Which Computer for Photo & Video Editing?

hi I'm Tony Northrup and today I'm going

to answer a very common question which

is what computer should I buy for photo

editing or video editing I'll try to

address both questions as we go that

they are very different questions and to

do it I'm going to be using my own

personal computer as an example and I

warn you that this computer is going to

be wild overkill you don't need this

much but if you're a nerd you might just

enjoy checking it out first I'll try to

address the question of Windows versus

Mac and I have to disclose that I worked

for Microsoft for like 20 years I wrote

something like 30 something books about

Windows so I'm not unbiased here I don't

have any current connection with

Microsoft except some of my books are

still on the shelves but I am a Windows

guy and the reason is that for the buck

you tend to get more power out of a PC

there's a little bit of an apple tax

that goes along with Mac it's not that

much though especially nowadays and they

Apple makes some really amazing hardware

so it comes down more to personal

preference if you're a Mac person if you

just find it easier to use then go

forward but nowadays most of the stuff

you hated about Windows is gone Windows

is pretty stable use all the same apps

Lightroom works the same Photoshop works

the same Premiere Pro works the same

during the video editing being on a Mac

certainly gives you a few more options

because you could use Final Cut Pro

which is available only for the Mac but

otherwise for the most part you'll

probably get a little more power for the

same amount of money if you go with

Windows up first the disk and that's

probably the most important thing for

both photo editing and video editing

especially in Lightroom which is the one

app everybody wants to be a little bit

faster most of the time it's

bottlenecked by your disk the disk

stores files persistently so when you

import pictures from your camera to your

computer it's copying them all to the

disk and then every time you go to open

up those pictures it is to read them

back from the disk and if you have a

slow disk your computer is going to seem

very very slow even though it's probably

only the disk for photo editing for

working with Lightroom in particular or

for video editing especially 4k files

you absolutely need an SSD so there are

two types of drives available on the

market nowadays field magnetic Drive

which is the conventional drives just a

hard disk drive their little ease like

plates of magnets that a little head can

read just like a record player basically

but a lot packed in there

conventional drives are less expensive

they are also much much slower the new

generation of drives are called SSD or

solid-state drives and they work exactly

like the flash memory cards that you put

in your camera so there are no moving

parts they tend to be very very fast for

bandwidth first which would be

transferring a large file like copying a

4k file or a huge raw file but they're

particularly fast at random access so if

you ask an SSD to read a particular

picture from the computer conventional

hard drive will have to wait a little

beat beat as it waits for the disc to

spin around to that particular part of

the drive and waits with the head to get

in place but that happens very instantly

on an SSD so everything just goes much

much faster I find that I often can make

a computer seem brand new just by

upgrading the standard drive to the SSD

but for those of us in to either photos

or video there's a big problem with SSDs

and that's storage space because SSDs

just don't get to be that big most SSDs

that you find for a reasonable price are

like 256 gigs and you can fill it up

real fast with even just taking still

photos but especially with video I think

the bare minimum size needs to be about

a terabyte and that's what I have in

this computer the main drive where

Windows is installed where my Lightroom

catalog is and where I edit my videos is

on a one terabyte SSD drive which you

can see right here you can see it a

little more clearly on the back these

drives get about 500 megabytes a second

of throughput both in and out for

reading and writing and even though one

terabytes not going to be enough for me

so what I have to do is archive my stuff

so I use that drive as my working drive

and it's fast and it means that I flip

through pictures in Lightroom much

faster than I could if I had a magnetic

drive but I would fill up one terabyte

so quickly that I have an array

of conventional magnetic drives here and

when I import pictures in Lightroom they

go to my C Drive the fast drive and then

every couple of weeks I end up using

Lightroom to copy those files over to my

B Drive which is the collection of these

big magnetic drives so you see here I

have 4 8 terabyte drives and that's 32

terabytes of storage in total but I have

them mirrored using storage spaces a

Windows 8 feature that kind of

intelligently mirrors them and I'm using

a special file system called re FS which

helps to protect them in case a file

gets damaged and go in and detect that

corruption and fix it that's been really

important for me and that's a lesson

I've learned the hard way because the

extra protection against corruption is

important because I've had drives that

start to get corrupted and even if you

have a backup you probably won't notice

that that data has been corrupted and

then the corrupted data will actually

get backed up so with this new file

system our EFS it's capable of detecting

that sort of corruption and

automatically correcting and so I hope

to save corrupted video and photo files

in the future by using that however our

EFS requires that every drive be

mirrored and that means that for 32

gigabytes of storage I only get a 30

terabytes only get 16 terabytes of

actual usable space now you'll see I

have a fifth magnetic drive down here a

4 terabyte drive that's an older drive

that I use to backup my C Drive here my

1 terabyte SSD so I kind of continuously

run backup to that 1 terabyte SSD to

that 4 terabyte drive in case that drive

fails it's only a matter of time before

any drive in your computer fails and it

can't tell you how many emails I get

from panicked people saying my computer

won't boot where are my pictures how do

I get my pictures and any IT guy knows

the first thing you think is well you

get them from your backup but most

people don't have backups and you will

lose everything

backing up to a local Drive like this is

a good start but I also suggest you get

a web storage service or a cloud storage

service just Google that they're a bunch


different services out there they will

take your files and copy them up to the

web they work great as long as you have

maybe a terabyte or two of pictures

which will satisfy most people if you

have you know I'm over 16 terabytes of

storage now so that's too much data for

me to easily transfer to the web it

would take on the order of six months of

filling my bandwidth upstream for me to

be able to offload that to anybody else

so it's not especially usable but it's

critical that you have an off-site

backup local backups are good but they

won't protect you from fire theft

natural disaster so what I do instead is

I regularly use external hard drives and

I backup all new files so those external

hard drives and then I basically give

them to Justin and Justin takes them to

his house where if there is some C's far

enough away that if the nuclear power

plant next to me has a problem he

probably won't be impacted if there's a

fire at my house or theft I'll be able

to go back to those files so you need

that off-site backup as well I also want

to give a tip about free disk space

whether you have an SSD or even more so

an older magnetic drive it's important

to maintain a certain amount of free

disk space because drives get slower and

slower as they start to fill up with

magnetic drives it kind of works like a

record player and if you imagine a

record spinning the outside of the

record is basically spinning the fastest

and the inside is spinning the slowest

so that first data that you write to the

computer your first pictures are going

to be written to the outside of the


therefore the drive spinning at a

constant rate will be spinning that

outside much faster that's why your

computer seems to be much more

responsive much faster when it's new and

those older pictures residing on the

outside of the drive will be easier to

access will be quicker to access as you

feel your drive up your writing in the

middle and that means it's spinning

slower and it's getting slower and

slower part of the problem is that your

drive is also filled up so as you're

writing data the computer has to find

little open spots in the drive to save

the file and that means that any one

picture might be written at ten or a

hundred different spots on the drive

with a magnetic drive that means that it

can end up taking a lot longer to read

it so anyway long story short try to

keep quite a bit of free space on all of

your drives to maximize performance it's

still an issue with SSDs though not

nearly as much I just try to keep like

15 percent free of my SSDs and you

should be fine

the next tip that's going to maximize

your performance in Lightroom or in

video editing is a USB three memory card

reader so many people have a modern

computer with USB 3 but they're using a

USB 2 memory card reader and it slows

everything down USB 3 USB is just the

connection uses connect your camera or

your smartphone or your memory card

reader or a hard disk drive an external

hard disk drive to your computer so USB

3 is substantially substantially faster

it's much much faster and any computer

made in the last couple years probably

support USB 3 through those little ports

with the blue in them the older USB 2

ports are just all black I highly

recommend if you're looking for a new

computer make sure you pick a computer

that has USB 3 and then get a USB 3

memory card reader your desktop user

like myself I have an integrated memory

card reader in this computer but the one

that it came with was USB 2 so even

though it was built into the computer it

was connected internally with USB 2 and

then everything was slow so I had to go

onto Amazon and buy myself an internal

USB 3 memory card reader and then wire

it through this computer to get the most

performance out of it

but end up being really important now

I'll talk about the processor in the

computer which is the next most

important thing after you have a fast

drive after you have USB 3 memory card

readers the processor is going to make

the next big difference this is my

processor in here and you'll see it's

really quite buried under a bunch of

stuff the processor is what the computer

uses when it's converting your files to

a dmg it's what it's using when you're

making big adjustments most of the time

when it's rendering previews it's using

the processor and the disk together

really heavily so upgrading your

processor will make a big performance

difference and for that reason when

you're picking into a computer so just

getting the fastest processor that you

have the budget for and I'll talk in a

little bit

about different parts of the computer

where you can actually save money

because I'm not going to tell you just

to get the biggest thing for everything

no but the processor and the disk speed

are areas where you do want to spend

your money on you can save your money in

other ways the processor is extremely

important and is particularly so for

video editing now I went over the top on

this and you don't have to do that I got

the newest Intel processor and then I

also overclocked it so that is an option

nowadays Moore's law for desktop PCs at

least it's kind of been broken in the

last few years and new computers aren't

that much more faster than older

computers so if you're not satisfied

with that overclocking has become a very

stable and reliable option this computer

which was custom built by a computer

maker has a water cooler on it and that

means that it can cool the processor

more efficiently you can take just about

any processor and make it run much

faster the challenge is dissipating that

heat because if you run a processor

faster the it'll overheat

basically so you need something that's

extremely efficient at moving the heat

away from the processor and exhausting

it the water cooler here does this that

is I think a 3.3 gigahertz processor and

I typically run it at 4.4 gigahertz so

I'm getting about 30% more processor

performance out of it because I'm able

to use the water cooler and because the

computer itself supports an overclocking

system the the motherboard and the bios

kind of define that I picked a

motherboard and BIOS specifically

designed to support overclocking as well

as the hardware required for it you go

and do buying over off-the-shelf

Dell you're not going to get that option

you can sometimes overclock those

computers but they're generally not

designed for overclocking Alienware is

one exception to that by the way all

these rules generally apply to laptop

computers as well you you want an SSD

most of them will have USB three

built-in and you want the fastest

processor you can get memory it very

much depends on what you're doing a lot

of people just tell you to get as much

memory as you possibly can and I think

that would be a waste of money I find

most features of Lightroom work just

fine and for gig

it's or less and this little laptop here

only has 4 gigabytes of RAM and I use it

for like all the time when I travel and

it's just fine now if you get into

Photoshop and you're working with a

Photoshop picture and you have often

when we do pictures that will have 20 50

layers you can get it into a lot of

layers and many different photos merge

together and at that point you might

need more memory it's not a common to

see Photoshop using 16 gigabytes of

memory also recently with Lightroom 6

they introduced a new HDR and panorama

features in monitoring the memory on

those features I find that they will use

well over 4 gigabytes they'll go into 8

16 gigabytes they will use all your

memory if you go and create a very large

panorama so if you plan to take

advantage of those features I might

recommend jumping up to 8 gigabytes or

even 16 gigabytes but if you're looking

at a laptop and you're just doing casual

editing and Lightroom 4 gigabytes is

probably going to be fine you can spend

your money elsewhere the monitors are

one of the most important parts too for

me as a desktop user I prefer to have

two monitors so take whatever budget you

have for one monitor instead of buying

that big huge 4k monitor buy two smaller

monitors with that same budget and

you'll probably be much happier

partly because Lightroom is designed to

work with two monitors you're doing

video editing applications like Premiere

Pro are also designed to work well with

two monitors and it greatly improves

your efficiency I find in laptops where

you might not have a monitor connected

most of the time I recommend getting the

highest resolution monitor you can the

new Retina displays are becoming pretty

common and there are some 4k display is

built into laptops that will make a huge

amount of difference when working with

Lightroom when doing things like

previewing your pictures and making sure

that pictures are sharp those extra

pixels will make it much easier it also

leaves more screen space for tools in

say Photoshop or Premiere Pro so

basically pick two monitors whenever you

have that option the the more resolution

per monitor the better especially with

laptops where you're traveling with a


think it's worth it to spend the extra

money on a 4k or Retina display the new

version of Lightroom scales really well

to those higher-end displays something

most people will misunderstand is the

video card and the GPU the graphics

processing unit that's built into it now

your CPU here the processor is very fast

and can do lots of computations but the

graphics processor the GPU is many many

times faster at doing simple

calculations so applications such as a

video editing apps like Premiere Pro or

Final Cut will offload a bunch of the

work to the GPU and that makes things go

much much faster now Photoshop and

Lightroom technically can offload some

tasks to the GPU Photoshop will do it

only with some filters when you're

applying some filters most of the time

it does not use the GPU at all Lightroom

will do it like m6 will do it when

you're making some develop module

adjustments so you might see a hair and

performance improvement when you're

using say adjustment brushes and

stacking many many different adjustment

brushes or if you're doing some sort of

transformation and Lightroom for the

most part you're not going to notice the

performance benefit in Photoshop or

Lightroom so if you're doing photo

editing but not video editing I

recommend just getting the cheapest

graphics card that can drive the

monitors that you have do not pay extra

for one of those Quadro graphics cards

they will not noticeably improve your

performance basically here's where

you're save your money you get a cheap

graphics card you're doing video editing

you don't have that choice you want a

big graphics card this is a 780ti but if

you're doing photo editing get the

cheapest card possible and a laptop if

they give you different options the

integrated graphics card is probably

going to be fine you don't need to spend

extra to get the discreet graphics card

again you'll be missing out on that GPU

offloading but you probably won't ever

notice put that extra money towards a

faster drive a bigger drive or memory

maker of processors I want to briefly

mention the network a lot of people I

know use a wireless network connection

even though their computer is within a

couple of feet of say their cable modem

or their outgoing connection

whenever possible use a wired Ethernet

connection not only is it reliable but

it's always faster than your wireless

it's confusing because the wireless

connections will advertise being you

know 860 megabits or something like that

but that's almost never the case

in fact typical Wireless throughput is

more like 30 to 60 megabits a second

even with the latest technologies though

it depends on a lot of different factors

a wired Gigabit Ethernet connect

internet connection is always faster if

you work in a team as we do and you're

constantly exporting files between

different computers that wired Ethernet

connection is going to make all the

difference it's also just more stable

and reliable now this particular desktop

also has a wireless connection this is

the antenna for it and I use that as a

backup so with my smart phone I have the

option for tethering and this is the

case with just about any Android phone

or iPhone though you might have to make

a special service agreement with your

wireless provider I can turn on

tethering here and then connect my

computer to the Internet through my

phone using up my data plan this is my

backup plan for when my internet

connection fails because if you're like

me you have deadlines you have work to

do you need to get the pictures to the

client you can't afford to not get your

work done just because your cable modem

provider failed for a little bit so this

is my back-up plan

a wireless adapter in my desktop and

then phone with tethering I'll talk a

little bit more about why I chose this

computer specifically this is not an

off-the-shelf asus or Dell or HP it is a

custom-built computer it allowed me to

choose a case I wanted the largest case

possible so you can see I got a huge

case and that's because I have a lot of

drives to store a lot of people will

instead choose to use USB 3 external

drives and as they add more pictures

they'll just keep adding more and more

and more the USB 3 connection is

noticeably slower the faster drives also

require an external power supply so then

you end up with all these separate power

connections coming in it ends up being

very cluttery

and the cables can come loose and might

get tangled up and I just much prefer to

have internal drives so one

guess that had plenty of space I've also

run out of PCI slots before because in

the future I might be adding more

interface cards to support say a raid

array more additional drives I might

even add a second graphics card in order

to process those big 4k video files a

little faster so this computer leaves me

room to grow the large case also makes

it much easier to work with if you look

at the motherboard here it has enough

SATA ports to support a ton of drives

those are si t3 ports a previous

computer I had an SSD in it but the

computer itself only supported SATA 2

and that meant it didn't take advantage

of the drives put full performance

instead of being 500 megabytes a second

it was running at about 200 megabytes a

second and I tried adding an SATA 3

internal card to it but at that point it

became bottlenecked by the speed of the

bus itself so it didn't actually improve

performance any to get the full

performance out of an SSD drive

I had to upgrade basically the

motherboard so I decided just to buy a

whole new computer I do want to show off

the back of the computer here because

this has been an important feature for

me as you can imagine with having 8

drives inside the computer the cable

management can be really difficult the

back of this computer has a lot of pass

throughs that allow me to pass the

cables through and run them down the

back here channeling it to the actual

drives so that means the interior the

drive here is not incredibly cluttered

with cables most computers are much more

cluttered said all that clutter is in

the back here there can be a little more

organized and you can see I've done

things like use cable wraps and cable

ties to keep the cables together and

I've upgraded as since I've gotten and

not all of that is extremely tidy but

the tidiness that is there makes things

much easier particular computer is also

designed for ventilation so the top vent

here comes out for cleaning because it's

going to gather hair just about all of

the computer can be turned into a vent

there are a couple of nice features for

system builders to people who are

tweaking and rebooting your computer

like there are buttons inside of here

that allow me to

easily reboot it without having to move

my body physically outside the computer

you do the sort of tweaking you know

you're inside your computer quite a bit

so in a nutshell this is not for the

faint of heart

this was an expensive and custom-built

setup and it's more than most people

need but it's not necessarily more than

I need and in fact I'm still constantly

wishing I had some kind of faster

computer by room 6

bragged about performance improvements

but ultimately so many tasks in

Lightroom are still extremely extremely

slow you're making a panorama or even

just comparing multiple pictures and

opening up I find myself all the time

just frustrated that it's taking so long

I've done everything I can got in the

fastest computer you can possibly build

and I know a lot about computer

performance - some things are just slow

when it comes to 4k video editing still

not uncommon for one of our longer

videos to take for six or eight hours to

render little changes are little things

like adding like warp stabilization so

kind of make the computer unusable and

it means I simply have to wait for it so

this is not overkill it's under Cole I

would get a bigger faster computer if

possible and it would save us time and

make us more productive but in the

meantime this is about the biggest

computer you can possibly get without

going to more larger like multiprocessor

type computers where you're looking at

you know well over $10,000 for the

computer so if you have any questions

add a comment down below I bet you have

some ideas - you're nerds write a

comment with your suggestion and take it

into account I hope this helps you build

a good computer to recap SSD drives

absolutely must the bigger the better

fastest processor you can get and for

simple things like Lightroom 4 gigabytes

a memory might be enough but it wouldn't

hurt have a gigabytes or even 16

gigabytes but save yourself some money

and get a cheap graphics card