Building the perfect photo editing PC: part one

With so many of the readers of our blog keen photographers, we wanted to provide some help and advice on how to create the perfect machine for editing photos. Rather than doing it ourselves, professional wildlife photographer Richard Peters has very kindly written a blog running through everything that a budding photographer needs in their ideal rig. So without further ado, we’ll let Richard tell us what we need.

Since the advent of digital photography, as well as the massive increase in computer users, many amateur photographers simply take their shots, upload to their computer, and then share them with friends and family. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with this, but to really make the most of the time and effort that goes into taking these photos, a bit of editing can go a long way. While photographers originally needed a darkroom to develop their photos, the modern photographer can get themselves set up for processing their images with a desktop PC.

However, without the right type of PC, photo editing can go from being a pleasure to a teeth-grinding chore as the computer struggles to do the tasks you’ve asked of it. With this in mind, I want to discuss the key components that a photographer needs in their PC for photo editing, so that they can make the most of the money they are investing.

Whilst I have been a Mac user for some time now, not everyone wants to go this route. If you shop around you can actually build a Windows-based PC with more than enough power for a fraction of the cost of a Mac. While the thought may scare some people, building the machine from scratch can save money, and allow a much greater degree of customisation. Of course, pre-built machines are available, and offer a great solution for those without the time and inclination for tinkering with a computer. All of these components have been chosen to ensure that processing, saving and editing large image files is as quick as possible.

A fantastic monochrome image of a red deer by Richard Peters

Processor

The CPU is the brains of the computer. While high-end gaming and video editing machines place a high reliance on a powerful graphics card (which we’ll come to in a minute), the processor is the key component for an image editing PC. When doing anything in Photoshop, for example, the processor has to do a lot of number crunching. That’s why certain actions in Photoshop can seem to take ages on an older or less powerful PC. The Intel Core i7-3820 is well worth looking at as it offers the best combination of power and cost, and will make it much easier to manipulate large RAW images.

Motherboard

The motherboard is one of the key components for ensuring that your computer will remain up to date as long as possible, and also dictates the components that you can use with it. A good motherboard, such as the Asus P9X79 PRO, will reduce the need for adding extra components. For example, if it already contains USB 3.0 ports and a soundcard, then there is no need to buy these extra components, cutting down on cost and additional hassle when building. An advanced mother board will also mean that you have the space to add extra RAM, PCI cards and hard drives should you need them in the future.

In the next post, Richard will be looking at the video card, memory and storage requirements for a photo editing PC. In the meantime, why not take a look at some of the guides out there for building a PC, and don’t forget to keep taking lots of photos!

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