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Photographers Buying Guide – M3 MacBook Pro

In Blog, Buying Guide, Photo Taco Podcast by Jeff Harmon28 Comments

In October of 2023 Apple updated their extremely powerful line of MacBook Pro computers with M3 Apple Silicon. The size and design of the MacBook Pro is mostly unchanged, and Apple didn’t directly compare the M2 to M3 much, but early testing has shown about 20% improvement. Let me tell you what photographers should upgrade when buying an M3 MacBook Pro and if those with an M2 or M1 MacBook Pro should be upgrading.

For those who don’t need the details and just want to know the sweet spot configuration (best price to performance) of an M3 MacBook for photographers:

Most photographers should buy the base model 14″ M3 MacBook Pro 8‑core CPU, 10‑core GPU, and upgrade to 16GB of unified memory. At $1,800 this is a powerhouse photo editing computer that will last 3-5 years.

YouTube video on how to use this guide

TLDR Order of Upgrades Based On Budget

Here is a handy table with the order of the upgrades photographers should do based on their budget and needs. As has been done for many years, Apple does not make any of the 2023 M3 MacBook Pro models upgradeable, so photographers have to get what they need when they order.

Not all of the configuration options are in the table because there are some options photographers shouldn’t waste their money on. We start with the base 14″ M3 MacBook Pro configured with M3 8-core CPU / 10-core GPU, 8 GB of unified memory, and a 512GB SSD.

BudgetUpgradeInc CostNotes
$1,60014″ M3 8-core CPUN/ANot enough unified memory for most photographers
$1,80016GB unified memory13%Sweet spot for most photographers
$2,00024GB unified memory11%Recommended for photographers working with 40+ megapixel cameras and/or more than 10 layers in Photoshop
$2,2001TB SSD10%Enables editing one photo shoot from the internal SSD but most photographers will still need an external drive.
$2,40014″ M3 Pro 12-core CPU9%Sweet spot for still photographers who editing videos at least 1x/month (back down to 18GB of unified memory)
$3,20014″ M3 Max 14-core CPU33%Ouch*, but noticeable performance improvement with Premiere / Resolve
$3,70014″ M3 Max 16-core CPU16%Noticeable performance improvement with After Effects
$3,90064GB unified memory5%Noticeable performance improvement with After Effects
*If video is a significant need, a Mac Studio is more cost effective

For photographers who will rarely be connected at home, here is my advice for the budget and upgrades for the 16″ M3 MacBook Pro

BudgetUpgradeInc CostNotes
$2,50016″ M3 Pro 12-core CPUN/APower house photo editing computer, though a unified memory upgrade will better match the Processor
$2,7001TB SSD8%Enables editing one photo shoot from the internal SSD but most photographers will still need an external drive.
$3,10036GB unified memory15%Sweet spot for photographers who really need mobility
$3,50016″ M3 Max 14-core CPU13%Noticeable performance improvement with Premiere / Resolve*
$4,00016″ M3 Max 16-core CPU14%Noticeable performance improvement with After Effects
$4,20064 GB unified memory5%Noticeable performance improvement with After Effects
*If video is a significant need, a Mac Studio is more cost effective

Decision 1: Upgrade to 2023 M3 MacBook Pro?

The best way to decide if you should upgrade is if it has been over 3 years since you bought your last computer or if your needs have changed and your current computer isn’t meeting them. Outside of that, my advice is to resist the urge to get the shiny new thing from Apple and invest the money elsewhere (workshops, training, lenses, etc).

To help ease your urge toward that shiny new Mac, here is a table that tells you when most photographers are likely to benefit from an upgrade.

Current ModelUpgrade?Notes
M2 MacBook ProNoYes, there is about a 20% difference in performance, but every new model is going to be better/faster. Stick with what you have as long as it is working for you.
M2 Mac StudioNoOnly if you have found the desktop Mac limiting and need the ability to go mobile with your computer.
M2 Mac MiniMaybeOnly if you have found the desktop to be limiting and need the ability to go mobile
M2 MacBook AirNoNo question the M3 MacBook Pro would be a significant performance improvement, but if the MacBook Air is working for you wait for M4.
M1 MacBook ProNoHold off for M4 unless it isn’t meeting your needs.
M1 Mac MiniNoHold off for M4 unless it isn’t meeting your needs.
Any Intel MacYesIf you have been holding on to an Intel-based Mac, time to pull the trigger on that upgrade and be amazed.
PC newer than 3 yearsProbably notIf you spent more than $1,800 on a PC within the past 3 years you aren’t likely to see a significant difference in performance with a new Mac. If you spent less than that, you didn’t buy enough computer and are likely to see a difference.
PC older than 3 yearsProbablyIf it has been more than 3 years with your PC and you have been thinking about going Mac then upgrading to a MacBook Pro is going to be meaningful, though I recommend Mac Studio or Mac Mini over the MacBook Pro if you don’t need mobility.

Decision 2: 14″ or 16″

So you have decided you want to pull the trigger on buying a 2023 M3 MacBook Pro. Next decision is the 14″ or 16″ version. I think 14″ makes the most sense for most photographers.

The 14″ M3 MacBook Pro with one upgrade is plenty of computer for most photographers to keep photo editing software running well for the next 3-5 years.

14″ M3 MacBook Pro : Recommended For Most Photographers

Unlike previous generations of the MacBook Pro with Apple Silicon, there is only one configuration difference between the 2023 14″ and 16″ M3 MacBook Pro. The base M3 System on a Chip (Processor) that I recommend as the best price to performance for most photographers is only available in the 14″ model. Therefore, I recommend the 14″ model for most photographers.

16″ M3 MacBook Pro: For Photographers Mostly On the Go

At a cost difference of about $900 (goes down to $300 difference at the high end), the 16″ M3 MacBook Pro makes the most sense for photographers who primarily work on their photos while on the go. Photographers who mostly work from home should really consider a Mac Studio or a Mac Mini. If occasional mobility is needed the 14″ M3 MacBook Pro plus a good external display will be a better editing experience for the money.

Decision 3: System on a Chip (Processor)

As has been the case with the M1 and M2, Apple released 3 versions of the M3 System on a Chip (SoC) with the updated MacBook Pro lineup. Apple offers the M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max.

Photographers may be tempted to think they need to shell out the money to get the M3 Max processor, but that is overkill for most photographers. Let’s go through each option.

M3 8-core CPU/10-core GPU: Recommended For Most Photographers

As a sports volume photographer I tend to push computers harder than most photographers. I do things like batch merge 400 high megapixel images of athletes into 1GB composite files. I spent 18 months editing my images on an M1 Pro in a 14″ MacBook Pro and CPU/GPU was rarely an issue.

Yes, that was an M1 Pro and not the M1 base SoC. Yes, that allowed me to complete those kinds of jobs faster. Yes, my power user batch workflows would benefit from as much CPU/GPU as I can get. But would that really be the best choice for me when I only run those kind of jobs about 10 times a year? Nope.

As I have talked with and mentored photographers over the years, I have become convinced that most photographers significantly overspend when they buy a computer. Apple Silicon has changed things a lot for photographers who like to use Macs.

The base Apple Silicon models are extremely capable and the M3 base SoC only makes that more true than it was with the M1 and M2. The base M3 8-core CPU/10-core GPU is the best price to performance that will meet the needs of most photographers mostly working in Lightroom with the occasional edit in Photoshop.

Besides raw performance, there are two things photographers should be aware of when deciding between the base M3 and the M3 Pro or M3 Max.

  1. The base M3 has only 2 USB-C ports compared with the 3 USB-C ports with the M3 Pro and M3 Max. The two USB-C ports are also slightly less capable with them both being Thunderbolt 3 / USB 4 instead of Thunderbolt 4. Though both types of ports will be the same speed with external storage.
  2. The base M3 only supports a single external display. The M3 Pro supports 2 external displays and the M3 Max supports up to 4.

There are a few other differences, but I don’t think they are worth mentioning. All of the differences have been considered in my recommendation. I don’t think most photographers will find these differences limiting.

M3 Pro 12-core CPU/18-core GPU: Recommended For Some Video Editing

NOTE: I skipped over the M3 Pro 11-core/14-core GPU available in the 2023 14″ MacBook Pro because I don’t think it is valuable to most photographers. Pick between the base M3 and the M3 Pro with 12-core CPU/18-core GPU.

The M3 Pro 12-core CPU/18-core GPU is recommended over the base M3 for the following use cases:

  1. The photographer who uses Lightroom for management of their photos but 75%+ editing in Photoshop
  2. The photographer who uses de-noise or raw enhancement tools like those from Topaz and DxO on more than 100 images a week
  3. The photographer who does (or plans to do) the occasional video editing project
  4. The photographer who needs to connect up to 2 external displays

Photographers who fit in those use cases and have a budget of $2,400 should upgrade to the M3 Pro 12-core CPU/18-core GPU, leave the default 18GB of unified memory, and upgrade the internal SSD to 1TB.

M3 Max 14-core CPU/30-core GPU: Useful For Frequent Video Editing

The M3 Max 14-core CPU/30-core GPU SoC is overkill for most photographers. At a 33% increase in cost this is the second most expensive upgrade in the 2023 M3 MacBook Pro lineup (see 8TB SSD below). Most photographers are not going to see a noticeable difference using tools like Lightroom and Photoshop.

The upgrade from M3 Pro to M3 Max makes a lot more sense for videographers. Even then I am skeptical video editors upgrading from the M3 Pro to the M3 Max will see anything close to a 33% improvement in performance. No question tools like Adobe Premiere Pro and/or DaVinci Resolve will be faster, just not likely to be 33% faster. Still, the time saved if video editing is something done every day probably adds up to make it worth it.

Please consider a Mac Studio as a most cost effective way to get this performance.

M3 Max 16-core CPU/40-core GPU: Useful For After Effects

The same arguments against the low-end M3 Max 14-core CPU/30-core GPU applies to the top end M3 Max 16-core CPU/40-core GPU SoC. It is overkill for most photographers. Though after taking on the monstrous 33% increase to get to the lower M3 Max SoC, the cost increase to the upper M3 Max is a more far more tolerable 16%.

The M3 Max 16-core CPU/40-core GPU is likely to be useful to those who live in tools like Adobe After Effects. I don’t think there is any chance for a 16% improvement in performance, but if you do actually live in After Effects then adding up the minor improvements over time probably makes it worth the expense.

Decision 3: Unified Memory

Next up is how much Unified Memory to put in your 2023 M3 MacBook Pro. Unfortunately, the amount of unified memory is different based on which SoC (Processor) you chose in Decision 2, which makes it difficult on recommendations.

Also, to reiterate something stated earlier, this is something you can’t change later. Photographers have to get this right as they order.

Most photographers should upgrade the 2023 M3 MacBook Pro to have a least 16GB of unified memory.

16GB of Unified Memory: Recommended For Most Photographers

NOTE: Apple offers 8GB of unified memory in the base model 2023 14″ M3 MacBook Pro. Please DO NOT buy one with 8GB of unified memory. Yes, it will function. Yes, it may be mostly adequate for light photo editing. No, it is not going to meet the needs of most photographers for 3 to 5 years.

If you want the very best price to performance in your 2023 M3 MacBook Pro, go with the base 14″ model and spend the $200 to get 16GB of unified memory. While the cost increase is about 13%, which is a lot for this amount of memory, the performance difference is likely worth the cost. Photographers are likely to see a noticeable difference running Lightroom and Photoshop.

As mentioned earlier, I used a 2022 M1 Pro MacBook Pro as my primary photo editing machine for about 18 months. That machine had 16GB of unified memory and it worked extremely well.

24GB Unified Memory – Recommended For Large Raws and Multi-Layered Photoshop Work

At a cost increase of 11% this makes sense for photographers who work with 40+ megapixel images and/or more than 10 layers in large Photoshop files. Not only is this likely to have a noticeable performance benefit in Photoshop, it may be the difference between getting your edit done and having Photoshop crash because it ran out of memory.

64GB Unified Memory – Recommended For Intense Video Editing

Part of the reason the upgrade to either of the M3 Max SoC is so expensive is that both include upgrades to unified memory. When you upgrade to the high end M3 Max 16-core CPU/40-core GPU SoC you are forced to upgrade the unified memory to 48GB. Not necessarily a bad thing, I would have recommended upgrading to more unified memory just after updating the SoC.

Photographers who have a $3,900 budget and do a lot of video editing in Adobe Premiere Pro and/or DaVinci Resolve will benefit from the 5% increase in cost to go from 48GB to 64GB of unified memory. Though again, I will highly recommend looking at the Mac Studio over the M3 MacBook Pro for video editing.

96GB or 128GB of Unified Memory – Crazy Town

With the lower M3 Max SoC Apple allows an upgrade from 64GB to 96GB of unified memory at a massive cost of $800. With the high end M3 Max SoC Apple only allows going from 64GB to 128GB of unified memory for the crazy cost of $1,000. This might make sense for video editors, especially those that live in Adobe After Effects every day, but this is crazy town costs for most photographers.

Photographers who would benefit from this kind of memory will know they need it and probably have the budget to get it. For the rest of us, this upgrade isn’t remotely close to being worth the cost.

Decision 4: SSD Storage

As has been the case with all of these decisions on your 2023 M3 MacBook Pro, what you buy is what you are stuck with. You can’t upgrade the storage inside the computer so you need to buy for your needs and maybe a little more.

The challenge is the storage upgrades get extremely expensive really quickly.

512GB SSD Storage – Recommended For Most Photographers

I wish that Apple had made 1TB of SSD storage the default at the entry level price, but at least the 256GB SSD options isn’t there. The 512GB SSD Apple puts in the base-model 2023 14″ M3 MacBook Pro is recommended for most photographers.

As proof that photographers can fully utilize a Mac with a 512GB SSD, here is the current use on my 2 year old 14″ M1 Pro MacBook Pro

Keep in mind that my usage is likely quite a lot more than what most photographers are going to have. I use my laptop for development of my Lightroom performance testing plugin, my iPhone apps (XCode is massive), and install all sorts of 3rd party plugins for testing.

What most photographers won’t be able to do with 512GB SSD in their 2023 M3 MacBook Pro is store their images or their Lightroom Classic catalog on that SSD. As I have worked with photographers over the years it seems the average space needed for a hobbyist photographer runs about 2TB which would fill this 512GB drive four times.

The good news is the 2023 M3 MacBook Pro has super fast USB-C ports, making it really easy to add fast external storage. External storage can be connected to any of the M3 MacBook Pro computers at 40GB/s. I have done significant testing of the performance impact of storing images and the Lightroom Catalog on external storage, and Lightroom maxes out at 245MB/s read/write speeds. That means Lightroom maxes out using less than 1% of the drive speed.

To say it more plainly, as long as you choose a good drive, photographers won’t notice a difference between putting their images and catalog on an external drive vs the internal drive. If you need some help choosing a good external drive, check out my recommendations.

1TB SSD Storage – Reasonable If There Is Budget

While 512GB of SSD storage is very doable, most photographers will benefit from the breathing room of doubling that storage to 1TB. The extra storage space enables photographers to keep their most recent photo shoot on the internal drive so that editing can be done without dragging an external drive around.

That isn’t to say this means most photographers won’t still need that external drive. They will, as I talk about in the 2TB SSD section below.

I think it is worth the 10% increase in cost for most photographers to invest in the 1TB SSD upgrade, especially travel photographers. Unless the budget just can’t stretch to $2,200, photographers should upgrade to 1TB of SSD storage after upgrading to 24GB of unified memory.

2TB SSD Storage – Not Recommended

The 1TB SSD upgrade comes at a mostly reasonable cost (in Apple terms). Where the 1TB SSD upgrade costs about 10% more, the 2TB SSD upgrade isn’t worse at 10% more again. Doubling the space for about double the investment may seem reasonable (again in Apple terms), but I don’t think it makes sense for most photographers.

My experience has been that most photographers, even those who do photography as a hobby, need at least 2TB of storage for their photos and Lightroom catalog. Seems perfect then right? Pay the 20% for the 2TB upgrade and then photographers can keep everything on their internal drive. Unfortunately, no.

After installing MacOS, numerous photo/video editing applications, and other applications like browsers most photographers will use somewhere between 10% and 40% of that space before ever putting a single photo on the drive. With the cost of this storage being high compared with external drives, the 2TB SSD option doesn’t make sense for most photographers.

Again, check out my external hard drive recommendations on more cost effective ways to add the storage photographers need.

4TB SSD Storage – Maybe For Intense Video Editing

Apple doesn’t offer an upgrade beyond 2TB for the 2023 MacBook Pro with the base M3 SoC, which is fine because it isn’t an upgrade worth the cost for most photographers. With the M3 Pro and M3 Max Apple offers 4TB SSD upgrades at the cost of $1,000! Ouch.

It is hard for me to imagine a use case where this upgrade makes sense for any photographers or even most videographers. For intense video editing there are extremely fast external storage options for the 2023 M3 MacBook Pro for significantly less investment.

There are a lot of other components I recommend photographers and videographers upgrade before spending money on this 4TB SSD upgrade. If you have a budget of $6,900 for your 2023 M3 MacBook Pro the 4TB SSD upgrade might make sense for videographers doing intense video editing on a daily basis, but it would have to be a pretty special use case where external storage just can’t meet the needs. Outside of that, don’t waste your money on this excessively expensive storage.

8TB SSD Storage – Just Don’t

At an additional investment cost of an astounding 47% to go from 1TB to 8TB, Apple almost makes it possible to pay more for internal storage than the rest of the computer. This just doesn’t make sense to me. Not for photographers. Not for videographers. You can get yourself a whole lot of high performing external storage that is transferable to other devices for the crazy money Apple is asking for with this upgrade.

Did this article help you?


  1. Hi,

    Love your show.

    I am looking for a PC for mostly LR edits. I just listened to your podcast on May 2020 “Intel NUC”. Do you still recommend NUC? Do you have any updates on that configurations?

    Youchun Yao

    1. Author

      If you are looking for a small format desktop PC the NUC is not a bad choice. Though it is far from the best choice for a photo editing PC. A full sized desktop with a high clock speed CPU, a dedicated GPU, and at least 32GB of RAM is a much better choice. I don’t have a current guide for a PC.

  2. Hello, I was thinking of going with the M3 Pro 11-core/14-core GPU, (it’s $400 less than the 12 core), but after reading your article, I’m a little confused. To confirm, you feel the 8 core CPU/10 core GPU is a better option than the 11/14 core?

    1. Author


      There won’t be a significant difference in performance between the entry-level M3 processor with 8 CPU/11 GPU cores and the low-end M3 Pro with 11 CPU/14 GPU cores. At least not for the use cases described. Look at the 4 reasons in the article for going to the upper-end M3 Pro with 12 CPU/18 GPU. If you fit into any of those 4 reasons then you want that upper-end M3 Pro. If you do not, then the entry-level M3 is going to be awesome.

  3. I’m confused. You said “need at least 2GB of storage for their photos and Lightroom catalog” and that “…the 2TB SSD option doesn’t make sense for most photographers.” First of all, the first must be a typo. Did you mean ‘200 GB of storage’? And so what if the ‘numerous photo/video editing applications, and other applications’ takes up most of a TB. If you have another TB, you can bring your entire photoshop library onto the HD with plenty of room to spare. My current 1 TB HD has 800 GB of files and my external drive has 300 GB of original photos. So why not get a 2 TB HS, combine these two, and have 900 GB free? Just don’t understand your logic. Any, BTW, I don’t care about the extra cost. It would be worth it to me to not have to carry around an external drive wherever I go and I can use my current external HD as a third backup of just my photos and as a family archive.

    1. Author


      Oops, good eye. Not 2GB. 2TB is what I meant and I have fixed the typo. My experience has been that over the course of 3 years most photographers need 2TB of storage for their Lightroom catalog and raw images alone. Combine that with the nearly 500GB of storage needed for MacOS and applications and you get to a need of 2.5TB, which won’t fit on the 2TB internal SSD. For a photographer on a tight budget it makes more sense then to get a 1TB SSD and buy a fast 2TB external drive with the money saved.

      If the money isn’t a big deal then by all means buy the expensive upgrade to 2TB of storage and whatever else you like. That isn’t really the point of the target audience of this site. Photographers who don’t really know a lot about computers look to my advice on how they can make sure to buy enough for their needs and make decisions on what upgrades they want. To me the high costs Apple charges for storage is not worth the benefit when I can invest in really fast external storage that won’t be trapped inside the computer.

      But again, the point is that you can make your own choice as to what is worth the cost to you.

  4. Thanks for the comprehensive guide, I was in the market to upgrade from my intel MBP from 4 years ago, this saved me a lot of time. I opted for the 14″ M3 Pro 12-core CPU 36GB unified memory and 512gb SSD. I upgraded RAM instead of SSD like in your table because I do need it for some software development in addition to photography + light video work, that seemed like a good tradeoff in my case because I’m already comfortable with external drives/cloud backups for most data. I also don’t plan to multitask (use one hogging application at time). Thanks again!

  5. Hi there, great article, very well explained for someone new to the apple scene. I’m planning to get an m3 MacBook as my first laptop. I’m primarily into wildlife photography. I do it as a hobby, so you can say casual photography usage. I typically use topaz, affinity photo and a bit of Lightroom in my editing workflow. I tend to have a max of 25-30 photos edited in a month. I use quite a bit of layers on affinity and almost always use topaz denoise as my subjects are in challenging light more likely than not.

    Keeping this in mind, would the base M3 14″ MacBook Pro with 16GB and 512GB be good enough? Storage isn’t a big concern for me so long as it’s at least 512. What I’m expecting is that this would be a long term investment and stay good for at least 5-7 years?, if that’s a reasonable ask ????
    Or should I get the base M3 Pro MacBook Pro 18GB and 512GB which is as high as my budget would go (2000$). And is the core upgrade very important in the m3 pro?

    1. Author

      Yes, base M3 MacBook Pro with 16GB of unified memory and 512GB SSD will do great! 5-7 years is an eternity for a computer, but should go 3-5.

  6. Jeff,
    This is such a helpful article and the podcast really clarified questions I had. I’m about to purchase a laptop to use when away from my desktop. Last year I built a Windows based desktop computer specifically for photo editing and it runs my Lightroom CC, Photoshop, Topaz AI and Denoise, and Zerene Stacker without problems. I shoot macro photography as a hobby and do a lot of photostacking. Most of my editing is done in Photoshop. Here is my challenge. I am really really tempted to get the MacBook Pro M3 but I am worried that I am opening up a ton of hurt doing back and forth between Apple OS and Windows. I’ve read your article that is says it is bad to share a drive with ExFat formatting between the two. Would you get the Mac or go the easy route and get something like the Asus ProArt Studiobook? They are both the same price.

      1. Jeff YOU are the man! Thanks! No issues with Paragon on the M3? They state clearly that it works on the M1/M2 but don’t say that it is compatible with the new M3. It’s only $20 and they let you try it for 10 days free. Might be worth trying it to see how it does.

        1. Author

          Works great. It isn’t the version of the M that is important. It is if it is native Apple Silicon or not. This is. So good to go on M3 and all future M processors until they update the architecture in a big way – which won’t be for quite a while.

  7. Jeff, I am not sure if you remember me but I did the NUC and still love using it and I have been using an iPad to do Lightroom mobile then synch it to the NUC. I however do miss quite a bit the way that Lightroom Classic operates as opposed to mobile. My only question is do you really think the base M3 will work for a sports photographer? I might just do it anyways just to try and settle the MAC PC argument that I constantly have with myself. Thanks a bunch for all of your help with photography and gear.

    1. Author

      You can run Lightroom desktop as opposed to Lightroom Classic on the NUC and get that same experience as on mobile. Don’t have to go to Mac to do that.

      If you are looking to do volume sports photography then I don’t think the NUC is up to that challenge. I do a lot of that. Shot a baseball team two days ago and got the shoot processed yesterday. I am using and M2 Mac Studio. I am confident that a base M3 will be plenty of computer for volume sports photography.

  8. Hello! Thank you so much for this extremely detailed and helpful article. I am actually a painter, not a photographer, but I scan my paintings in high resolution and sometimes edit them in Photoshop prior to making prints. My largest .tif files up to this point have been 4 GB. I have been working on a Macbook Air with an M1 chip and 8 GB of (unified?) memory, and photoshop frequently crashes. Do you think a new Macbook Air with an M2 chip and 16 GB of unified memory would be sufficient for my purposes, plus maybe some light video editing occasionally in the future?

    Also, if it’s not too much to ask an additional question, I have an interest in learning to analyze public data from various telescopes such as JWST and edit my own combined images using data from different frequencies, and this would perhaps significantly change my CPU needs. If you have any additional insight on this, it would be so appreciated. Thanks in advance for whatever you might have time to share.

    1. Author

      The MacBook Air is not really designed for larger workloads like you are doing. I recommend a 14” MacBook Pro with 16GB of unified memory to be ready for what you want to do.

  9. Hi Jeff!

    Excellent article. Wondering if you could help me.

    I have a LR catalog of 120,000 RAW photos and most of those need deleting, when I get to them…. I’m trying, lol, but I discovered bird photography when Covid hit and so I’m too busy keeping up with those photos to get to my seriously backlogged travel photos. And taking three or four vacations a year each one lasting 4 weeks or so, I will continue to add to my backlog…

    I have a 2017 27″ iMac with 4.2 Quad GHz core Intel core i7 with 64 RAM and 2 TB of SSD storage. Works very well handling LR and the occasional foray into PS. But I maxed out the 2TB drive a couple of years ago and switched my entire LR catalog to an external hard drive. Works just fine.

    I don’t do any video editing, or at least I haven’t. Doubt that will change.

    The iMac won’t last forever. So I’m thinking of getting a MacBook Pro for 2 primary purposes: (1) to be able to edit my 120,000 (and growing) LR catalog photos anywhere, especially outside on my covered deck when the weather is nice instead of in my basement man cave where the iMac lives and (2) to use it as a desktop replacement when the iMac shoots craps by plugging it into the current iMac screen or upgrading to an even better one.

    Yes, the Mac mini or studio would work when the iMac dies, but ideally I’d like to have one system with my entire LR catalog on it which is why having a MBP capable of holding all my photos seems ideal for me.

    With futureproofing on my mind and with money being no object (I’m 68 and can’t take it with me), I’m seriously considering a 16″ MBP with the Max 3, 64 RAM and an 8 TB SSD drive (again, money is no object).

    Am I insane? Or for my situation, does this make sense?

    1. Author

      I mean if money is no object then getting the 8TB model would do what you want for sure. It just comes at such a cost I could never do it. I switch computers regularly between my Mac Studio and my MacBook Pro. It makes sense for my storage to be transferable as well. That is not your situation.

      Besides the massive cost, the only minor downside I can think of is what you will do when you replace the MacBook Pro someday. How will you copy all of that data from the old to the new. It is a stretch downside, you could share the drive over a network and let it copy for a couple of days. Or use a big external drive just for the transfer from the old to the new.

      As a side note, what are you doing for backup? That internal storage is good stuff, but it will fail someday.

  10. Hi Jeff, Have you run LR classic and photoshop at the same time with the 16gb of ram? I’m currently on an intel mini and looking to go to mini/studio desktop or M3 Macbook pro. I don’t travel a lot but it would be nice to have some portability. The real decision is whether the 16gb ram is enought or upgrade to 24 or 32. I’m a fine art photographer shooting medium format GFX. Occasionally play with afteraffects.
    How do you like the Mac Studio

    1. Author

      Yes. The MacBook Pro I am using right now runs Lightroom Classic and Photoshop at the same time without any trouble. The only time 24 or 32 Gb of Unified Memory would be worth the money is if you do volume shooting (e.g. sports teams) or use more than say 15 layers in Photoshop regularly.

  11. Hey good sir!
    Just found the site and Podcast. Great in-depth discussion and information provided (very valuable). Can I please bother you for an opinion (you may have had the questions from time to time). Currently utilizing LRc/PS and Premiere Pro for occasional light video editing on my desktop PC. As I approach retirement we are planning to travel quite extensively. I am ready to pull the trigger on a Mac Book Pro 14 (external display-one planned, maybe 2 in the RV)….or should I stick with a Windows laptop? Do you have any suggestions on PC brand/specs?

    Mildly familiar with Mac OS, all of our devices are Apple. Thanks again for the information a your insight if you have any.

  12. I’m looking at a Macbook Air to use when travelling – I’m trying to keep my travel kit a bit lighter. Mostly use Lightroom with a bit of Photoshop. I’ve learned to keep LR travel catalogue and photos on separate SSD then import back into my main catalogue. I’ve a M1 Max studio at home where I do most of my processing.

    So I’m wondering which would be better – an M2 or M3 Air with 16GB memory and 512GB storage?

  13. Hey there! I’m a music/tour photographer looking to upgrade my Intel Mac. Sadly the industry is now switching towards more video so want to know the best work force for video is as well. Mainly I work on DaVinci and premiere for video for social media content but for photo editing wise it’s Lightroom and photoshop with the occasional denoise on it. What would be the advise on which laptop to grab from either the m3 or the m3 pro? Typically I’m out for two months out of the whole year on the road but mainly home with the pc build so just want to know the best option for myself really to get.

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