for us, a good computer can literally save us hours of time when it comes to working on projects, transferring data and dealing with large files.

Maybe this 18 core, maxed out iMac Pro isn't the computer for you, but all in all a machine like this is built to handle almost anything you throw at it. Whether you decide to go PC or MAC, it is important to look into what you will be using your computer for down the road. In this video, Marques Brownlee talks about some of the specs on this computer and explains why this machine is capable of the things it is.

For more about Brownlee, check out his YouTube.

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8 Comments

Spy Black's picture

Well yes and no. It depends on the amount of any given type of production you may do. If you're just shooting stills it's not that big a deal, but if you're stacking video or motion compositing and/or 3D, you're going to need as much horsepower as you can afford. But if your production level isn't so demanding you can work with slower/older machines for some extended usage time to a degree.

I'm a PC user and it's easier for me to build and upgrade hardware, but if you want a Mac you're gonna have to pay to go out of your way to put all your eggs in one expensive basket.

sometimes it IS about the equipment. your comment is so far from the truth.

You cant be a professional photographer or videographer if you're shooting with a flip phone and editing on an etch-a-sketch.

Equipment DOES matter. so to say its NEVER about the equipment is incredibly stupid.

user-208255's picture

Firstly, at the moment my workstation is in storage and I'm working on a cheap laptop, and it's excrutiating.

Now, file "quality" isn't related to file size. See: Sony A7s II and Nikon D3

I would also observe that most actions in Photoshop are single threaded. And apparently Lightroom is lightly threaded, and rumour has it that 6 cores are optimal there. Do your research, because sometimes clock speed is preferable to number of cores.

A 18 core iMac Pro is an increbily silly investment. Firstly those 18 cores are of no use inside photoshop and will onlyslow you down. At most, last I looked, photoshop can only use 4 cores at full capacity and sometimes draw flightly from 2 more. So a 6 core with the fastest possible clock speed is the ideal setup for photoshop.

You will only need those 18 cores for 3D other high intensity tasks and you can stick that same chip in a PC case for half, or less, of the cost. In a PC you can ensure that it has adequate cooling and doesn't throttle. Would you want to leave an 18 core chip running at full capacity for a couple days in the tight confines of an iMac case?

That said earlier this year I had the choice between upgrading to a d850 or investing the $5k in a computer. I went with the computer. Doing compositing work with a lot of 3D enviroments means that even this 16 core machine is frequently working at 100% capacity for a day or more at a time. Some tasks could have taken a half a week or more on my older machine It's slightly slower in photoshop than my old i7 machine but all up a massive gain.

Bill Peppas's picture

Good grasp of things mate!

Photoshop and everything inside it is shy in utilizing anything over 4 cores, just a small amount of functions can utilize up to 6 cores ( and not maxed out of course ).

In video authoring, the lots of cores are good for encoding ( up to 18 cores, because over that especially with h.264 you get decreased image quality and performance doesn't scale enough to justify the additional cost ), but for post-processing as in real-time previews, montage, you need a very very fast 4-6 core, so ideally, you need two PCs for video.
One 4-6 core overclocked stably to the max to do the post-processing and a high core count to do the encoding.

Wes Jones's picture

Wow, that is one expensive computer.

Benchmarks. I want benchmarks. Using playing a game on a PlayStation 4 is not a benchmark about performance. Is he a great game player or a lousy game player?

I recommend buying a gaming computer. They usually have the best processor, great video card, and lots of RAM. And then ONLY use it for editing. Buy a cheaper one for everyday use.