The Best Laptops for Photographers in 2024

The post The Best Laptops for Photographers in 2024 appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

A guide to the best laptops for photographers

Choosing the best laptop for photographers isn’t simply about identifying which model has the biggest screen, the longest-lasting battery, or the most storage. While there are indeed laptops that are great for virtually any type of photographer, your own needs, style, and workflow are essential to consider when searching for that perfect product.

Fortunately, there are a lot of outstanding laptops available in 2024. So whether you prefer Mac or Windows, shoot professionally or just occasionally, or like taking pictures but don’t even know the difference between an SSD and a CD-ROM, today’s laptop market certainly has what you need. The laptops I share below are ideal for different types of photographers, and no matter what you shoot, you’re likely to find one that fits your requirements (and at a price that works for you).

Best laptops for photographers headshot portrait of a woman in a green shirt
Nikon D750 | 105mm f/2.8 Macro | f/4 | 1/250s | ISO 140
Laptops are a critical part of many photographers’ workflow, and the ones listed below are great options – whether you shoot professional portraits or just dabble in casual photography.

One important thing to consider when looking at my list of photography laptops is that they can all be configured in many different ways. You can customize the amount of RAM and the size of the internal SSD storage drive; in some cases, you can even customize the graphics card, which can be useful depending on the type of photo editing you do. I’ve included specific configuration recommendations for each laptop, but you can always tweak things to your liking when you place your order.

1. Best Mac laptop for professional photographers: MacBook Pro 16-Inch (M3 Pro)

Recommended configuration: M3 Pro, 12-core CPU, 18-core GPU, 36 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD storage

Best laptops for photographers MacBook Pro 16

If you shoot professionally and like Apple devices such as iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers, the MacBook Pro 16-inch with M3 Pro CPU is far and away the best laptop for photo editing available today. The screen is bold, bright, and big enough to handle nearly any photography job you can think of. It has an array of ports that professionals will love, including three Thunderbolt 4 ports for ultra-fast data transfers, an SDXC card slot for importing pictures, and an HDMI port (which is great for showing images to clients on large screens!).

The standout feature of this laptop is its M3 Pro CPU, which is ideal for professionals due to its incredible power and speed. It allows you to load huge RAW files in a snap, scroll through massive photo libraries without skipping a beat, and perform complex edits and photo exports without lag. The battery life is incredible, easily lasting a full day even under demanding conditions.

The laptop is very expensive and the 16-inch screen pushes the limits of portability, but for professionals who don’t like to compromise, the MacBook Pro 16-inch with M3 Pro chip is as good as it gets.

Pros:

  • Huge screen with rich, detailed colors
  • Powerful enough for even the most demanding photo-editing situations
  • All-day battery life even under heavy usage conditions

Cons:

  • More expensive than many alternatives
  • Large screen limits its portability
  • Internal components such as RAM and storage cannot be upgraded later

2. Best Windows laptop for professional photographers: Dell XPS 16 9640

Recommended configuration: Intel Core 9 Ultra 185H, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4060, 32 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD storage

Best laptops for photographers Dell XPS 16

Dell has long been producing high-quality laptops, and their latest XPS 16 demonstrates a continual refinement of a winning formula that has served professional photographers well for years. This 16-inch model has everything a photographer could ask for in a laptop, and it even boasts a few specs that will help ensure it remains relevant for years to come.

The screen, while not as high-resolution as the MacBook Pro, is bright and renders colors beautifully, which makes it great for working with large RAW files. It has a bevy of expansion ports for connecting monitors, external storage, and other peripherals, and it has the sheer power to churn through hundreds of images in no time.

In some ways, this laptop is perhaps too powerful, with a graphics card that can handle not just photo editing but high-end gaming. However, with more editing software taking advantage of GPU processors for certain tasks, the included GeForce 4060 helps ensure that this meets the demands of professionals well into the future.

The inclusion of a MicroSDXC card reader instead of a full-size card reader is a strange choice, and an HDMI port would have also been a welcome addition, but these are certainly not dealbreakers. If you’re a professional photographer who prefers Windows over Mac, the Dell XPS 16 is tough to beat.

Pros:

  • Ridiculous amount of computing power
  • Big, bright, brilliant screen makes photos shine
  • Nice selection of ports for adding storage and connecting peripherals

Cons:

  • MicroSDXC card slot is not quite as useful as a full-size SD card slot
  • Invisible trackpad requires some adjustment for new users

3. Best Mac laptop for hobbyist and amateur photographers: MacBook Pro 14-inch (M3)

Recommended configuration: M3, 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD storage

Best laptops for photographers MacBook Pro 14

While not as large or rip-roaring as its M3 Pro counterpart, this 14-inch MacBook Pro is no slouch. Its size and specs make it ideal for hobbyist and amateur photographers who need a good balance of power, portability, and price. The M3 chip can easily handle any task a hobbyist photographer can throw at it, including intense editing in Photoshop or managing a massive library in Lightroom. And don’t let the slightly smaller screen fool you: 14 inches is a great size for people who need to edit photos at home but want a machine that can fit in any backpack, briefcase, or bag.

Amateur photographers will appreciate the SD card reader and HDMI port, even if they don’t use the latter as often as professionals might. The real star of the show, however, is the ultra-high-resolution display that punches far above its weight and makes sharp details in huge RAW and JPEG files truly shine.

Also impressive is the battery in this laptop, which – like its larger sibling – can last all day and sometimes longer without issue. This MacBook Pro is a game-changer for photographers who are used to carrying around a power adapter and constantly looking for wall outlets.

Bottom line: This 14-inch MacBook Pro is a photo-editing powerhouse that should be at the top of the list for any hobbyist or amateur shooter.

Pros:

  • Incredible performance combined with great battery life
  • Large screen is great for editing images and using multiple applications at the same time
  • SDXC card slot and HDMI port, along with two Thunderbolt ports, make it highly versatile

Cons:

  • Supports only one external display, while higher-end MacBook Pros support two or even four
  • Internal components cannot be upgraded after purchase

4. Best Windows laptop for hobbyist and amateur photographers: Microsoft Surface Laptop 5

Recommended configuration: 15-inch, Intel Core i7 12th Gen, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD storage

Best laptops for photographers Microsoft Surface Laptop 5

For decades, Microsoft had been content to make Windows, the most widely used operating system on the planet, and let other companies handle the hardware. That all changed in 2012 with the introduction of the original Microsoft Surface RT, which was rapidly followed by a growing lineup of laptop and desktop hardware suited for professionals and creatives. The Surface Laptop 5 refines everything its predecessors set in motion and is perfectly suited for hobbyist and amateur photographers (as well as other artistic-minded individuals).

The laptop’s large 15-inch touchscreen showcases a bright, brilliant 2496×1664 pixel Dolby Vision display, which is capable of showing rich details of high-resolution RAW files. Thanks to the Core i7 processor, the Surface Laptop 5 offers a seamless editing experience and can churn through batches of photos without pause. Additionally, the expansive touchpad makes it easy to navigate through your files and folders and perform precise edits on your pictures.

The Surface Laptop 5 does lack an SD card slot but includes a high-speed USB-C Thunderbolt 4 port that lets you connect an external monitor or copy hundreds of photos and other files to external drives at lightning-fast speeds. Professional photographers probably want a bit more than what the Surface Laptop 5 offers, but hobbyists and amateurs will be extremely well-served by this machine for years to come.

Pros:

  • Solid, well-built, and reliable laptop with plenty of power for photo editing
  • High-resolution screen is among the best available on a Windows laptop
  • Lightweight; easy to tote around between home, studio, and other locations

Cons:

  • Battery life is fine but not outstanding (especially compared to the MacBook Pro)
  • Touchscreen supports a stylus, but the functionality is quite limited by the traditional laptop form factor

5. Best Mac laptop for casual photographers: MacBook Air 13-inch (M3)

Recommended configuration: M3, 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, 512 GB SSD storage

Best laptops for photographers MacBook Air

For years, Apple’s MacBook Air lineup was great for surfing the internet, watching movies, and working with light productivity apps for creating presentations or making video calls. But it didn’t offer enough power for photographers, forcing even casual shooters to spend hundreds more on a higher-end laptop to find one that would meet their needs.

Fortunately, thanks to the power of the M3 chip, this is no longer the case. The MacBook Air 13-inch M3 is a bit too limited for high-end photo editing, but casual photographers who value portability and battery life over expansion ports and gigantic screens will find everything they need in this laptop.

The 13-inch screen on this MacBook Air makes the machine supremely portable, and its two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports let you connect a monitor and an external SSD at the same time, which makes for a superb photo-editing setup. The M3 chip might not have the same image-editing prowess as its souped-up counterparts, but it can certainly hold its own; it will let you breeze through a huge Lightroom library or use the latest AI-powered image-editing software with aplomb.

In many ways, the MacBook Air is a jack-of-all-trades model that’s ideal for casual photographers who require one laptop that offers a balance of capability, portability, and price. It won’t blow your socks off, but if you’re a casual shooter and photo editor, it’ll do everything you need.

Pros:

  • M3 processor delivers great performance at a reasonable price
  • Same all-day battery life as its more expensive counterparts
  • High-resolution screen shows the finest details in all your images

Cons:

  • Missing some of the useful ports found on other laptops
  • Small screen is fine for casual use but limiting for serious photo editing

6. Best Windows laptop for casual photographers: Lenovo ThinkPad L13 Yoga 13.3″ Touch 2-in-1 Laptop

Recommended configuration: Intel Core i7-1355U, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD storage

Best laptops for photographers Lenovo ThinkPad L13 Yoga

Lenovo knows a thing or two about making solid, reliable laptops that are great for a variety of tasks, including photography. The company’s ThinkPad line, which was created years ago by business-behemoth IBM, continues this tradition. The ThinkPad L13 Yoga 13.3″ is a phenomenal option for people who need a laptop that is well-suited for editing and managing photos as well as surfing the internet, balancing a checkbook, and creating documents.

In addition to a good screen, solid connectivity options, and a respectable processor, the ThinkPad L13 Yoga has a trick up its sleeve that casual photographers will appreciate: It flips end-over-end to become what’s essentially a touchscreen tablet, which is great for swiping through images and even doing light editing.

In addition to an ultra-fast Thunderbolt 4 port for data transfers, this laptop also includes an HDMI port for attaching another screen or even a TV. It’s an easy model to recommend to anyone who likes to do casual photography and wants a portable machine that won’t let them down.

Pros:

  • Intel i7 processor is good for image editing and managing your digital assets
  • Unique flip-style design accommodates a variety of personal usage styles
  • Great combination of price and performance

Cons:

  • Thicker and heavier than some of its peers, despite the modest screen size
  • Not the longest battery life (but suffices for casual use)

Laptops for photographers to avoid

If you’re still not sure which laptop is right for you, or if none of the above options seem like the perfect pick, you may feel inclined to look at other models. That’s completely okay! However, there are certain types of laptops that simply aren’t ideal for photographers and that I urge you to avoid:

17-inch (or larger) laptops: Even the most demanding professionals – and certainly casual and hobbyist photographers – will want to steer clear of 17-inch behemoths. Such large laptops might sound like a good idea on paper, but these monsters quickly become tiresome and are ultimately more trouble than they’re worth in most photography situations. They’re too big to be truly portable, unreasonably expensive for what you get, and rapidly go from cool to cumbersome. A photographer considering a large laptop to have the added screen real estate would, in almost every scenario, be better served by a smaller laptop and an external display.

12-inch (or smaller) laptops: While laptops with small screens certainly serve a purpose for many people, photographers will quickly find themselves frustrated with these machines. They’re great for portability, but small screens are exceedingly bad for most types of photo editing, and these laptops usually have poor battery life, as well. They are often relatively inexpensive, but the tradeoffs aren’t worth it if you intend to do much in the way of photography.

Best laptops for photographers Lightroom library
Small laptop screens are far from ideal for working in Lightroom or with other image-management and photo-editing applications.

Chromebooks: The two biggest advantages offered by Chromebooks are their price and simplicity: they can be purchased for as low as $200 and are great at running the Google Chrome web browser. These laptops are ideal for people who need a reliable way to connect to the internet, but they’re not great for much more. While there are some web-based image editing and photo management tools available, Chromebooks are not a good all-around solution for photographers. They typically do not have powerful processors compared to Windows or Mac laptops and are severely constrained by the software they can install. Even casual photographers will quickly outgrow the capabilities of a Chromebook. If you are into photography and price is a top priority, I would strongly recommend a lower-spec version of a laptop on this list or even one that’s a few years older instead of a Chromebook.

Best laptops for photographers, screenshot of Adobe Photoshop
Chromebooks can’t run Adobe Photoshop, Skylum Luminar, Affinity Photo, or most other photography software.

Pick the perfect laptop to enhance your workflow

There’s never been a better time to buy a laptop for photography, and the ones on this list are ideal choices no matter your needs.

Whether you’re a professional who’s ready to spend thousands of dollars on a class-leading machine or a casual photographer looking for simplicity and portability, there are some outstanding options for you to consider.

Now over to you:

Which laptop do you plan to buy and why? Do you have any other recommendations that I missed? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post The Best Laptops for Photographers in 2024 appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

The post The Best Laptops for Photographers in 2024 appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth. Choosing the best laptop for photographers isn’t simply about identifying which model has the biggest screen, the longest-lasting battery, or the most storage. While there are indeed laptops that are great for virtually any…

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