Do you have Shiny Object Syndrome? Do you conduct self-control litmus tests when the weekly B&H newsletter drops in your inbox? Do you try to rationalize snagging the new Profoto strobe when you know very well that your savings account is plummeting faster the engagement for photos on Instagram? If so, you may want to take a hard pass on this article.
As for me, I didn't use to care about gear.
It was 2013. A high-profile wedding photographer broke his ankle mid-season, so he hired me to shoot his weddings as he wheeled around alongside me, barking orders. Having been warned about his cuttingly rude personality, it was little surprise when he fell quickly into character, scoffing: "You edit on a laptop? You can't edit on a laptop!" He continued to cut into me for everything from my camera to my outfit. Later in the year, The Knot announced their annual "Top 5%" of photographers by city. My "joke" 5D Mark II and laptop setup and I crushed him that year and every year afterward until I moved out of the wedding space.
I never cared about gear; I cared about images. I cared about creating incredible images.
Fast-forward to a decade later. Now, I care a little more, and in the recent months, it has become clear that it wa time to upgrade my computer.
I had been working on an Acer desktop for the last several years, and it had done the job. Over the last few years, the AI on Adobe software has gotten more advanced and the system requirements on computers have gotten steeper. My computer couldn't keep up. I added an Asus Geforce GTX 1060 3GB Dual Video Graphics Card, which boosted its performance for another year, but soon, it became clear that it was time to upgrade in a major way.
So, I set out to build the photographer's dream PC.
With the help of peers and tech friends, I noted all the wish-list items for designing a photographer's dream PC and I sent it to Wholesale Computers & Technology, LLC. They're local to me, but they work on major contracts, such as Disney, and ship all over the US. I gave them my list on a Thursday before I left for a weekend shoot, and when I returned, the workhorse was built! Here are the specs:
- Intel i7-11700K 8-Core 3.6GHZ CPU
- B560M motherboard with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
- Liquid cooling system
- 64 GB DDR4 memory
- Gigabit LAN
- HD audio
- Samsung 980 pro 2-terabyte NVME drive
- DVD+-RW burner
- RTX 3050 8 GB video card
- Windows 11
- Cooler Master NR400 ATX tower with tempered glass
- EVGA 750-watt power supply
- ASUS 31.5” 4K HDR monitor
The total cost for the computer, monitor, keyboard, mouse, and build was just under $2,500. I also bought the SpyderX Pro to calibrate my monitor ($130)
As I mentioned in the opening, I only care about technology as much as it makes a significant difference in my work, and let me tell you this machine makes a colossal difference in my work. I ran startup tests with both computers next to each other. It took six seconds for the entire machine to start up, compared to my old computer, which took 4 minutes and 19 seconds. It took the new computer four seconds to open Photoshop: sonic speed compared to the 4 minutes and 53 seconds it took my old computer to open and load everything. On top of that, I was able to run image processor in Photoshop (to resize a batch of images) while answering emails without any detectable delay. The computer is quiet, fast, and a real workhorse.
The value of investing in the custom-built PC comes over time as well. My peers advised me that if I invested in a custom PC, it would easily last me eight years or more. The added advantage to building a computer is that if something is falling behind or becomes outdated, you can replace that specific component instead of the entire machine.
Though I don't have what we jokingly refer to as Shiny Object Syndrome in our writers' chat, I do love having tools that help me create images well and efficiently. Do you have to have the R5, a custom-built PC, the f/1.2 instead of the f/1.8? No, you don't. People with simpler gear out-shoot gear junkies all the time. However, as a full-time photographer who pours hours working with system-heavy software, I definitely give this purchase five stars for the efficiency it gives me.
PC users, what's your experience? Have you ever built a custom computer that upgraded your workflow? Do you have a pre-built computer that you recommend for photographers? Leave a comment; the discussions below often are my favorite part of being a writer.