A photographer’s computer is an important part of his or her gear. It’s what allows a good photo to be edited and manipulated into an excellent photo. Computers allow photographers to enhance colors, crop out unwanted scenery, or create a 3D virtual walkthrough.
The requirements for a powerful computer, both in terms of functions and raw processing, lead many photographers to ask — should I use a PC or a Mac?
It’s an age-old question posed by creatives across industries and disciplines. For many, Macs have always encapsulated the “artsy” crowd. PCs were seen as more a general computing device.
With developments in technology and operating systems, the differences between PC and Mac are few. But the question remains: should photographers use a PC or Mac?
Use What You Have First
Buying a new computer requires a significant investment of your hard-earned dollars. If you have a functioning and powerful(-enough) PC or Mac, continuing to use it might be your best bet for now.
Why? As a photographer, your first priority should be maintaining and building your photography equipment. The best computer in the world isn’t going to take a gorgeous photo of Mt. Rainier for you. You still need the right camera, lenses, and gear to make that happen.
If your computer — whether it’s a PC or a Mac — can still handle photo editing and other tasks without unreasonable rendering times or crashes, save your money. You’ll know when it’s time to upgrade once your computer starts to show its age.
Are You More Familiar With a PC or Mac?
Let’s face it — do you really want to learn a completely new operating system just to use the same software you’re accustomed to? That time is probably better spent actually shooting photos, right?
While it was once believed software like Photoshop ran better on Mac, that’s no longer the case.
Because Mac has no clear-cut performance advantage over PC (and vice-versa), you’re free to use the one you’re most familiar with. Are you already using a slew of Apple products in your day-to-day workflow? If so, you might want to take advantage of Apple’s convenient compatibility between products.
On the other hand, if you’re more comfortable using a PC then, by all means, continue to do so. As the old saying goes…if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Mac is (Usually) More Expensive Than PC
A new Mac is almost always more expensive than a comparable PC. This is, in part, due to Apple’s proprietary hardware. In comparison, PCs are made by a plethora of manufacturers or can be custom-built to your specifications by yourself.
Because Macs are built with proprietary hardware, you’re locked into the Apple ecosystem. That means relying on Apple for repairs, customer service, and replacement components. It also means buying most of your computing equipment from a single vendor without much room for competition (and, with that, competitive prices).
Macs are also less easily-upgraded. As technology progresses and your Mac starts to show its age, your only recourse (short of a few options, like upgrading the RAM) is to buy a new Mac. With a PC, you can swap components out as they age, keeping your computer as close to cutting-edge as possible (even if it gradually starts to resemble Frankenstein’s monster).
Macs Are Generally More Stable Than PCs
Each Mac is built with components designed to work together. Apple engineers design motherboards to function perfectly with the other intended hardware. The computer’s drivers and firmware are then custom-tailored and optimized to sync with the Mac’s configuration.
PCs are different. How many times have you had to update drivers or firmware through Windows Update or the manufacturer itself? Driver conflicts can cause blue screens of death and instability.
On the flip side, Apple delivers its updates together and from one source. And because the computers in a specific Mac configuration vary so slightly, if at all, driver and firmware updates introduce far less instability — if there even is any.
Apple also has significantly less market share than PC manufacturers in the computer market. While that sounds like a negative at first, it means that Macs are less likely to be targeted with viruses and malware.
Should Photographers Use a Desktop or Laptop?
In general, desktops are more powerful and cost-effective than laptops. The added internal space means beefier, power-hungry components can be installed.
A PC desktop also affords you a more customized experience. Because it’s stationary, you can buy a beautiful 27-inch monitor and not worry about having to lug it around with you everywhere. There are more ports and connections for peripheral devices and plenty of room to upgrade.
But desktops — both PC and Mac — lack the versatility of laptops. A laptop can come with you to a shoot so you can edit on the fly or during downtime. You can more easily show your clients samples of your work or examples of what you’re discussing.
If you’re a student, a laptop can come with you to class or the dorms while doubling as your photo editing device.
The best solution, if your funds allow it, is to buy both a desktop and laptop. The desktop can serve as your office computer, handling any heavy-duty editing or post-processing. Your laptop can come with you so you can still get work done when you’re not at the office.
If you can’t afford both options, think about how often you’ll be able to work on the go. Does your schedule allow for you to edit while mobile? Have you ever wished you could do some spot editing in front of a client?
On the flip side, how much power do you expect from a computer? If you’re commonly performing intensive post-processing work, you might be better off with a desktop.
Should a Photographer Buy a PC or a Mac?
Gone is the belief that Macs reign supreme for photographers. The performance similarities between PCs and Macs mean you’re fine with using either, but that doesn’t help you make a purchasing decision.
Instead, the decision of whether a photographer should buy a PC or Mac is entirely preferential. Macs still carry the perception of being ideal for those who work in the visual arts, so if maintaining an image is important to you, Mac is a solid choice.
Macs also take the lead in the realms of ergonomics and simplicity. Apple makes beautiful machines that prioritize users’ comfort and convenience. “They just work,” more or less.
PCs offer the most choice and customization, as well as a lower price point. While you may have to deal with the occasional crash or inconvenience, there’s a reason why PCs still dominate the market.
The best computer for a photographer is one that meets their needs and preferences, whether it’s a PC or a Mac.