Part 1 of 4

I think this is year 4 that I’ve been doing this yearly blog series. Thank you for joining me and I hope you get some useful information from it. Let me give you some background information and you can decide whether this could be something you find useful. Before I was in photography, I had been an I.T. professional for 20 years and had my own consulting business for 15 of those years. I had pretty much done it all. From phone support to network management and design. The next 10 years would involve working in corporate IT while also working part-time as a photographer. So in short, and I allow myself to toot my horn just a bit, the most knowledgeable photographer of I.T. Well, at least I’ve never known anyone with more experience….

I start the first series with the computer. I have a colleague who said “95% of a photography business owner is your work with a computer. The remaining 5% is actual photography. But that 5% is really great!” It’s so true with most photographers. So obviously, your computer is a huge importance.

I’m a Mac user and my articles will largely be based on that. But there are certainly principles you can apply to both kinds of computers. In fact, I switched to Mac in 2011 with a Dual-Core i5 Mac mini. Before that, I was a Windows user. I have huge experience with Windows 7 and quite frankly, it hasn’t changed all that much since. Microsoft changes the interface and does some other things. But core functionality is pretty much the same. This article will also be geared for professionals or highly productive amateurs. This is not an article series that will tell you…. Well, the kinds of questions beginners would ask…. Whether you have or want a desktop or laptop, there should be a base you should start from: • Processor: i5. 2GHz • RAM: 16GB • SSD: 512GB Yes, it’s that simple.


Using anything less than baseline is really going to hurt when exporting out. After 10 years, I still find an i5 to be pretty darn good. My 2011 Mac mini with its dual-core i5 did a great job. The only issue I had was speed. When I upgraded to a 2013 15” MacBook Pro, with a quad-core i7, basically doubled the speed of exporting images. But really, if I bought the quad-core version of the Mac mini, I would’ve been using it until my recent upgrade. I just didn’t have the money to buy it. And that would’ve been a fantastic ROI too! 10 years?


This is where people cheap-out. Yes, you can use a computer for photography with 8GB of memory. But…. That’s amateur hour. 16GB and more will do nicely. When you don’t have enough memory, applications will start using the SSD for temporary storage and while that’s not a bad thing, it will slow down processing. Speaking of which….


I’m not even going to talk about the benefits of a hard drive. It’s SSD or go home. Just about any SSD in a computer should be fine. There are performance differences, but they are quite miniscule. 512GB is enough if you’re archiving your data onto an external drive once you’re done processing. I used a 512GB hard drive in my 2013 MBP for years. It was perfectly fine. That’s pretty much when it comes to computers for photography. Everything else is sort of personal choice and how you’ll use them.

My Current Setup

2020 was a big year for me. I upgraded my 2013 year-old 15” MacBook Pro, which served me quite fine during the 7 years I had it, to a 2020 13” MacBook Pro.

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I chose this laptop as it has an approximate 30% performance improvement in every way to my previous laptop. It has Thunderbolt 3. Good color gamut for the screen. 3lbs. For my intended use, a fantastic machine. It has enough power and I love the portability. When I’m not doing any editing, I like to work in libraries (5th Avenue by far my favorite), coffee shops and such. For remote photography work, it’s also suffices.

I use my laptop with an OWC Thunderbolt 3 Pro Dock with an external monitor, mouse and keyboard. This setup has been working extremely well with me. No real complaints. The Dock is pretty darn nice with Thunderbolt capability and a 10Gbe port on the back. The only issue with the dock is the fan that makes a bit of noise. But I’m in New York so….

The reason I got a moderately powered laptop is because my longer-term goal is to get a Mac Pro. Why the Mac Pro?

Apple Silicon

Well, that was the plan before Apple silicon. For those of you not in the tech biz, Apple created their own CPUs (currently called the M1 chip) to be used in their own computers. In the process, they have leap-frogged Intel processors. Not by one or two leaps. But by huge, Olympic caliber leaps! It's truly stunning and while not going to change the industry necessarily, it will bring changes in what people can do with a relatively modest amount of money for a computer.

Even the base Mac Book Air, Mac Book Pro and Mac mini with their base Apple M1 chips are almost 2x faster than my 13", mid-tier MacBook Pro I bought earlier in 2020. The base 13" MacBook Pro with Apple's M1 is about $50 more money but 2x faster. That's basically the same performance as a current 16" MacBook Pro. That power in such a small package.

Possible image of a smaller, Apple-silicon based Mac Pro. Love it! Image:

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I had mentioned on blogs about Apple creating a Mac Pro with half the upgradeability and making it cheaper. It looks like they listened. Rumor has it that they will be releasing a 32-core Apple silicon processor. 24 performance cores and 8 efficiency cores. And probably a newer generation chip with even better performance. About the same size as four Mac minis stacked on top of each other. I heard pricing will be around $5k. It would be interesting. Because a Mac Pro with 24-cores starts at $12k. But the current Mac Pro is extremely upgradeable. I care much more about processor and hopefully, graphics will be up to the task as well.

If some of this is true, I could get a Mac Pro that is 4.5x+ faster than what I have for 2x the money. Capture One which is my primary photo application hasn't gone native for M1 yet. So it's a mystery how fast that will become. But Davinci Resolve, which is my primary video application, has shown up to 5x improvement performance. If CO can see this kind of improvement on a base, it would be a huge productivity improvement. Really, it would be more about how many hours I could work and photographers I have on the payroll to push the machine enough. The Mac Pro should be able to handle just about anything I throw at it. For a pretty darn cheap price...

They'll probably announce it at the end of 2021. Perfect timing!

The Monitor

I've had it for a good 7 - 8 years and, it's been quite remarkable. The Asus ProArt PA249. It was the best I could afford at the time. The price difference between this and the 27" version was quite prohibitive. Size aside, it's been a fantastic performer. Color accuracy is fantastic. I mean, what else do you need? Resolution? My monitor is 1920 x 1200 which again, has been really good.  But one of my plans is to add a secondary monitor that is 32" and 4k. Why?While it would help to easier edit portrait-oriented photography, which is mostly in my fashion work, it would be a better help in event photography and even more, video production. Especially video production which I'm venturing more and more into.But yes, a 32" monitor would rock.

External Hard Drive

What? A professional using a simple external hard drive? Sure, it works. It works well. And as long as you have a good backup plan, is totally fine. In fact, there are several professionals I know who have careers who probably represent the top 10% of the photographer food chain, use external drives just like this. You edit your images on your computer with it's fast internal drive and then archive it. Simple. And speaking of storage...

Next Blog Article – Storage

Some people consider the storage portion of the article series to be more interesting. Sometimes, the higher-end solutions can seem a bit mysterious and complicated. And they can be. Terms like NAS, DAS, multi-tiered storage systems…. Yes, it can be confusing. But I’ll try to make it easier!

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