As a photographer I guess you already care lot about the look and feel of the things which you capture on the way. After you capture them with your camera, what you always wanted to do is edit and optimize them (post processing) using a computer for a better look. Because we all know that when we capture something at a naked place like a beach or a jungle or wherever, lot of interferences will affect the output due to unpredictable lighting conditions and our own physical or mental conditions as well. Then the output we get after that will never come in handy like we expected before and that's why we need a little editing after all.
Whether you are a professional photographer or do those things as a hobby, in most cases I know you're using a digital SLR camera rather than an old fashioned analog camera these days. And the output you get from your camera is kind of heavy when comparing with the output get from a point and shoot so you will have to get a good computer for post processing those heavy things.
So here I list the things you have to figure out when choosing the correct parts for your PC
- Choosing the processor
- Choosing a suitable memory unit
- Selecting a good GPU
- Storage requirements
- Selecting a good monitor
- Motherboard, Casing and all the other at the end
Choosing the processor
First thing we need to look for is a good processor. If you regularly use Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom it is always advisable to go for at least a dual core or better processor with at least 2MB of catch memory because when it comes to 2D graphics editing and large scale image manipulation your CPU (processor) will get more attention than your graphic card (Quad core will always perform better). Nowadays you can obtain an intel i5 or AMD FX processor at a local store near you.
Mainstream graphics cards outclassed the needs of 2D applications long ago. Most of the things that Photoshop will be slow on are the result of CPU and RAM intensive tasks, not display issues. Photoshop will occasionally use the 3D aspect of your video card to do certain transformations, but many photographers and designers will never even use those specific filters in the first place.
When you load up a huge image in Photoshop, it's not going onto your VRAM, only your 'screen' does. When you apply a lens blur filter, it's your main CPU that is doing all the complex specialized (and in this case likely proprietary) math, not a generic video card GPU. Even when you zoom in and out of your image, it's not a case of the graphics card scaling a window, and is why text gets fuzzy in such instances.
With the release of Photoshop CS5 and CS6 they say you can get advantage of your graphic card with the support of GPU acceleration, releasing your CPU load for other things (multitasking). But in my personal experience I can say that you can never get 100% satisfaction about this GPU acceleration support because even when you have the most powerful graphics card in the market, it still needs your PC to have a good CPU for better operation because heavy 2D graphics work will never use 100% of your VRAM (only 5% to 20% at most) and it needs up to 80% of the CPU load instead.
Choosing a suitable memory unit
Alright so let's get back to on topic since we need a fast RAM which can handle a large amount of data with fast transfer speeds between the CPU and the storage so your editing will happen quick and fast. I would recommend at least 2GB of DDR2 or DDR3 memory with 800+ bus speed for your built (nowadays you can get a pair of dual channel DDR3 4GBs for cheap).
Selecting a good GPU
Then it's the time for choosing a suitable graphics card for your system. In 1990's when we need to do any 2D graphics manipulation we always needed a good graphics card for the job because at that era there were no any motherboard integrated graphics chips and to fulfill each task we needed a separate part for that. Matrox and ATI acted major roles in computers used by professional photographers. But nowadays we all know that every cheap motherboard comes with an integrated graphics chip which can handle high definition videos and do most 2D work for everyday use. If you are a laptop PC owner you know that your laptop has a integrated or dedicated graphics chip as well (dedicated ones are better). By the way when you are building your PC you don't have to pick a very expensive graphics card because most of them are intended for 3D graphics manipulation and high end gaming. But in my personal experience I know a decent separate graphics card will outrun any integrated chip. And when it comes to panorama or HDR image creation you will always need a graphics card which supports them. So we can make a guess here. I would say all the 100$+ cards are for gaming (and 3D work) and under 100$ cards are mainly intended for HD video playback and fast 2D tasks so you can get an AMD (previously ATI) radeon HD 5450 for under 40$ or HD 6450 for under 55$. If you prefer buying a Nvidia card then you can also get something like GT 520 or GT 610 at the same prices. Although if you are an owner of a large scale photography firm and looking for something more suitable for your industry, there are workstation graphics cards for you too. But they are highly expensive (sometimes cost more than 1500$) and gives you the opportunity to achieve ultra detail and multitasking with more than four monitors. Nvidia Quadro series and AMD Fire Pro series are the major ones today. When you want to get a laptop for doing your things go for something with dedicated graphics chip like AMD 7370M, Nvidia GT630M or better.
Then we can consider about the storage device according to your usage requirements. But for getting the fast performance of the PC, you need to get a fast SATA hard drive or a SSD (something like a 320GB/500GB SATA III drive and a 64GB SSD for OS partition will be suitable).
Selecting a good monitor
Now comes an important one, the monitor. Nowadays most people choose LED monitors because of their low power consumption and the unbeatable quality. When choosing this you need to look whether it supports high resolutions with the minimal response time (2ms or 5ms is good). And go for a good brand like Viewsonic, Sony or anything which can satisfy your eyes. Though look whether they can connect to your PC through DVI or HDMI interfaces because many cheap monitors still comes with only analog VGA support. When you are using the analog mode the picture manipulated by your PC will always differ than what you get on the monitor screen since when it converting the digital signals to analog by the graphics card that will cause a quality loss so you will not get the 100% same image onto the display with that. If you are doing heavy photo editing tasks you will need a two monitor setup. Separate graphic cards can help you with that too.
Motherboard, Casing and all the other at the end
And finally you can pick other parts such as power supply unit (preferably a not so cheap branded one), casing, motherboard, keyboard/mouse and speakers to match your previously discussed peripherals so I am not gonna talk about them now. Well I think you can get some idea about choosing something to help you with your everyday photography work so good luck with that.
Thanks for reading.