Photography cannot be done effectively without a PC for editing your shots. Even though there are smartphone apps that edit photos, but nothing can replace editing your shots on a computer. You need the best photo editing PC build guide, which is where this guide comes in, to help you select the best hardware components you need to build the best PC for photography and photo editing in 2020.
- Considerations for Best PC for Photography and Photo Editing
- Why build a PC for Photography instead of buying a pre-built one?
- Most important Components for Best Photo Editing PC Build
- Best PC for Photography & Photo Editing Build Recommendations
- Intel Photo Editing PC Builds
- AMD Photo Editing PC Builds
- Paid Photo Editing Software
- Free Photo Editing Software
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Considerations for Best PC for Photography and Photo Editing
Choosing components for your photography PC build boils down to a basic question, which is:
What platform are you going to base your PC build, Intel or AMD? Well, in short, this question is like both sides of a coin. It just depends on where you want to pitch your tent. Intel has been a strong performer in the processor industry with a broad range of processors to choose from. In terms of performance, Intel used to dominate the space, until when AMD released their Ryzen 2 and 3 line of processors. Presently, the AMD Zen 3 architecture featuring Ryzen 4000 CPUs will likely be released between July and September 2020.
Photoshop performs exceptionally well with a quad-core processor. Ideally, you should go for an Intel i5 or i7 quad-core processor. Our recommended processors for a photography/photo editing PC do not include a Pentium processor for performance reasons. This is the best time to build an AMD PC because of the value the Ryzen 2 and 3 processors offer. We have seen the Ryzen 7 processor beating the Intel Core i9 processor in gaming performance benchmarks tests.
Whichever camp you want to go with, here are some important considerations you must have in mind when choosing components.
Why build a PC for Photography instead of buying a pre-built one?
There are several advantages when it comes to building your own PC for photography and photo editing. It might sound over-hyped, but it’s actually cost-effective building a PC from scratch than buying a pre-built PC. We’ve compiled a list of reasons why you should build your own PC, compared to buying one off the shelf. You can read it up here.
Most important Components for Best Photo Editing PC Build
You need a multi-core processor, preferably a quad-core processor, with high clock speeds. An i5 or i7 processor should do just fine. It doesn’t mean an i3 processor won’t do the job, but the system performance will drop noticeably. Adobe Photoshop performs best with a quad-core processor like an i5 or i7 with high clock speeds.
Photoshop or Lightroom requires lots of RAM. In fact, Photoshop can be configured to utilize up to 100% of installed RAM. Ideally, go for the most RAM your motherboard can accommodate.
You need a color-accurate monitor to display your photos exactly the way it should be displayed. Not all monitors perform great in this regard, which is why we recommend the 24-Inch Viewsonic Professional Monitor for serious professionals like you. It is a great monitor for accurate color reproduction and fidelity. Alternatively, you can check out other recommended monitors in our detailed review for the best 24-inch monitors.
- GRAPHICS CARD
You may not need a dedicated graphics card, but it is recommended to install one. Adobe Photoshop requires a graphics card for some of its features. Also, if you plan to game on your PC, then get one. See the tables below for recommendations.
Follow the recommendations for the best photography PC build. The components for each build have been vetted and cross-checked for compatibility issues. Please note that qualifying purchases earn us a little commission. This is to support the work we are doing.
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Best PC for Photography & Photo Editing Build Recommendations
Intel Photo Editing PC Builds
Take your pick from 3 options – Budget, Mid-range, and High-end builds. EACH CONFIGURATION HAS BEEN VETTED FOR COMPATIBILITY ISSUES.
Budget Intel Build – Best PC for Photography and Photo Editing in 2020
This build is within the $500-700 budget range. If you’re a beginner photographer, a student, or hobbyist, this might be ideal for you.
On the Intel budget configuration option, we have the Intel Core i3 processor paired with the Asus Prime Z370-II LGA 1151 platform motherboard. At a decent price, this processor doesn’t disappoint. It is capable of handling Photoshop or Lightroom workflows, though your output will dramatically increase with a higher processor like i5 or i7.
The RAM is 8GB of fast DDR4 RAM from Corsair for multitasking. However, be warned that 8GB of RAM is not enough for the RAM hungry Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. It is advisable to go for at least 16GB of RAM for a budget build.
For the graphics card, we recommend the XFX Radeon RX 570 RS XXX Edition, a mid-range card that should serve your purposes. However, if you prefer a lower-priced card, you may go for the Geforce GTX 1050 which is a great budget card.
Storage options include a 1TB Seagate Barracuda for storing your photos and other files and a Samsung 860 EVO 250GB SSD for your boot drive. The idea is to install Windows on the SSD for faster boot and file handling operations.
Other components include the optional LG Blu-ray Optical drive for archiving your photos to a Blu-ray disc, the Logitech MK550 Wireless Keyboard and mouse combo which is also optional, the Thermaltake Smart 430 Watts power supply, and the DeepCool MATREXX 55 PC Case, a beautiful and functional E-ATX case with lots of expansion options. With this selection of components, you’d be totally proud of your budget photo editing PC build.
Finally, you need a capable monitor that will deliver great results when viewing photos on your computer. The monitor is optional though, but if you like it, you can go for the Viewsonic 24-inch professional monitor. This is a great monitor that performs incredibly well with its excellent color reproduction capabilities.
Mid-Range Intel Build – Build a PC for Photography and Photo Editing in 2020
This is in the budget range of $700 – 1500, depending on your choice of components. Here you’ll find Intel Core i5 and i7 CPUs (see table below)
Our mid-range Intel build recommendation is based on the Intel Core i5 9600K processor, a 6-core processor for maximum performance at this price range. Please note the “K” on the processor name denotes it is overclockable. This means you can increase the clock speed to wring out max performance from the chip. By the way, this is possible by utilizing the included Intel Performance Optimizer software.
In addition to this, the processor is bundled with the Intel Iris 630 graphics chip to drive your graphics performance. We paired this processor with the Gigabyte Z390 motherboard for the best performance as this motherboard supports overclocking of the processor.
The RAM is Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB DDR4 RAM for speedy performance. Storage options include a Samsung 512GB SSD which improves your workflow drastically, compared to a traditional hard drive. For best performance, you should use your SSD storage as a cache drive in Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom.
You’ve also got a 3TB Seagate Barracuda for permanent storage. This is more than enough to store your catalog of customer photos unless you want to go for a higher capacity drive such as a 6TB or 8TB hard drive
Then there’s the Cooler Master Hyper 212 LED Cooler for cooling the processor. This is a nice solid CPU cooler that features four Direct Contact Heat Pipes for optimal cooling, with beautiful LED lighting. This cooler is a worthy upgrade from a bundled stock CPU cooler.
The Power Supply Unit is rated at 500 Watts, the Thermaltake Smart 600 Watt Power Supply. We’ve also got the optional LG Blu-ray burner and the optional Logitech MK550 keyboard and mouse combo.
The case is the Thermaltake Versa H15 Micro ATX Mini Tower Computer Case with its distinctive brushed aluminum finish. In addition, this case features a tool-free drive bays for easy drive installation. There is also plenty of space to install even the largest graphics cards. Don’t forget that this case also supports liquid cooling, in case you might want to use this for a high-end build.
For the monitor (optional), we’ve got the BenQ PhotoView 27-inch Photography monitor, an excellent choice for a mid-range monitor for accurate color reproduction. This monitor produces outstanding results for photography and photo editing workflows.
High-End Intel Build – Best PC for Photography and Photo Editing in 2020
For this budget range, errrh, money is not a problem. The best of the best components (some components are optional)
The high-end Intel build is powered by the indomitable Intel i7 9700K 8-Core 8-Thread processor. For those us that are Intel fans, this is the processor to have in Intel’s 9th Generation offering. This processor is a solid performer any day, thanks to its superior engineering and specifications.
Clocked at 3.6GHz, the intelligent Intel Performance Maximizer overclocking tool allows the chip to max out at 4.9GHz under load. With this kind of raw processing power, Adobe Photoshop will work fluidly, no matter the size of the document loaded or raw files being processed.
The i7 9700K supports Intel Optane memory which considerably speeds up your applications by storing them in a special memory cache for faster access. In addition, this processor comes with integrated graphics – the Intel UHD 630 graphics. You need a discrete graphics card to be able to take advantage of CUDA or OpenCL processing in Photoshop, and also if you plan to do some video transcoding/rendering or gaming by the side (See the table above for recommendations).
The motherboard is the Asus Prime Z390-A motherboard, the perfect choice for media professionals. This board has an array of useful features you would love. These include
- M.2 Connectivity
- 5-Way Optimization for overclocking
- 8-channel HD Gaming Audio
- Advanced Fan Control for Dynamic Cooling
- Lots of connectivity options
- Aesthetically pleasing with the RGB lighting
Storage options include a 6TB Seagate Barracuda hard drive for file storage. With this much storage, you’ll hardly run out of space to store your photos and RAW files. The boot drive is handled by a Samsung EVO 1TB NVMe drive. Experience unprecedented transfer speeds with this drive. You can even partition it however you want and use one partition to install Windows, while the other half can be used to as your Photoshop cache drive or for storing your Lightroom catalogs.
The RAM is a 32GB Corsair Vengeance LPX memory kit. Anything above this size is overkill for photo editing. The rest of the hardware includes a 750 Watt power supply from Corsair, a Cooler Master RGB Air cooler for the processor, and optional Logitech keyboard and mouse combo, the also optional Asus Blu-ray burner for file archiving, a Thermaltake P3 case and the (optional) BenQ IPS 32-inch post-production monitor.
For the record, the BenQ 32-inch monitor is a high performer when it comes to color accuracy and output. Added to this, it has a display resolution of 3840×2160 pixels (UHD). With this whopping resolution, you have all the screen estate you’ll ever need for editing your photos.
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AMD Photo Editing PC Builds
TAKE YOUR PICK FROM 3 OPTIONS – BUDGET, MID-RANGE, AND HIGH-END BUILDS. EACH CONFIGURATION HAS BEEN VETTED FOR COMPATIBILITY ISSUES.
Budget AMD Build – Best PC for Photography and Photo Editing in 2020
This AMD build is within the $500-700 budget range, depending on your choice of components. If you’re a beginner photographer, a student, or hobbyist, this might be ideal for you.
Our processor of choice is the AMD Ryzen 3 2200G Processor with Radeon Vega 8 Graphics. Clocked at 3.7GHz, this processor is packed with value because you are getting a processor, a cooler and a graphics for a little less than 100 dollars.
This is a value processor with four cores, all unlocked. You can tune the performance further with the bundled AMD Ryzen Master Utility for overclocking the processor cores.
For the motherboard, you’ve got the future-proof Asus Prime AM4 motherboard platform which should still fit if you’re going to be upgrading to a higher processor on the AMD platform.
There is no need for a Graphics card because the AMD Ryzen 3 2200G has its own integrated graphics processor. Since we are building a dedicated Photo Editing PC, we don’t really need a discreet GPU, unless you want to do some gaming by the side, then you should go for the XFX Radeon RX 570 RS XXX Edition 1286MHz, 8GB GDDR5 which is a great gaming GPU.
Every other component remains the same as the Intel Budget Photo Editing PC Build above.
Mid-Range AMD Build – Best PC for Photography and Photo Editing in 2020
A typical budget for this build ranges from $500 to $1500 (see table above). We have AMD only builds in this category. Here’s a breakdown below.
Our mid-range configuration for Photography and Photo Editing features the 6-core Ryzen 5 3600X processor. This is a great value processor, and like we stated earlier, AMD builds are the way to go with the recent Ryzen 2 release. With 6-cores of processing power, your photo editing inside Photoshop and Lightroom should be smooth and lag-free.
Our motherboard of choice, the MSI Arsenal Gaming B450 Tomahawk Motherboard offers great value and options at the price point. You’ve got plenty of connectivity options and a RAM capacity of 64GB (just in case you don’t want to stick with the recommended 16GB).
Note that this board is a gaming certified board, which might give you the motivation to turn your rig into a gaming PC. However, it still performs extremely well at other applications such as photo editing.
Other components include a 3T Barracuda drive for storage, a Samsung 860 PRO 512GB SSD for the boot drive, and the graphics card – the MSI Gaming RX 590 GPU with 8GB of graphics RAM. The Ryzen 5 3600X doesn’t come with integrated graphics, hence the need for a discrete graphics card.
All the other components remain the same as the Intel build.
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High-End AMD Build – Build a PC for Photography and Photo Editing in 2020
In this category, the budget is in the range of $1500 and above, depending on the choice of components.
Here are highlights of the various recommended components. Our recommended AMD build features every other component except the processor and motherboard.
For the processor, we have the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X 8-core 16-thread processor, a top performer in the AMD lineup. This is a value-packed processor for the price, as it beats its Intel competitors such as the Intel Core i9 9900K hands down on benchmark tests. This processor rocks in terms of performance, which is made possible by its impressive specifications. These include:
- Fully unlocked multiplier for overclocking
- Low power footprint of 65 Watts
- Large 36MB of cache for faster performance
- Max frequency of 4.4GHz across all cores
- Bundled Prism RGB Cooler
Without a doubt, this AMD build is the way to go for a high-performance PC for photography and photo editing.
We pair this processor with the Gigabyte Aorus Elite Motherboard, a premium motherboard at a decent price. This board is loaded with useful features and functionality to fast-track your media and productivity tasks. Heres a breakdown of its features.
- Smart Fan
- REG Fusion
- Ultra-Durable components
- M.2 Thermal Guard
- Integrated IO Shield
- Numerous connectivity options
You can never go wrong with this AMD build, as this is the best time to build one. Whether you are going for an AMD or Intel build, you can trust these recommended components which we have painstakingly researched just for you. Alternatively, if you need recommendations for a video editing build, we recommend checking out our detailed guide on the best 4K Video Editing PC Build for 2020.
If you are planning on building a gaming PC, don’t forget to also check out our best gaming PC build guide for all budget categories. It’s worth checking out. Click here to move to the step-by-step guide on how to build your own PC.
Paid Photo Editing Software
Here’s a rundown of the best paid and free Photo Editing Apps for your Photo Editing PC.
Adobe’s flagship image Editing and manipulation app which is the industry standard, is now even more affordable… Seriously, you can’t build the best PC for Photography without Photoshop.
Adobe Photoshop Elements
Adobe’s next best Photo Retouching and Editing App.
Adobe’s Photoshop Lightroom remains the gold standard in pro photo workflow software for serious photographers…
Corel PaintShop Pro
A worthy Adobe Photoshop alternative from Corel.
Luminar is another Photoshop alternative, offering effective automatic photo enhancement, a modern interface, and some unique filters and adjustment tools.
Phase One Capture One Pro
Phase One Capture One offers pro and prosumer digital photographers excellent detail from raw camera files, as well as local adjustment, advanced color, and layer tools, but it still trails in photo-organizing features.
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Free Photo Editing Software
The lowly GIMP continues to give Photoshop a run for its money, but its limitations still remain.
A great alternative that has managed to gather a multitude of users. Offers a free and paid version
Another great alternative with some decent features that is worth checking out…
This Autodesk app will surprise you with its useful photo editing features…
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I hope this article helped you to make the right choice for the best computer for photographers in 2020. I want to hear from you. Drop your comments below in the comments section, share your experiences on your build.
Meanwhile, you can see recommendations for the Ultimate Graphic Design PC Build or the best 4K Video Editing PC Build for 2020. We’ve also got an article on the best 3D Animation and Render PC Build featuring the AMD Threadripper. If you are into Music Production, our guide will help build and set up the best Music editing PC for all budgets. Cheers
My passion for PC hardware is my greatest motivation. I love technology and how it can make life easier and less complicated! When I’m not tinkering with hardware, I’m reading. I love to travel and I usually can’t wait to sit down on my PC to work.
I’m also a copywriter, designer, video editor, and writer. I also do some 3D with 3DS Max. Do you want to reach me? Use the Social Media buttons, or shoot me an email. I’ll be glad to hear from you!