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Your Computer Is An Important Part Of A Real Estate Photographer's Photo Equipment

Published: 08/07/2015
By: larry

iMacTim recently brought up the following:

Thank you for all the advice and help that you offer on your site. I am thinking of upgrading my computer system. I currently have Windows but know that most photographers use Apple. I really have two questions:
1. Even though I am heavily invested in PC. Should I consider for the long term, switching to Apple?
2. I would like to know the ultimate system in either, or both - the best and fastest - considering operating systems, memory, RAM, Graphics Cards, and Storage, also something that would be expandable in the future.

As a real estate photographer your computing gear is important. Think about it and research what's the best for you and don't cheap out. Before I give you my opinion on this subject I should explain my background and biases. Everyone is biased. There is no one right answer but here is mine:

  1. I'm an long time Apple fan-boy:  I purchased a Apple II in 1976 when it first came out and have had one of almost every Apple product since.
  2. I'm also a long time Windows user: Since I spent 35 years at Boeing during an era when Windows was the only corporate alternative. I also used Windows at home from the early 1990s to 2009. My wife still uses Windows and I keep her system running... it tries my patience daily!
  3. I've been a system software developer for most of my life so I look at the world from that point of view. I have little patience for bad design.
  4. Vista sent me to Apple in 2009: I used Windows in my home business (blog and real estate photography) until I needed a new machine in 2009. After looking at Vista which shipped on Windows hardware at the time, I moved to Apple and have been there ever since.

As a photographer and a independent business person I don't want to minimize the time I spend fussing with hardware and system software. I want the stuff to just work and be well designed. Apple hardware does that. It is beautifully designed, integrated and it just works.

In my opinion Microsoft has had two world class system software disasters Vista and Windows 8. The jury is still out on Windows 10. I'm to the point I can no longer forgive Microsoft for continually botching the design of their operating system. Sure windows hardware is cheaper but life is too short to deal with badly designed system software!

Here is my recommended configuration for a photographer (assumes the intensive use of Lightroom and Photoshop):

  1. 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K display - Quad-core I7 with 16Gb RAM 1 TB fusion drive + 512 Flash drive... just under $3,000
  2. 27-inch Thunderbolt display (for a second display) - $999

I have a several year old version of the above and have a MacBook Pro for travel and backup.

Update July 10, 2015: I just ran across a year old article in Fortune that points out that in the second quarter 2014 Mac sales grew 18% year over year while PC sales shrank 2%. There is a lot of speculation on what all the factors are that are driving this. One of course is everyone is waiting for Windows 10. The second quarter of 2015 (with Windows 10 just launching) should show that.

I'm sure others will give you their points of view.

16 comments on “Your Computer Is An Important Part Of A Real Estate Photographer's Photo Equipment”

  1. While I would prefer to be an "Apple guy", I've got too much invested in PC. Software & hardware.

    I use a fast, powerful "gamers" laptop. Actually two. (I have a back up for everything).

    To save money I went to a local guy who works out of his house to buy what he built.
    The things that (he said) are essential for a good workflow is a good video card, an SSD hard drive (no moving parts to create a bottle neck), and plenty of RAM.

    This all works well for me.

  2. Good question. If you are just starting out, I completey agree with Larry although I manage very well with my 2009 iMac 27" with 1 tera internal and a whole bunch of 1 to 3 tera byte externals especially if you do any video. I manage fine with a single monitor. My now aging system finds the larger files of today's cameras slows it down, that gives my brain a chance to catch up and since I never gang anything (I am not a one size fits all kinda guy) this does not bother me.

    But for you, I would think so much depends on how old your PC and its hardware is and how powerful. If it has a lot of punch for visual files that can easily get up to a couple hundred megs or more in post processing, then I wouldstick with that but up your ram to max hopefully 16megs. You will carry a lot of working load of RAM. If it does not have that kind of pixel crunching capacity, keep it for office work or whatever it was good for like checking website functionality and invest in new Apple equipment as recommended above. You can certainly manage with a single monitor to start and add another later if you find you need it. Macs allow you to have a number of windows open at the same time, very useful in photo processing. I often keep a second older monitor plugged in just to hold the windows while working on the actual files on the larger Apple one. But everyone works out their own work flow.

    But if you are doing the photography properly and shooting using RAW, you will find you need a lot of storage especially since you need to back up everything at least once and especially if you are putting through a lot of properties.

    So basically, if your existing equipment can crunch your photos for now as you enter the field and are testing the waters, stick with it. If not, invest in the Apple products and start up on the right foot.

  3. If you are also considering doing video, don't think that the MacPro is too expensive. It's a premium over Windows machines, but could easily pay for itself in the first year by saving time.

    I recommend a desktop system over a laptop. With a laptop, you are locked into some features such as the video card. Some laptops are now using RAM soldered to the motherboard so if you don't purchase your laptop maxed out, there is no upgrading later. Laptops are also much more difficult to service if something goes wrong. I have a laptop that is great to have with my on some jobs for tethering and ingesting photos into LR catalogs, but I do my heavy lifting on the desktop in the office.

    Apples makes a reasonable Windows machine. I use VMware Fusion to have Windows XP, 7 and Ubuntu Linux running simultaneously on my MacPro (an older one, not the one about the size of a can of Fosters). I do some engineering work and a few applications I need are only on Windows. Having the Mac means I only need to have one computer on the desk and I can still get all of my work done. I can also check my web site with every browser on each platform.

    I like the iMacs, but I'm not sure I would recommend the Retina display. It's gorgeous, but I remember that it maxes out the video card and can make programs like the latest version of LightRoom run slower. Anyone know if that's still the case? The iMac still has many of the same problems as a laptop. The whole computer system is in one package; if any one part dies, the whole thing has to go in for service. With a system that is more ala carte, you can replace the piece that stops working and may have more options in choosing vendors.

  4. If you have the time and are somewhat technically inclined you can build your own Mac computer much cheaper than buying an off-the-shelf Apple. They are called "Hackintosh's" and run the latest OS software. You can actually build a computer equivalent to a Mac Pro for around $1000. There are people doing it all the time and you build it the way you want...not the way Apple wants. The advantage is that every component is replaceable without having to trash the whole computer and start over if something goes bad or you want to upgrade a component. The site has install software for the operating system to make things easier and recommended components to make sure everything works like a Mac. They also have experts on the forum if you get stuck. This site has been up helping people for a long time, too, so don't think you may get left out on a limb if you build a Hackintosh. Check out Youtube also, there are many videos there on how to build one.

    Go to and check it out.

    Just so you know, I have no affiliation with this site, there just should be other ways. I am a big fan of Apple products, too, and own a Mac myself. I just think they are very overpriced.

  5. I just upgraded to a new custom PC that I built for about $700 from a local Micro-center. I'm running ubuntu with a NICE video card (Gigabyte r9 270x), 16GB of RAM (which I rarely use more than 8GB), and an AMD 8-core processor. After I installed the right driver for the video card, I'm amazed with how quickly I can process RAW photographs. It saves a ton of time!

    I'm somewhat technical, so this system works great for me.

  6. I have always used PC. If I did just photography and video I would most likely go with Apple, but I use so much software for CAD/CAM that has never been made for Apple. Many people on forums that work with multicopters and gimbals get frustrated because there is a lack of support for Apple computers since most of the designers are Windows users. So it really depends on what else do you do with your computer.

  7. My mistake: I tried to go the less-expensive route and went with a 13" MacBook Pro (2013). The problem is that the laptop doesn't have a separate graphics processor so Lightroom and Photoshop are DOG-SLOW for me, even AFTER upgrading to a SSD. I'm going to upgrade to an iMac soon, just can't decide which. Either way, like everyone else has said, you're gonna need lots of storage.

  8. People can quickly say that Apple is superior to PC but you can never get to the price points that PC offers. 3k for a computer w/ 16GB of ram and a 1TB drive? Are you kidding me? I spent less than $1,200 for a FULL custom PC build (AMD 8 core processor, decent card, 16GB of ram, 2 2TB raid drives, 250GB samsung SSD, external drive, usb 3.0, etc. etc. etc.). Not worth it IMO.

  9. In our profession Apple is always the top choice, I just feel they are overpriced. Apples are super, no arguments, please. I buy directly from HP, minimum order for a computer now days =, Windows 7 (not 8!), 16Gb RAM (A MUST), good graphics card, storage, etc. You can buy about the best for $ 1,200. I put this up in case $$$ might hold you back from moving UP!

    Today's new machines are Fun to Drive, Tom Everitt

  10. Larry, you really came out of the closet as an Apple "fan boy" 🙂
    I have to add a little balance to your testimony. Nikon, Canon, mirrorless.........Mac vs PC. They are all tools, it's all about how well they suit your workflow....and budget. I have never, and will never, get caught up in buying something because that is the trend. When I got involved with computers it was in the 90's and Apple was actually in decline ( before Jobs came back) and way over priced at 2 to 3 times a PC. I am also not a luxury consumer willing to spend money just to have a certain brand name...again, they are all tools. With that said Apple makes some pretty amazing products. However, contrary to your experience I have been running windows 7 X64 pro without a hint of any problems for many years now and have recently upgraded to the very latest specs and enjoy premium performance for photography and video for an investment of about 1K. I will readily admit ( because I am not a Microsoft/Windows fanboy) that Windows Vista and Windows 8 were a complete disaster. I am betting on Windows 10 being the upgrade that will continue to extend PC functionality into the future. As a kind reminder, switching operating systems will require a learning curve to get completely up to speed. Discussions like this are interesting as they reveal how emotional people get over the products they use.
    Enjoy what you have. Peace, Ron

  11. I don't put much weight into the Windows vs. Mac debate. They both work adequately and photography software such as Adobe Lightroom will work on both. I put much more weight on these three factors:

    Read/Write speed: You are reading/writing hundreds of files that, in my case, are around 24 MB per file. I have my camera set to take 5 bracketed images, so you can imagine how quickly that adds up. My SSD drive made a huge jump in performance over my old HDD.

    Memory: Windows and Mac both have a feature called virtual memory. If the computer starts running low on physical RAM memory, it will start reading/writing to the drive. The problem is that the reading/writing to the drive is an extremely slow operation compared to reading/writing to physical memory. It's vitally important to have enough physical memory so your computer doesn't need to use virtual memory. In my case, I have 16 GB RAM and I disabled virtual memory on my computer (Windows).

    CPU: If you've taken care of the the first two items above, the CPU will now be your computer's choke point. Investing in a good processor will improve performance with editing and transformation operations.

  12. I use both. Apple and PC side by side, same desktop. The Apple is a mini-mac, which I prefer for most things (LR, PS). I like the OP-SYS far better then windows. But, it's crap for video editing, so I use a beefed up Dell for Premiere. The Mac always crashes using Premiere, so there's no point to it. That said, the windows machine crashes for no particular reason at all. Just random Windows BS.

    Between the two, I do a pretty robust volume, but I don't actually trust either of them to be the sole platform I rely on.

  13. I am currently using a Dell M3800 mobile workstation with an i7, 16 GB Ram, 256 GB SSD, 1 TB HDD, NVIDIA K1100M Graphics Card (2 GB memory) with 4 years of Dell ProSupport (Complete coverage with next day repairs and service at any location. I could literally throw my computer against the wall and Dell would have to replace it for me...) along with a Dell UP2414Q 24" 4K moniter. I really like this setup because it is super powerful and I can also work on the go anytime I want. When I go out of town, I still need a computer, I can't imagine not having a laptop. If you are going with PC, dell is a great choice and I would highly recommend their ProSupport. This setup has been great for about a year now, I can process any raw photos quickly and work with 4K video quickly and easily too.

    You can't really go wrong with a Mac, and my set up above is about the same price as a comparable setup on a Mac. It just came down to preference. I actually like working on Window 8.1, but maybe I am the only one...

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