Best laptop computer for photo editing while traveling

Hi. After a frustrating experience in a photography workshop without a laptop computer and with more workshops planned I decided to get a laptop. It will be useful for other things too but it is meant mostly for photo editing. I never had a laptop so I am not even sure what are the basic needs for a laptop for photo editing. I don’t want a mac as I don’t know how to operate the apple system. Any guidance will be welcome. Thanks

Greetings. I know you said you didn’t want a Mac but I thought I’d post anyway. I use a 2020 MacBook Pro with the M1 processor. Not cheap, nor light system, but it does go with me whenever I travel. A lighter Mac the MacBook Air with the M1 processor starts at about $1000 and with the newer M2 processor a bit more. They are phenomenal machines and very, very fast for editing photos. And if all you do is photo editing, emails, web browsing, you will be extremely satisfied. Forums are filled with people to answer questions about using the Mac for photo editing or anything else you might use it for. Enjoy whatever you get.

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Thank you. I appreciate it. I tried using mac before and it is too different than windows. so it is not for me. But thanks for your thoughts.

Hi Tamar, I recently faced this problem. I needed to travel for 6 weeks and wanted to be able to download and edit photos each day. I needed to be able to use my Adobe Lightroom Classic on the machine and make back-ups for safety every few days. I chose not to use Adobe’s cloud services because I didn’t always have a reliable/fast internet connection. I stored everything on the Lap-top’s solid state drive and the back-up drive.
I didn’t want the expense of a new machine because after 6 weeks it wouldn’t be regularly used.
So I ended up with a second-hand laptop from a local dealer that works very well and did everything I needed it to do. It was very light and easy to carry (only an 11" screen) I also took a small Wacom tablet with a pen, and a tiny USB drive for the back-ups. When I returned home everything synchronised with my main machine and my Lightroom catalogue was transferred.
It only cost me $250 and will be good for a few more years to come.
(it’s a Mac but I’m sure that similar PCs are available).
As with any second-hand (older) machine make sure that it can run an operating system that is compatible with your home machine and then use it for a few weeks before you go to make sure that it will do everything you will need to to.
Have a great trip.

Thank you very much. I really appreciate the detailed information. It helps a lot in my thinking and approach about it.

Tamar, the first step is to figure how you plan to use this “new” computer and for how long. I went to a laptop only with a large monitor for careful work at home but convenience while travelling. My criteria was that the screen of the laptop needed to be good enough that I felt comfortable post processing on the laptop (although the big screen is always better). I also wanted the laptop to be fairly light…my camera bag is heavy enough! Another issue is processing capabilities. You probably want extra RAM and a better than minimum CPU to handle post processing. You may also want extra storage. I use a dedicated external solid state drive, because external storage is cheaper than storage on the laptop.

Thank you. For now I want it mostly for traveling away from home for several weeks at a time. at a later time I will probably use it as my main computer and connect it the big screen at home. during traveling I will need it mostly for post processing but also for my day job which is mostly done using office. Weight is definitely the biggest issue as there is a lot to carry with photography gear as is. How much RAM would you recommend getting? you think it is better not to buy a laptop with a memory of 1 tera but to use external storage? What is important to take into account regarding the post processing? Are there graphic cards for laptops you think are better than others? Thank you so much!

My thoughts on RAM and drive size. I (using my Mac) have a 1TB drive. I have a network attach storage in my house that eventually everything gets moved to. I have several drives I attach to my Mac for backup. So 1TB is plenty, I can store current photos on the drive, make a backup to a USB drive, work on those files, eventually transfer them to the NAS. I have a Lightning 4 SSD I attach to my Mac that is blazingly fast so I can use that as primary storage or backup. For my work, 1TB is plenty, more would be good but not necessary. Backups are going to happen anyway and I have never been out of room on my main SSD in the computer. I have 64GB RAM, here more is definitely better, whatever you can afford go with it. It is terrible to have too little RAM and everything slows to a crawl as it has to use the SSD for page swaps. I would think a minimum of 16GB but again, you are probably much better off with more RAM and enough SSD storage to satisfy near term storage… RAM is really important when you are processing images. You don’t want to swap out to the SSD.

Thank you so much. This is super helpful!

I’ve been using a laptop-only system for a while now. A good bit of ram (16 on my current), a fast processor, a solid state drive, and a high res monitor are key.

My current laptop is a Lenovo X1 Yoga (pc) with a 2 TB ssd drive. It does everything fast I need it to do fast . 14” screen and the drive makes it a little heavy for travel, but it’s perfect for me. I have a 4 TB external drive for regular backups.


Correction: My X1 Yoga has 32 gb of ram. It’s so fast it feels like it’s finished by the time I input whatever. Instantaneous.