MacBook Pro For Photographers


Going portable doesn’t mean you have to leave your image editing and viewing capabilities at home. Packed in a svelte aluminum exterior, the MacBook Pro offers computing technology that will meet the needs of many photographers. Not only will it allow you to be mobile but, for some, it can serve as the only computer that they need.

The latest change to the MacBook Pro line was the introduction of the Touch Bar with Multi-Touch functionality to replace the standard function keys. This was a controversial move, with the goal being to provide more useful controls and shortcuts for the average user. By adjusting automatically as you move between apps, you will always have custom buttons, previews, and other controls at the ready to help you work more effectively. The Touch Bar also brought with it Touch ID, for speedier logins and Apple Pay support.

For photographers, the Touch Bar isn’t the screen that deserves all the attention, though—that would be the Retina display found on all MacBook Pro models. Every iteration seems to improve on the last, and the current version of the screen boasts a brightness of 500 nits and is able to display the wide P3 gamut, resulting in more accurate and true-to-life colors in your images. Wide gamuts are critical for working on color with images, because greater accuracy ensures your edits are being properly performed. Retina’s name didn’t come from all these features, however, so we should circle back to what its serious accomplishment is: extremely sharp and crisp images, thanks to native resolutions of 2880 x 1800 and 2560 x 1600 on the 15.4 and 13.3" models, respectively.

Normally, I would say pick whichever size you are more comfortable with and, for most photographers, this is the case because the latest MacBook Pros are powerful enough to handle a variety of photo-editing tasks with ease. However, there is a notable advantage given to the larger 15.4" models, which should be considered if you work with extremely large image sizes or with numerous layers and adjustments that can quickly drain memory and CPU resources. This difference is found in a couple of major places, namely in the use of quad-core Intel® Core™ i7 processors and 16GB RAM in the 15.4" model, compared to more modest dual-core Intel Core i5 options and 8GB RAM in the 13.3" units; Apple has since updated some 13.3" models to use dual-core Intel Core i7 processors and 16GB RAM. The other significant upgrade is the use of a discrete AMD Radeon Pro GDDR5 graphics card in the larger laptop, which will deliver speedier editing performance in many creative applications. Realistically, for travel and photo editing, either will be perfectly suited to a photographer’s uses, though if you are concerned about longevity for future ultra-high res camera systems, bumping up to the 15.4" and its larger canvas is a good idea.

Ensuring that your files and applications run at the fastest possible speeds, MacBook Pros contain a complete flash-memory-based architecture for both RAM and storage. More RAM makes it easier to work on large files, such as TIFF images composed for multiple layers, which is why the 15.4" may be better suited to heavy-duty editing situations. Solid-State Drives (SSDs) will hold your data and applications, keeping them ready for use at a moment’s notice. Photographers often choose larger SSDs, even up to the Pro’s max of 2TB, to maximize storing photographs locally and more RAM to dramatically increase speed when working with images. Also, being flash-memory-based, the SSD is less susceptible to damage from movement than a traditional hard drive, making your MacBook Pro more reliable, regardless of your current adventure.

Apple is certainly no stranger to controversial moves, as we saw with the Touch Bar, and that wasn’t the only major change to the MacBook Pro line. The next update was the use of exclusively Thunderbolt™ 3/USB Type-C ports on the latest versions. This provides ultra-fast transfer speeds, support for DisplayPort outputs, charging via any port, and compatibility with a ton of existing devices. Unfortunately, it requires the use of adapters to use many of your existing readers. The shift to Thunderbolt 3 and USB Type-C seems to be inevitable, and so Apple is getting ahead by moving it and its users to the new standard. You can even drive up to two 5K displays if you want to go home and convert your MacBook Pro into its own full-fledged workstation.

Operability has been enhanced recently with a larger Force Touch trackpad. It has sensors that detect variations in pressure, allowing photographers to apply more finesse when retouching or creating adjustment layers. Photographers who still prefer a traditional mouse or a graphics tablet can connect them via the built-in Bluetooth or USB. Those working at home or in a studio can also connect their MacBook Pro to a second monitor, providing a larger screen for comfortable viewing or working with others.

With a design seemingly optimized for high performing creative workflows, the MacBook Pro is a stellar choice if you are a photographer looking for a mobile workstation. What configuration are you looking at for your next Mac purchase?


Why does Apple limit the maximum amount of RAM in the MacBook Pro to just 16GB but the PC Intel laptop counterparts can be maxed out to 32GB and even 64GB?

Unfortunately B&H is not involved in the production or design of any products we carry.  In this instance we would recommend you direct your question to Apple.

They do listen yes. While every suggestion/idea pitched to them may not get used, they do tend to realize when a bulk of their users are displeased with a feature or wish another existed etc and in many cases have made changes and improvements to their products as a result.  If you don’t speak up, they definitely can’t hear you.