How important is a graphics card for photo editing

Page 2 - Seeking answers? Join the Tom's Hardware community: where nearly two million members share solutions and discuss the latest tech.


Feb 13, 2015

The performance increase was likely due to the fact it is a self built machine, rather than a mass manufactured box. A self built PC is generally built using better and matched components, rather than whatever was cheapest that week. The difference between an i5 and an i7 are not really noticeable to most users, as well as the difference between 8 and 16gb of RAM. I am not saying the difference isn't there, only that it isn't utilized by most consumers/users. Even gaming will not benefit in any way that is noticeable to the average user (unless you are using a FPS monitor, and think that 2-3 FPS is a noticeable difference *here is a clue, it is not*). The only noticeable difference between the two specs will come when you are doing heavy number crunching (workstation type loads) and video encoding/editing, which are not typical consumer level loads.



Hi - You are correct - The i7 is def the way to go for photo editing. It is far more important than an expensive GPU.
I'm not a prof photographer, but many of my individual photo files are in the 60 - 100mb range, so stick with the i7.

A decent gtx or amd GPU in the $150-200 is the way to go.

However, consider a couple things with regard to your build:
Yes on the 32g ram, but get a set of 4x8g not two sets of 2x8g, the set of 4 will have been tested to work
well together, there is no guarantee of that with diff sets even same model.

You don't need liquid cooling, a good quality air cooler from Noctua or Phanteks will be more than OK.

Nothing wrong with the HX750, but you can get prof level 750w PSU's for less than $133, check
XFX & EVGA(G2) as well as Seasonic and Rosewill Capstone modular.

Get Win 8.1 vs Win 8.

Consider on the spin type hdd of trading up from Barracuda series to Constellation series(enterprise level).
All hdd's will fail eventually, but with enterprise models from Seagate or WD you will get more longevity.



Mar 31, 2015

If you're editing JPGs from a consumer camera, then nearly any new computer or laptop with an i5 or better would be fine. However...

If you're editing professional images (20+ Mega pixels, 14-bit RAW format), and using professional software to do it, then you will want a better than average computer. If you're using software like Capture One Pro from PhaseOne, then a good GPU helps a lot too as Capture One will offload much of the math to the GPU. Any new'ish NVIDIA GeForce card would be good. Probably 600 series or better? I use a GTX 970 (two actually), but also use the system for games. I have used Capture One with a GeForce 560 Ti before too, and that was still great.

In a pro system, you should also consider your hard drive configuration carefully. You don't need a giant SSD. I would recommend a 128 GB SSD for Windows, a 2 TB 7200 rpm drive for data, and a 64 GB SSD to use as an Intel Rapid Storage Technology cache drive in front of your data drive. That will be be plenty of speed. No need to get the 1 TB SSD you're looking at. 64 GB cache in front of a Baracuda or Caviar Black and you'll be fine for photos. If you want, you could just get a single 256 GB SSD and partition 64 GB for cache and the rest for Windows, but I prefer separate devices personally.

The CPU and motherboard you're looking at would be great. I'd be tempted to look at Z97 chipsets though, and cut some money elsewhere, like 16 GB of RAM instead 32 GB until you know you need 32. I'm using 16 and have not had any issues with excessive swapping.

The Corsair cooler is good, but you don't need the H100i. It will be very hard to fit in most cases, and if you're not overclocking your CPU for games, you just don't need it. The H80i is much easier to mount. But also, any good aftermarket CPU cooler (non-liquid) would also be fine.

So, to summarize, slim down the SSD and RAM, build an SSD Intel RTS cache in front of your data drive, get a decent GPU ($150'ish?) but not crazy, and go back to a regular CPU cooler. You'll save money you can put towards your next lens, or even better, some lighting!


May 22, 2011
I liked the thread as it wandered about. Good comments all around.

Photo processing is a flow, often a work flow between different tools.

I used to have a Q6600 box with 8GB of RAM, that was the result of cobbling my other
Q6600 into it and divesting myself of my dedicated linux environment. I was quite happy
doing my pixel peeping and digital darkroom manipulations using some off brand non PS

Until the day I went to batch process 10 photos that had a slight exposure problem. It took
17 minutes. There is a lot to be said about bit twiddling a single exposure to hit a level of
satisfaction and needing to fix a set of shots on a timeline.

Suffice to say, I ended up with a system that could batch process a set of 71 RAWS in 4:36.
That would be what you call overkill because of the price and the excessive spec of the box.

For a pro I would always start with the output, the screen so that what is viewed is what you can reproduce.

That speaks to the GFX card and its outputs as well.

Next your darkroom is important with larger well layed out space compared to using a bathroom knockoff.

That space is defined by RAM. If I continue the analogy then fast SSD access is the accessibility to the
chemicals, trays, sink, enlarger which are found in the darkroom the RAM.

The processor gives you your driers, developing times, printing.

The HDD's and input/output are like having an office attached to the darkroom. You have your delivery
and billing systems and file storage.

And yes you can do photo editing on a budget but if it is your profession then you need room to grow
as well. Photography and its practice is not a static state. Even if you are PS dependent there are new
filters and effects created all the time. Picking up tools and applications that assist your work flow to
develop and mature are practically a necessity. DXO and Corel Aftershot (nee Bibble) and Picture
Window Pro all bring something different or more specialized to the game.

So an amateur on hobby row can have a lot of funs with an i5 class build, a pro can certainly pound on
an i7 setup and have headroom while a pro with staff should have a xeon workstation, a proofing
printer and the good old blu-rays unless he trusts stuff out house.


Mar 1, 2015
Just about everything is GPU accelerated nowadays and a fast GPU with lots of VRAM is a must when dealing with large files, How about this?

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant

CPU: Intel Core i7-5820K 3.3GHz 6-Core Processor ($362.95 @ SuperBiiz)
CPU Cooler: Phanteks PH-TC14PE 78.1 CFM CPU Cooler ($58.39 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: MSI X99S SLI Plus ATX LGA2011-3 Motherboard ($159.99 @ SuperBiiz)
Memory: Corsair Vengeance LPX 32GB (4 x 8GB) DDR4-2133 Memory ($259.99 @ Newegg)
Storage: Samsung 840 EVO 1TB 2.5" Solid State Drive ($436.89 @ OutletPC)
Storage: Seagate Barracuda 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($64.80 @ SuperBiiz)
Video Card: Sapphire Radeon R9 290X 8GB Tri-X Video Card ($365.91 @ Newegg)
Case: Corsair 600T White Graphite ATX Mid Tower Case ($185.98 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: SeaSonic Platinum 1000W 80+ Platinum Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply ($212.04 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Asus BW-12B1ST/BLK/G/AS Blu-Ray/DVD/CD Writer ($57.75 @ OutletPC)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8 Professional (OEM) (64-bit) ($159.98 @ OutletPC)
Case Fan: Corsair Air Series AF140 Quiet Edition 67.8 CFM 140mm Fan ($19.98 @ OutletPC)
Total: $2344.65
Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
Generated by PCPartPicker 2015-05-23 12:12 EDT-0400


Dec 15, 2015

How dare you. What would your mother say?


Jan 26, 2016
Time is money..

And with today's cameras in excess of 40MP... especially shooting raw?? 1 photo will be over 100 meg in size. I say build it fast and mean. I am no gamer... And I just built a 6700k processor on an Asus Z170 gaming board. I have 64g of Ddr4 ram, 4, 4" fans and a CPU cooling fan that looks like a dragster.... (Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO).... I just re-used mt GTX 670 4gig Vid card. Using the internal settings on the Asus bios I over clocked 7%. What used to take 20-30 seconds to perform now takes about 2. Over kill. HELL YES!! But fast as a mudda!!!


Feb 13, 2015

The integrated graphics on modern Intel CPUs are better than an $80 Card (no matter if it is AMD or Nvidia). Don't waste your money. If there is a NEED for a better performing GPU than what the Intel HD can provide (in this case there is not), then you NEED more than what you can get for $80, and likely will be in the $170 - $200 price range before there is a difference.
For photo editing, it all depends on the quality of the work they wish to do. If they are using a 10-bit monitor, that is calibrated, and using proper software (basically, for PROFESSIONAL work), then they WILL need a quadro or firepro (firepro would likely be better for the best driver/software support for this particular use). An $80 graphics card will NOT do this properly (nor will anything like a Radeon or GTX card), and may not even have the DisplayPort interface they will need. Although photo editing does not require what many would consider "power", it takes capabilities that are not built into what many consider as "powerful" cards. The FirePro or Quadro may seem overpowered for "just editing photos" as they are powerhouses, but they are the only cards that support the color depth and accuracy needed for professional photo editing (considering that you have the rest of the setup to support it as well).


Apr 11, 2006
Just to educate a few, take a look at this.

i'm working with a designing firm (3dsmax, autocad, vray, photoshop/indesign, sketch up,...) here's a rough draw of what is decent for a designer/renderer. also suggested a system with 64gb of ram and dual M4000.
System Z440
CPU Intel® Xeon® E5-1630 v4 3.7 2400 4C CPU
Ram 32GB of ram (4 x 8gb DDR 4 2400)
Video Card NVIDIA Quadro M4000 8GB
HardDrive HP Z TurboDrive G2 256GB PCIe SED 1stSSD

but after some research, we may opt for geforce 1080+ as they do kick quadro's ass for a lot cheaper.
but i am not done tweaking this setup for these professional designers/renderers.

As mentioned, depending on the software, some uses only CPU rendering and some do use GPU ( you want the later) because GPU rendering is 5 to 10 times faster than CPU.
anyway, felt adding to this thread, even though it's old ;p


Oct 6, 2013

well, thanks for posting! I still use this tread haha, very usefull information here! Do you think that a good GPU would be better for rendering in Premiere Pro, Davinci resolve and After Effects than a good b
CPU? Your build is way to expensive! I could only spend about 1000 dollars, and I wonder if I should go with a core i7 and invest more on ram or on on the GPU.



Feb 25, 2014

Hi I went on the same mission as yourself in 2015 and decided in the end all ideas were OK in their own right but you have to go with your own inclination so my build was
Computer Workstation built April 2015

Fractal Design XL - R2 Case
Motherboard Asus X99-E WS
CPU Xeon E5-2630 v3 8core socket 2011v3
CPU Fan Thermalright Archon IB-E X2
RAM Crucial 8GB * 4 EEC 8GB DDR4 (32GB total)
GPU Asus GeForce STRIX GTX980
this card has 2048 Cuda Cores and I wanted something that had over 1536, 256bit and was capable of 3D and 4K. (Future proofing as far as one can in this day and age). As I was building a workstation I did once again consider the Quadro, but to get similar specs I would have had to go for the K5200 or K6000 both cost over a thousand pounds (way out of my price range) and as the Nvidia engineer pointed out when I spoke to them, the Quadro is geared towards CAD type work.
PSU Corsair AX860i
Fan Controller NZXT Sentry LXE Touch Screen External Fan Controller

The following was transferred from my old computer - other than the Blue Ray all the others are upgrades I have made since the last build in 2013.
Crucial 512GB SSD for OS and other software computer specific i.e., motherboard, printer, security.
WD 1 TB Raptor for photos and videos including the software i.e. Pinnacle & Serif.
Enterprise RE WD hard drive 2TB WD for every day use, all other software, download default disk.
Blue Ray Pioneer BDR-208DBK

Computer Peripherals
Asus PB278Q PLS Monitor
1TB WD My Book Essential - hard drive attached to computer for automatic back up using WD software.
1 TB WD Elements USB 3 External Hard Drive Back up disk for photos, videos and music.

External Sound from PC - New bought to be used with the workstation
Amplifier Cambridge Audio Azur 351A
Speakers KEFF 300

Win 10, Capture Pro 9 for RAW files, Affinity Photo for Editing, Do have DxO which I use occasionally. I still have Elements 14 on my computer but not used since purchasing Affinity and going through their training videos

So do your own thing and enjoy - its your ideas, money and configuration that count in the long run - you are the only one that has to live / work with it.