Some of us photographer types are rather notorious gear junkies. I'm as guilty of it as the next guy. We like our toys and love to collect as many gadgets and doohickeys as we can get our hands on. Few things grab our attention more than the spec sheet of the newest cutting edge camera. Our budgets, however, aren't as infinite as our eagerness to spend them, which often leads to the need to prioritize purchases. Despite what your eagerness is telling you, the most valuable update might actually be upgrading your computer rather than that shiny new camera body.
Fast Computers Mean More Time Shooting
Nearly all digital photographers spend more time working with their computers than they ever do shooting. The computer is the gateway that lets you transform shots into what you want to share with the world. The computer is a tremendously helpful tool, but it also can be a quagmire that sucks your time away. The difference in image quality between one generation of camera and the next often offers an almost undetectable difference to the audience; however, a computer that allows you to spend half as much time editing means that you can increase your time actually shooting, which leads to more practice and more honing of your craft.
Fast Computers Lead to Better Images
Slow computers are frustrating: the slower the computer, the more frustrating it is. A frustrated photographer does not make for an inspired photographer. By upgrading your computer, you ensure that your editing workflow remains as smooth and pleasant as possible, which, in turn, keeps you in the most creative mood possible. By accelerating the speed of your workflow, you are able to better harness the joy of working with your images, which at the end of the day will lead to a stronger portfolio and a better photographer.
Fast Computers Let You Push the Envelope
Heavy Photoshop work isn't for everyone, but for the ones who do love it, the limits of that work often are guarded by the breadth of what the computer is able to accomplish before becoming so slow that working becomes effectively impossible. By upgrading your computer, you are able to expand those limits and go beyond your normal workflow without having to sacrifice huge amounts of time waiting for filters and effects to render.
A new camera is surely a tempting toy to put on the ole credit card, but it certainly won't make you a better photographer, and the images it will create won't be radically better than your current camera, unless it is very old. A new computer, however, will give you more time to shoot, a smoother workflow, and the freedom to experiment with massive files without brushing against the ceiling of what your machine is capable of handling. The next time you are fiddling with your budget, take a moment to explore your workstation options, as those options ultimately can be a better decision when furthering your craft.