5 Hardware Essentials for Photographers

I’ll start by saying I’m not a computer guy. I don’t know how every component works, build my own machines or write my own code. I am a professional photographer. However, I do use a computer for my photography work and have a pretty good idea of what my needs are and the needs of my fellow photographers.

This post will outline some essential pieces of photography hardware needed to process and store images, depending on their usage.

Computer photo

Photo via Shutterstock/pikcha

Processor

Lucky for us, photography is important to most people, and these people want to have a processor that can handle viewing, cataloguing, touching up, resizing and uploading imagery from modern cameras.

Just about any computer you find on the market will meet the minimum requirements for taking images from your camera, doing basic adjustments, and uploading them your favorite place to share. Even some tablets would meet the minimum requirements.

For hobbyists, a dual core processor is helpful so you can run Lightroom or Photoshop in one and your OS or other background items in another. For professionals, a quad-core system is helpful for running multiple applications at the same time and speeding up work when you need to be exporting images from Lightroom while you are editing others in Photoshop. If completing work quickly affects your bottom line, it’s worth it to pay more for a faster processor.

RAM

I think the easiest and cheapest improvement you can make is to upgrade RAM. These days, applications take up more and more of this Random Access Memory as do the larger and larger files we work with. At a minimum, you probably need 2BG of RAM. If you are running the latest version of Lightroom, Adobe says you need at least 2GB. If you are on the newest Mac OS, you are probably using 1 of those GB already. So, I would say 4 is the minimum for the hobbyist who uses Lightroom. If you are trying to run Lightroom and other applications at the same time and need to meet professional deadlines, you should consider 8GB. 12 seems to be enough for me most of the time, but Adobe also recommends 16 for improving performance.

Graphics card

If you can afford it, get the best graphics card you can. This will have the least amount of bearing on your photo editing as most cards can handle whatever photography work you throw at it. If you also do video work, that is another story.

Monitor

The quality of the monitor you buy will make a difference in your photography. At a minimum, a screen that will display images in HD is probably good enough to do some minor photo editing. For the hobbyist, you want something that displays color accurately as well as having a high resolution. Being able to see the colors of your photographs accurately means you have some level of control over how they display and how they print. The professional photographer should consider a very high resolution monitor, like some of the new 4K ones coming out, and should use professional color calibration tools to insure their colors are accurate.

Hard drive

The size of your hard drive should be proportional to how many photos you take. The amateur photographer may be shooting 3 to 4MB JPEG files or using their iPhone files, which means they can store a lot of photos in not that much space. 250-500GB will last a very long time. For the hobbyist, who is possibly shooting in RAW for 20-30MB files sizes, they may want more space depending on how often they are doing photography and how many files they keep. A 500GB hard drive and a 1TB external drive will probably last quite a while. As a photography professional, I have a relatively small hard drive on my computer (500GB) but use up at least 2 terabytes in storage every year, plus back up hard drives. 500GB is enough to work on several jobs at a time before the files get moved to my external drive.

This is just one photographer’s recommendations for computer hardware. What do you use? Is it enough?

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