Photography editing and laptops

I’m not the final decision or the most qualified expert on the subject but I’ll just say it as I see it.

Original Post

It wasn’t too long ago I wrote a post looking for the “Best photographer Laptop?

Time to say what I came up with.

The Winners are:

HP 18t fully loaded


Both will be about the same cost.
The HP will have more horsepower and more bells and whistles when it’s loaded up.

But I must admit the MacBookPro is pretty snazzy and has some crazy good battery life and the size and weight are nice.

I don’t think the other options (dell, gateway, Toshiba etc) are that much better. To give them the nod over these two.
I could be swayed otherwise given that I haven’t had real life experience with all of them.
But for now I’d say the HP 18″ or the new macbookpro

You really need to have a large screen if you’re going to edit on the road.

And a word on that:

Laptops and Editing

Try not to Edit on the road!

in fact

Don’t edit with a Laptop!!
Particularly the SCREEN or the TRACKPAD!

Both are terrible choices!!

(Now That I’ve said my inflammatory statements I’ll continue on and say why)

For the insistent

If you insist on it being your only computer for some interesting personal reasons, OK, Fine… but understand. It’s never as good as a desktop when it comes to EVERYTHING besides portability.

Use a Desktop

I will still be using my custom built PC for editing because it’s Much much faster 
It’s consistent… I’m not moving it around into different lighting situations.
I get to use two identical monitors or 3 monitors or even 4… maximising my efficiency.
A keyboard and a mouse are a must and I’m not tempted to try to edit without them.
I use my desk and am not tempted to edit on a couch.
(For busy moms out there maybe that’s why you go with a laptop so you can edit in different rooms throughout the day. Or computers on the bus or subway)

Not As Good

But you need to know… your decision is not without repercussion.
Your pictures won’t be as good as they would be at a desk using a mouse keyboard and a regular monitor and you won’t be as fast… or should we say you won’t be as efficient with your time.

It is my belief that you are kinda not living up to your full potential if you insist on sticking with a small screen. Yes… the pictures won’t be as good.

And you’re being inefficient with your time if you’re not using a mouse a large screen and a better processor.

What kind of computer

So now you’re looking for a computer. 
If possible stick with a desktop.

I could go on at length about what Lightroom operates best with. After lots of studying on the subject but this post is already pretty long as it is.

Get a Friendly Geek Friend

What do I suggest?
Get a nice friend who knows how to build a great computer to build you the best PC.
Stores don’t sell good computers. Best buy, dell, hp, etc etc… they don’t sell good ones.
That’s the beauty of a PC they come in ALL shapes and sizes. It just so happens that most people buy timid little ponies at stores or build show horses online at dell or hp or what not. And they don’t know that if they’re serious they can build a Serious Work Horse with part from online.
It is tricky and might require assistance and isn’t for the faint of heart… but if you really want something powerful that’s the way to go.

My old desktop still blows away my new laptop… for half the price

I could build a dream machine for under $2000 that is 4 times more powerful than the stupid laptop I just bought and it was Over $2000…. 
I call that a much more efficient use of money.

Want me to build one for you?

Well I don’t have the time… but… 

If you’re really interested in fact I can probably find someone who would put together said systems for you people out there ready and set to edit pictures like you’ve never experienced before… I do this because I love you. haha
And these friends could play with super nice new equipment and make a few dollars.

What did I end up buying??? 

I suppose I never answered the question that many are asking…
I bought a MacBookPro 17
Kinda funny because I kinda don’t even like to be known as a Mac person. But for laptops I must admit they were very nice.
I also like the fact that now I own both.
There is a function that I can only do for my podcasts using garage band which is only on Mac. Plus I didn’t have to be a penny pincher and save a couple hundred this go around. I opted for smaller more portable… something that would fit easier into my camera traveling backpack. I don’t believe the more hefty HP would have done as well.

The first trial run

I took the computer to Alaska for a week and I loved it and think it’s a solid product. Until it came to editing. It’s just tough. You have to spend much more time to really investigate a picture and make sure it’s in focus… when i say more time I mean like 2-3 times longer… as in like 2-15 seconds instead of like .5-6 seconds… but when it’s thousands of pictures it’s huge.

Back home and editing for reals on the desktop

And I think I’ll review them now that I’m back home on my desktop. I trust the colors and the quality more on a screen that I am familiar with and know it has good results.

I didn’t mind picking the pictures, doing simple reviews or doing what I call Quick Edits or Batch Edits, so all good things to do on the road. That require less attention which is usually the case on the road anyway. But I didn’t have a ton of time to edit anyway because it didn’t get dark until like midnight in Alaska.

Laptop on the road = Nice

But having a laptop is nice on the road… I’m not denying that… I’m just saying don’t rely on it. I think there is a huge majority of people that I know that use a laptop and only a laptop and they’re getting into photography and it just kinda makes me sad.

I’ll sell you my Photography Editing beast

Heck buy my computer from me for $1000 and I’ll run out and spend to upgrade mine to the newest and greatest. Mine is set and ready to edit with it’s quadcore and fancy pantsy glory.

The causal photographer

For those of you out there who don’t do a lot of editing… thanks for listening but I understand this wasn’t really for you since you don’t have to be fast so the trade off isn’t important. I’d probably stick with a laptop too if I were you just editing your once in a while vacation.


  1. […] SEE UPDATE HERE […]

  2. Scott Smith says

    Good Rant Scott. I agree that a desktop is mandatory if your want to get some serious work done. Glad to hear you bought a 17″ MacBook Pro to show a little love to Apple. :-)

  3. […] Original post by JarvieDigital Photography […]

  4. Luke Foust says

    Scott – do you have recommendations for which monitors are the best for photo editing? I think often it is hard to know which features are good for photos other than just “get something big”.

  5. scott says

    Hmmm which monitor is a question I would like answered as well.
    Yet another question I wish someone else besides me would blog about.
    I bet it’s out there somewhere but would probably take forever.
    But I do know of a couple that are sure fire, and maybe a few people out there can add a few more that they are sure of.
    I am using a samsung syncmaster 220wm and i think it does me well.
    I am planning on the dell 30″ and that’s a photographers standard along with both the 24″ and 30″ apple brands if money is floating out your butt… haha

    For something like a monitor for a photographer I am a bit cautious.
    I wonder about the 28″ hanns that is selling for sooo cheap at costco. I’ve heard good things about it, but I haven’t heard it from photographers per se.

  6. Aaron Barker says

    You realize you CAN connect an external keyboard/mouse to your laptop to get better control 😉 I usually just bring a mouse and use the laptop keyboard, as that isn’t where time is really lost. But a mouse is a tiny addition to the gear pile to get back the main time complaint you have.

    For the monitor I might offer a suggestion. Get an LCD Harness. Granted this probably won’t work for flying to Alaska, but it allows for safe travels when you are in a car. I got mine back in the days I use to go to LAN parties all the time, and always felt very secure with no damage to my LCD in dozens of outings.

  7. hank says

    Thanks, Scott, for the advice as I am about to buy a new computer and really really want a good screen for editing. What do you think of a mixed marriage: a fast muscular laptop hooked up at home to a large monitor (I am tech-dead but assuming one can do that).

    Very Nice shots on your site… esp liked the B&W of the woman near the top and the abstracts created with fireworks. (Finding that I like my Abs more than the public does. Oh well. Im new at this (alleged) Pro stuff.) Also my self-built Yahoo website is lame, so welcome any suggestions as to outfits that offer photo websites.

    If you have a pal in eastern or northern VA, I might be able to use him/her to build a computer. Thanks for your time, Scott and look forward on your suggestion as to laptop w/monitor.–Hank aka Trainor

  8. Kimbrey says

    I like hearing your choice for equipment. I’ll use it as a reference if I ever get to that point. JaG

  9. Mathew L Poolman says

    very nice opinions on laptops for photographers, and aspects that don’t always get touched on, but I was wondering if you had checked out the Sony Vaio AW?
    This is what I’ve ended up with my eyes on, I’m from south africa, and find myself in chicago at the moment, laptops are much cheaper here than back home and I’ve suddenly become overrun with options, but the Sony has

    A: a big ol screen
    B: a decent amount of horses under the hood
    C: a GOOD screen. a screen that can compare against many desktop monitors.

    Now I’m not saying that a laptop screen will ever be the better choice, all it does is display 137% of the greys and shades in your photos, which will constantly be affected by ambient lighting, but do you think, coupled with an adaptive colour calibrator (i.e.: huey/pro) you’d be able to get away with it?

    I’ve had a mac. yeah they’re great. but I find that they completely fucked everything up these days. sure, sexy computer, but why must I pay more now, to get a matte screen, when that was the standard 3 years ago?

  10. Ivan says

    It’s now absolutely wrong to say that desktop PC is in all ways but portability better than a laptop. Go and read something about RGB gamut displaying 😉

    Sony AW with it’s 3 LED RGB chip with it’s 137% of Adobe RGB just really beasts the shit out of many professional monitors as well!

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