Computer Upgrade For Pro Photography

  Alf Tupper 18:26 01 May 2007

I am in a bit of a dilemma. I'm a professional photographer, recently fully converted to digital. I need to get a laptop and also upgrade my home pc to accomodate my work. It seems that to get the gear with the appropriate specs, I will need to spend around £1500 on each. Given that I will also need to buy a separate high quality monitor for image editing (the one that comes with the desk pc will be for the editing software's tools palettes), plus Photoshop CS2, at an additional £1000 for both, the total figure of £4000 is somewhat out of my price range.

I'm thinking that I could save a good grand by dumping the desktop and just going for the laptop, with the additional monitor, and back up memory, etc. Worthy idea, or foolish corner cutting?

  Kate B 19:24 01 May 2007

You probably need to spend a bit on the lappy but not that much on the desktop. Photoshop is RAM-hungry, but it's a 2D app and so doesn't make heavy demands of a graphics card. What monitor are you thinking of? I have a Dell 24" monitor which gives me plenty of screen space for working and these days doesn't dost the earth click here

A lot of photographers use Mac laptops. You could, for example, go for this click here and perhaps spec it up a bit to a bigger hard drive; and plug it into your monitor when you're at home to give you more screen space.

Add to your shopping list an external hard drive something like this click here as your backup; and your copy of Photoshop (for Mac if you buy that laptop) click here and I'd chuck a copy of Lightroom into your shopping basket while you're at it - lovely piece of software click here. That would give you a total spend of around £3k for a really nice pile of kit and software.

  Kate B 19:24 01 May 2007

Forgot to say - if you spend a fair whack on a decent lappy and have the external hdd and a good monitor at home you won't need a desktop - you can, as I suggest, plug the laptop into the monitor. I'd add a mouse to your shopping list, though; and possibly a keyboard.

  jack 20:19 01 May 2007

Hate B says it all but for one little thing
Investigate if you have not done so already -a 'Business Account' with the likes of PCW or Jessop or one of the Pro supplier specialists- if its your business then 17.5% comes off the bill straight away - but then you knew that didn't you.

  Kate B 21:19 01 May 2007

Also, does it have to be full-fat Photoshop? Is Elements good enough? That's a whole lot cheaper. Or could it even be The Gimp click here which is free?

  jack 08:23 02 May 2007

Or even Paint Shop Pro 11 which is a Photoshop clone- with even the same 'feel' and most if not all the most useful tools.- www Here you can download a full program unrestricted for a 30 trial before opting to purchase -£45 or so

  Alf Tupper 09:56 02 May 2007

Thank you both for your input. Kate, I haven't made a decision on the additional monitor yet. Although 24" ones in the region of £600 seem to be recommended. One important factor other than picture quality, is being having plenty of control with adjustments. Does the Dell have this?

As for the Mac route, I was considering this, but other pro's I know, who use PC's, say they are happy with them. After using a PC for ten years, I am loathe to change unnecessarily.

I'm certainly going for an external hard drive (probably two) and a mouse. It's even been recommended that I go for an external keyboard, for comfort.

It's going to have to be the full Photoshop though. That just has little things on it that's missing on Elements.

I'm a little worried that I will run out of connection sockets if I take the laptop route. Are extension hubs the way to go? My camera manual says not to download my images through one.

  jack 08:40 03 May 2007

I'm a little worried that I will run out of connection sockets if I take the laptop route. Are extension hubs the way to go? My camera manual says not to download my images through one.

If the lappie has 2 USB sockets then reserve one for image upload and connect a hub for all other purposes to the other.
You will have to take that consideration into play when you decide on the computer and its complement of sockets.
Unlike a PC you cannot add a PCI USB card- although I do believe there are PCMIA cards available if the machine has an appropriate slot, when you get it.
Or a Firewire socket may be available- which is the norm for video upload.

  jack 08:44 03 May 2007

Don't get stuck on Photoshop- this is an editorial office tool- big cumbersome steep learning curve[unless you know it already]
It is worth downloading the Paintshop trial- just for a look see.

  Kate B 12:32 03 May 2007

Photoshop is the industry standard. You don't have to buy the whole Creative Suite, you can buy it as a standalone. The CS2 version is £100-odd cheaper than the new CS3 version click here and click here and I can't imagine you'd actually need the new version. Get the CS2 version and spend the leftover dosh on Lightroom, which is really great - it does batch processing, for starters, which I really like. click here

Macs are definitely more expensive but they're very reliable and I think if I were starting out on my own as a pro snapper, I'd probably treat myself to the biggest, baddest Mac laptop with a bit of extra souping-up because they don't get clogged up with crud in the way that Windows machines do, and so don't slow down on you over time. I love Windows for many reasons, but it's a high-maintenance OS, too.

My Dell has lots of tweakability, though I don't know if it would be enough for a professional - worth asking around. USB hubs are fine, though I'd suggest getting ones with their own power supply rather than ones which draw power from the laptop as you can find that they just don't deliver enough juice to your device.

  BioBob 18:02 03 May 2007

We tried using the laptops at work but after 6 months, most of us have reverted back to desktops!

The laptops we started using were desktop replacements and to big to use in the field, yet we needed the screen size - and a few of the screens broke.

We took advice and ended up with the ideal solution... v.small laptops for, the field trips and, well, posing i suppose! and decent workstations to come 'home' too (which we had commissioned click here) so we can now sit down comfortably and do a decent days work.

The Desktops have Hard Drive Caddies in so we can quickly switch data from one machien to another - useful way of backing up! Ours are IDE but i imagine they do sata ones too. All have front connectors for Firewire and USB making life a cinch for transferring data. Desktop was about £1300 i think and laptop, no idea..

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