What Is the Best Mac for Photographers in 2020?
Before we start
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You might think that photo editing doesn’t require any special hardware. However, if you’re an experienced photographer, you know that not all computers can pull off the necessary software such as Adobe Photoshop.
But what about Macs? As with any other brand, some Apple computers are more fit for the purpose than others. In this article, we look at the best Macs for photographers, compare their characteristics, and discuss the most popular photo editing software.
Here’s a short list of the best MacBooks for photography:
- Ultimate best: MacBook Pro 16-inch (2019) or 13-inch (2020)
- Best budget: MacBook Air (2020)
- Best desktop: 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina Display (2020)
Why use a Mac for photo editing?
All of the high-end components of a MacBook are packed into a light-weight body, making it portable and easy to carry around at all times. Not to mention the exceptionally long battery life that provides the opportunity to work away from a charging port for an entire day. As for iMacs, photographers can take advantage of the large screen size, superb resolution, and powerful multi-core i7 processors of these phenomenal computers.
Recommended system requirements
We’ve prepared a list of key things you need to look out for when buying your best Mac for photo editing.
For the best photo editing experience, it is essential that you pick the best available display. Ideally, you need a large, high definition Retina screen. IPS technology, which is incorporated in all MacBook and iMac models post-2012, makes images brighter and bolder and guarantees accurate color reproduction. A Retina display with a substantial pixel density is what you’re looking for — regardless of the size of the project you’re working on.
Photo editing software is rather demanding — especially if you deal with high-resolution raw files and work with advanced effects in Photoshop or Lightroom. It’s crucial that you invest in a powerful discrete graphics card—make sure your Mac has at least Intel UHD Graphics 617.
Don’t forget about RAM and storage space — you’ll need a lot of those. We recommend at least 8GB of RAM and 500GB of internal SSD storage minimum. The more RAM you have, the faster and smoother your editing experience will be.
As a photographer, you know that you have to connect cameras, SD cards, and other peripherals to your Mac on a regular basis. Therefore, the number and type of ports on a computer is an important aspect when making a choice. Think about the camera input and the type of cable you use for your camera when selecting a Mac, and don’t forget about the SD cards.
Finally, consider the portability of your device. Whether photography is an occupation or a hobby for you, it’s a dynamic activity — you’ll need to move around a lot even if you have your own studio. A laptop is in advantage over a desktop computer due to its low weight combined with impressive components. Mac laptops have pixel-perfect screens with excellent color support. Additionally, the wide contrast of the Retina displays will keep highlights and shadow detail consistently visible.
You’ll probably need to free up some space to install a photo editing app — they’re usually pretty big.
To clean junk and useless apps from your Mac, just follow these 3 easy steps — install MacKeeper, scan your device, and delete rubbish!
Let’s start right away.
The best MacBooks for photographers in 2020
We talked to professional photographers to our team, analyzed all the specs and evaluated reviews to compile a list of the most preferred choices for photo editing. Here’s what we’ve got:
MacBook Pro for photo editing
The new 13-inch MacBook Pro 2020 is one of the best Apple creations yet, featuring the Magic Keyboard, a Touch Bar, and Touch ID for utmost efficiency and productivity. With the Touch Bar innovation that came in 2018, it got easier to work in Photoshop as there are a number of useful shortcuts you won't find on any other laptop. These include a selection of your favorite photos, quick addition to albums, and editing straight in the Photos app, among other handy functions.
The baseline dual-core laptop can be equipped with a 4.5GHz 10th generation quad-core i7 processor and 32GB of RAM, which is twice the usual amount for a 13-inch MacBook Pro. This makes editing in Photoshop a seamless process with up to 50% speed improvement. The Iris Plus graphics card delivers 80% faster processing of threaded filters.
The display of the MacBook uses True Tone technology with 500 nits brightness and as much as 25% more colours than sRGB, which is ideal for accurate image representation. You can incorporate up to 4TB of SSD storage — an incredible space to store your photographs. Finally, four Thunderbolt 3 ports are available to connect your peripherals. All of these components are packed in just 1.4 kilos.
|13-inch MacBook Pro (2020) Specs|
Basic: 1.4GHz quad-core 8th-generation Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz
Configurable to: 2.0GHz quad-core 10th-generation Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz
Configurable to: 4TB
Configurable to: 32GB
|Display: 13.3-inch Retina IPS|
|Battery life: Up to 10 hours|
|Ports and peripherals: Two Thunderbolt 3 ports|
|Weight: 3.1lbs (1.4kg)|
In addition to the 13-inch model, photographers must consider the 16-inch MacBook that came out in 2019 and is due to be updated soon. It’s a larger, more powerful and more expensive device that will fit those hungry for better components and a larger screen, still packed in a relatively small frame.
|16-inch MacBook Pro (2019) Specs|
Basic: 2.6GHz 6‑core Intel Core i7
Configurable to: 2.4GHz 8‑core Intel Core i9
Configurable to: 8TB
Configurable to: 64GB
|Display: 16-inch Retina IPS|
|Battery life: Up to 11 hours|
|Ports and peripherals: Four Thunderbolt 3 ports|
|Weight: 4.3lbs (2.0kg)|
MacBook Air for photo editing
MacBook Air is the cheapest among all Apple laptops with Retina display. It can become your favorite photo editing assistant. Being the most portable Mac laptop with the longest battery life, MacBook Air is a great option for photographers who are always on the run.
The base model costs as little as $999, although the specs of such a laptop won’t satisfy the needs for bigger projects. The processor is 10th Gen Core i3 — we recommend at least i5. RAM of 8GB is substantial with 256GB of SSD storage on top of it. Finally, the laptop is equipped with Intel Iris Plus Graphics. All of this is packed in just 1.27 kilos.
The computer can have several upgrades. The first would increase the cost to $1,299, but the specs are much better: 1.1GHz quad-core i5 CPU and 512GB of SSD storage among the ones that are different. The most customized MacBook Air would come at $2,249 with a 10th Gen core i7 CPU, 16GB RAM and 2TB SSD. One would argue that it’s easier to just buy a MacBook Pro.
The slim laptop doesn’t allow a lot of room for ports — you’ll only find two Thunderbolt 3 ports as opposed to four in a 13-inch MacBook Pro. Thus, if you want to connect more than just a camera and a pair of headphones, you might need to invest in a USB hub.
The display of an Air is quite rewarding. The 13.3-inch 2560x2600 panel does create size limitations, but it reaches 113% of the sRGB gamut and outstands the nit average, having an impressive 382 nits.
|MacBook Air (2020) Specs|
Basic: 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core i3
Configurable to: 1.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7
Configurable to: 2TB
Configurable to: 16GB
|Display: 13.3-inch Retina IPS|
|Battery life: Up to 12 hours|
|Ports and peripherals: Two Thunderbolt 3 ports|
|Weight: 2.8lbs (1.3kg)|
The best iMac for photo editing
If you’re one of those people who prefer a desktop computer to a light and portable laptop, a 27-inch iMac with a 5K Retina display is your best bet for Mac photo editing. The new 2020 release equips the technological giant with a nano-texture glass, bringing the photo editing experience up to a new level.
The powerful Coffee Lake processor of up to 10 cores can handle pretty much anything you throw its way. You’re also presented with up to 126GB of on-board RAM and terabytes of SSD storage space.
|27-inch iMac (2020) Specs|
Basic: 3.1GHz 6‑core 10th-generation Intel Core i5
Configurable to: 3.6GHz 10‑core 10th-generation Intel Core i9
Configurable to: 8TB
Configurable to: 128GB
|Display: 27-inch Retina 5K 5120x2880, configurable to nano-texture glass|
|Ports and peripherals: SDXC card slot, four USB-A ports, two Thunderbolt 3 ports|
|Weight: 19.7lbs (8.92kg)|
How to Optimize your Mac for Photo Editing?
Photo editing is an intricate art and it's also one of the most resource-consuming tasks you can do on a Mac. Lack of free space, plenty of duplicated photos scattered all over the folders may hamper your photo editing process.
Whenever you get the beach ball icon on your screen, it's high time to clean up your RAM memory. The Memory Cleaner feature in MacKeeper will easily do that for you. Simply run this tool when working on your photos to enhance the performance of your photo-editing software. And speaking about such software, Update Tracker will keep your photo editing apps updated at all times.
As a photographer you do need a lot of storage space to store images after photoshoots. Not to spend extra money on additional gigabytes, you can get rid of photo duplicates. Use Duplicates Finder to scan for copies and check how much space can be reclaimed! Besides duplicates, such files as caches, logs, apps leftovers, and items sent to Trash but still not deleted from there can be the reason for lack of space. Delete these items with one simple feature — that is Safe Cleanup!
Are Macs better than PCs for photo editing?
The answer to the question of whether Macs are better than PCs for photo editing boils down to personal preference. Some photographers choose Macs for design, reliability, ergonomics, and ease of use. Others prefer the PC's lower cost, better graphics card performance, and upgradability. Ultimately, if you already own a PC or a Mac, you don’t have to switch your device for a seamless photo editing experience.
Although we can’t settle the perennial debate Mac vs. PC for photographers, let us list the selling points for both devices.
Pros of Mac for photographers:
higher color accuracy
Touch Bar Photoshop shortcuts
stronger malware protection
better software optimization
Pros of PC for photographers:
dedicated graphics card
Why do photographers use Macs?
Many photographers use Macs because of the outstanding display quality offered by Apple devices. Whether it’s gamut coverage, color accuracy or peak brightness, Macs deliver consistently great performance. Naturally, professional photographers consider these criteria crucial enough to base their buying decisions on them.
Mac for photographers is more than just a tool for post-processing but also for showcasing their photography. Photographers prefer Mac for showing their photos to colleagues or customers. Thus, they can be certain that their photos look consistently great across different Apple devices.
Does Photoshop work better on Mac vs PC?
To understand whether Photoshop works better on Mac vs. PC, it’s important to test the app performance on devices with similar configurations. Tests run on Mac and PC with similar Intel chips show no considerable performance difference. However, Mac blows the competition out of the water with its M1 chip.
Whether it’s MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, photoshop works lightning-fast on the devices carrying the M1 chip inside. Photoshop for Mac opens instantly and allows selecting subjects in multi-layered images 8 times faster. According to Adobe, new Macs perform other routine Photoshop tasks 1.5X faster than Intel-based models.
How do I edit RAW photos on Mac?
To edit RAW photos on Mac, use either the Photos app or third-party apps. Although the Photos app does not have many bells and whistles, you shouldn’t overlook it. The app has an intuitive interface and can be used to change brightness, contrast, and apply other basic tweaks to your images.
If you decide to edit RAW photos on Mac, you should know that the Photos app supports non-destructive editing. With non-destructive editing, you can apply changes to your images that could be reversed at any moment. If you want to restore your basic RAW image, simply click the Revert to Original button.
Can I edit RAW photos in iPhoto?
Yes, you can edit RAW photos in iPhoto. Simply select an image and click the Edit button in the lower right corner of the app. In the panel that appears, select an editing tool and apply the desired changes.
Note that Apple has discontinued support for iPhoto in favor of the Photos app. Although you can keep editing raw photos in iPhoto, consider updating macOS to get the new and improved editing app.
To edit RAW photos in the Photo app, double click the image and click the Edit button. Then, apply the changes using the editing tools from the panel on the right.