about this Mac thing ..

Until recently, I’ve been a PC user.  I didn’t have much interest in using a Mac, although I dearly loooove my iPhone and iPod.  I also have a high appreciation for Apple’s minimalist design and aesthetics.  Macs do look very cool.

Yet I didn’t feel the need or desire for a Mac.  PCs run fast.  It’s a stable platform with a wide choice of programs.  On top of that, there were some things which put me off the Mac.  The thing I found most annoying was the fanboyism of the Mac enthusiasts.  Any problem you’d encounter on a PC, you’d get a gloating chorus of,  “just use a Mac.”   Equally aggravating was the assertion that Macs are sooo intuitive.  You know what?  If Macs were so intuitive you wouldn’t have to explain their operation to me, would you?

I was a happy PC user, until the middle of last year.  Then without prior intention, I decided to get a fully kitted 17″ MacBook Pro Notebook Computer, with 8 Gb RAM.

Initially I was a little under-whelmed with the Mac experience, but then a few things fell into place for me in terms of software and hardware options … and then I switched my main computer that I work on (ie the laptop), over to the MacBook Pro.  Suddenly it all made sense!

All of this will be old news to Mac lovers. When I was gushing about my new setup to a friend of mine last week, she just laughed, “Where have you been all this time?”.

The things that fell into place for me had a big impact on my post-production workflow and efficiency, and I’d like to share some of my observations and new experience …


Where the cracks started to show …

During the course of 2009, I decided that I would like to create video clips for this site.  I inquired on some photography forums about my options, and ended up buying Adobe Premiere Elements 7 as the software to edit the video footage.  Then problems hit me.  Adobe Premiere Elements 7 proved unusable.  The footage shot with the Canon HFS10 videocam that I had bought, was stuttery and slow.  It probably needed a specific codec.   In the meantime, my assistant with a little MacBook  had no problem editing the video clips in iMovie.  His MacBook had less RAM and slower processing, yet worked fluently with the software which comes standard with the Mac – iMovie.  Ouch!

Life is too short to waste time on looking for codecs and trying to solve these minuscule hurdles that block you … so I bought a big-ass, ie. fully kitted, 17″ MacBook Pro .. and that was the slide into using Mac now as my primary computer.  As my main laptop, it is actually my primary computer since I travel a lot.

Initially I kept the MacBook Pro as the machine to edit video clips with and do initial edits with of the weddings I photographed.  I still worked primarily off two PC computers – one a desktop and one a laptop.  Then even more calamities hit me at the end of 2009 – multiple hard drive failures, and my desktop PC died on me, and a few weeks later the screen of my PC laptop went black.  I had to work off an additional monitor just to keep running.

I now had to juggle the decisions as to whether I should repair my PC laptop, or make the jump and go with my under-used fully kitted MacBook Pro.  In the end common sense prevailed and I made the jump to Mac.


First, a few things had to fall into place …

The hardware:

Somehow, no one had ever explained to me at the start how a MacBook Pro can fit into a ‘system’.  When I finally put together the (logical) pieces of the hardware puzzle, it all just seemed so … well, logical.

(The links in the following article are all B&H affiliate  links to the various items.)

24″ Mac Cinema Display

The first piece of hardware that I added to my Mac laptop that made all the difference, was the 24″ LCD Cinema display.  The breakthrough for me was when I realized I could keep the MacBook Pro closed while powered on, and then use this large dedicated display to work with the computer. With this, my laptop essentially became a desktop computer.

With a PC there are always issues running a secondary display – the resolution and aspect ratio don’t match what your computer has. With the Mac, the display is … well, just perfect. Except for it being a glossy screen.

A bonus with the Cinema display is that it feeds power to the laptop.  So it reduces the number of power cables running along the back of the desk.  Even better, the Cinema display has three USB ports.  I can now connect a portable hard drive or any other USB device directly to the screen itself … which means I can now keep my MacBook Pro out of the way.

Using this desktop stand as a cradle, I can keep my laptop upright under my desk.  Less clutter on my desk.  This in itself makes a difference to my efficiency – I have more room on my desk to work with.

Of course, with the laptop closed, I need the wireless keyboard and a wireless mouse.

Very sweet and elegant.
I had problems with the Mac mouse though.  Both the wired and wireless mouse had this itsy-bitsy scroll wheel that I couldn’t adapt to.  My solution?  A Microsoft mouse.  It works well, and is large enough not to cramp my hand.

While seeing how the clutter on my desk gave me an elated sense of freedom, I was seduced into getting this adjustable shelf that hangs from the Cinema Display’s stand.

A nice little shelf to place a portable hard drive or anything else that needs to be out of the way.


I have to mention again how neat this setup is.  ‘Neat’ as in looking great, but more importantly, ‘neat’ as in clean and uncluttered.  There’s just a monitor / cinema display on my desk, along with a small wireless keyboard and a wireless mouse.

You would have no idea it is a laptop I am working on, instead of a desktop … but the moment I need to go somewhere, I just unhook it, and I have everything ready to go.  In my  honest opinion, THIS  is the way for photographers who do any kind of traveling to meet clients, or traveling for their photography work.  I have all my data with me at all times, whether working at my desk, or on the road.


Now we get to another piece of hardware that completely changed my workflow.
(And again, it will be old news for most photographers who carefully follow developments in computer hardware. )

During a lunchtime meeting with another friend, Michael Gatlin, I described my post-processing workflow.  While describing how I manually kept a mirror of whatever I was working, he stopped me and told me emphatically what I should be investigating.  Instead of manually copying files over to duplicate hard-drives, he suggested I look into getting a Drobo.  He described how this RAID-array would simplify my workflow.  With the error-checking and redundancy built into the system, there would be less need for me to meticulously copy everything I work on … or fear losing something along the way with a hard drive crash.

After reading up more about it, and guided by Michael’s advice,  I bought a Data Robotics 8TB Drobo Storage Array.

This RAID-array connects with a FireWire-800 cable to the MacBook Pro.  Access time is fast, and data is secure.  Of course, I am still paranoid about my digital workflow – a good thing in itself – so I still make DVD copies of my final edits.  I also don’t erase my CF cards until the edit is complete and backed-up onto DVD.

For backing up my actual MacBook Pro, I use Time Machine.
Quite an ingenious bit of built-in Mac software!


In a follow-up post I’ll go over some of my software choices, as well as how I had to adapt to the (sometimes frustrating) Mac system.  Since there is so much that I don’t know and still have to discover, I look forward to the advice from Mac users here.

So there is my new computer system  – fast and elegant.  Devoid of clutter.  Ready to rock’n’roll!


[ edited to add this note (Feb 02, 2010) :
I want to underline that my desktop computer is a PC and runs on Windows 7, and I am *very* happy with it.  It’s a top-of-the-line off-the-shelf HP unit.  And I have a 23″ HP screen with it.  It’s a fast & stable machine.  In other words, this post is not a slight against Windows-based machines, or against PCs in general.  This post really is more about my new-found admiration for Mac. ]

76 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. 1 says

    LOL…welcome, Neil :-) I have been using Mac’s for several years for my photography work and wouldn’t dream of using a PC ever again. However, I am stuck using a PC for my engineering day job – on one side of my office is a PC and on the other side is my Mac. While I think Microsoft finally got it right with XP Pro, which is what I use, they had to go screw things up with Vista and whatever they are calling their new OS that I am sure is going to be just as crappy, Mac’s, in my experience are a far better product in every way. About a year ago I was so tired of weekly calls (literally) from my wife’s mother and grandmother over their PC woes I bought them each a Macbook and I have never had a phone call since. There is a reason Mac users can be a little fanatical about the products from Apple – they are simply innovative, very useful, and sexy ;-)

  2. 2Jan Kundrát says

    first of all, thanks for your nice blog; it always contains nice information about photographing.

    As computers are my day job, I have to warn you about the false feeling of safety that RAID might provide you. The truth is, RAID is no substitute for good backups. The purpose of a RAID is to a) maximize performance, b) provide a resiliance against a failure of a single hard drive (if ocnfigured properly). However, most data-loss incidents are not caused by a hard drive failure, but by either of user error, software crash/bug, or a malicious activity.

    Now, nothing is wrong with using the external RAID box as a primary storage. But please do keep in mind that even though it is a “reliable thing”, chances of it collapsing are still pretty high. I do not know what particular RAID setup are you using (a single box can be configured in multiple ways, usually), but it is very likely that it will not protect you against a simultanous failure of two disks. In one of the arrays we have at work, we just had a failure of three drives in a few hours — in fact, this is extremely common scenario when your RAID box is filled with drives from the same batch.

    So, what I’d recommend you is to happily keep using your shiny RAID box, but do not abandon your backups. Given your setup, I’d probably keep using the external drives for backup only — let’s just plug them in once in a week, copy new stuff from the main RAID array to the external drive, UNPLUG THEM and store them in a safe distance from your RAID box (having one in the office and the other at home is a common thing). We do not use MACs at work, so I can’t recommend anything for automating this backing up, but I’m sure there are plenty of backup SW.

    Please do remember that RAID is NO substitute for proper backups.

  3. 3 says

    Jan .. thank you for the wise words of advice! I do agree with you, and that is why I will still regularly burn DVD copies. I make two sets – one for the office, and one for off-site back-up.

    Not only do we have to safe-guard against hard drive errors, but possible damage due to fire and theft.

    What I liked about doing the manual copying of files, is that if I accidentally over-write something on the one disc, it is still there on the other disc. With a RAID array, if you over-write a file, then you’ve lost data. But the downside to doing it manually, was that I ended up with a clutter of discs .. and in peak season, I’d be so pressed for time, that I could barely do my ‘digital house-keeping’, and ended up with a stack of hard drives and multiple copies of files and folders.

    It would then become a mission sometimes to find something specific. So my real intention with the Drobo, is to streamline my workflow.

    I want a speedier workflow. I want my life back from the long hours in front of the computer.

    Neil vN

  4. 4 says

    What OS was you using for the PC? It’s understandable if you was using Windows XP as it wasn’t designed with modern codecs, media and hi-res monitors. This is where Vista came into the equation to start introducing these features and now Windows 7 extends this further. I know some Mac owners who have jumped ship back to Windows due to the new OS, but many now dual boot between the two given the best of both worlds.

    This is often part of the argument you will see in the Mac Vs PC flame wars on the fora because people judge PCs on XP and not Windows 7 and the difference for media creation is like night and day. A key feature for me, and one that’s important is that there is no 64bit support in Photoshop for me on a Mac, at least not yet. If you’re working on multi-layer composite images from medium format cameras then you do notice the lack of RAM.

    Apple generally have excellent media support out of the box as you have seen but I’ll be interested in finding out what OS you used.

  5. 5 says

    Rob … on that PC laptop I was using XP. (My new desktop has Windows 7.

    I have XP on my Mac now as well, accessing it via Parallels, since I need certain programs in my work. For example, Lumapix Fotofusion for album design only runs on Windows. And there really isn’t any other album design software that comes close to it in terms of speed and flexibility.

    Windows 7 may well have sorted out the problem with the video software, but from the viewpoint I had, there was only the one way clearly ahead – the Mac worked. ie, I couldn’t spend more time and money chasing a Windows solution without knowing that I would get the results I wanted.

    Neil vN

  6. 6David says


    just to make you even more paranoid: while DVDs are a fast and cheap way for backups, they are only limited useful for long-term backups. Some mediums may keep data longer readable, some shorter, but can you always ruin a disk with some scratches. Some say CDs are better, since their data density is lower.
    If you want to be safe as possible, use different brands of media, make two backups and store them in two different remote locations.
    As Jan already said, if the harddrives are from the same manufacturer and maybe even the same batch, it’s likely more than one fail in a short period of time. If money is not the issue, you could even use 2-4 more disks and rotate them (depending on your RAID system and setup), so you have a double backup and reduce risk of multiple disk failure.

    But I think your strategy is quite reasonable and not very likely to fail you.


  7. 7 says

    How are you finding the glossy screen, when I changed from PC to Mac I got one of the new glossy screen iMacs, but ended up sending it back and getting a refurbished 24″ matt white iMac due to calibration problems. I later added a MacBook Pro but got a matt screen. I still run into the problem of the screen being too bright at minimum setting, so use a program called “Shades” which helps reduce the brightness futher.
    Besides that hiccup I’ve loved the change to Mac, it is great to just sit down and work on photos. I know the latest version of Windows is suppose to very good, but I love the tidyness of both Snow Leopard and hardware design of the Macs.
    Lets hope when they release CS5 the re-program takes more advantage of the multi-core processors, 64bit OS and memory of the latest Macs.
    Understand what you mean about the PC/MAC fanboy thing, it is like Canon/Nikon thing! Nerds never seem to get it is not about the specs, be it the MHz of a processor or Megapixels of a camera but the user experience and being able to put it into action.

  8. 8 says

    My MacBook Pro has a matte screen. Purposely chosen for that. But the 24″ cinema display is glossy. That made me hesitate initially, but there really didn’t seem to be any competition for it.

    The way I compensated was to buy better blinds for the window behind me in my study. ; )

    Neil vN

  9. 9 says

    Welocome to the Mac! I was trained on a Mac but we had always had a pc for my family ( and I complained the whole time). Since I’ve been doing photography, I’ve switch back to the Mac and everyone loves it! I had to wipe our pc’s hard clean many time because of viruses. Never once in the three years that I’ve had my mac have I had trouble with pop-ups or viruses!! It’s a beautiful thing! The apple care is superb too! There is only thing that I miss from a pc is the backspace key. ( I guess I make a lot of typing errors)

  10. 10Adrian McCague says

    Neil, like you I pretty much boycotted MACs to the extent I refuse to even buy an ipod or iphone (I don’t really need one either). However my laptop just didn’t cut the mustard for even editing large raw files so I got a macbook pro 13″ that fits perfectly into my camera bag for location work (and the battery life is a godsend!) and it has simply made my workflow amazing.

    Now I do have to say if I was word processing or doing anything other than using Adobe CS software I’d still recommend using a PC; I like having full control over the system that windows (just) still gives. But for photo/video editing, mac would seem to be the way forward.

  11. 11 says

    Adrian … or, (as I wanted to mention in the follow-up post), you could get Microsoft Office for Mac, like I did. Fluent move from Windows version of Word and Excel, to using the same files on the Mac. No issues.

    Neil vN

  12. 12Michael says

    Hey Neil, just wanted to congratulate you on making the big switch. I switched to Macs in 2003 and could never imagine myself going back. I’d love to hear more from you on the Drobo, I use a lot of LaCie external drives, but am seriouslly considering making the switch to Drobo as I’ve heard some great stuff.

  13. 13 says

    Michael .. do check out the Drobo. It is surprisingly compact for such a huge amount of disc space. And then of course the safety for your data that is built into it, is reassuring.

    Neil vN

  14. 14Magnus says

    How I love comments like these :)
    “and whatever they are calling their new OS that I am sure is going to be just as crappy”

    Vista was crap. End of story. No PC enthusiast will argue with that.

    Windows 7 is very good. Fast, intuitive and stable.
    Use it, then make an opinion, or you can continue to make comments about things you don’t know anything about.

    I would probably own a Mac by now if it wasn’t for the self righteous mac users with their i’m-a-superior-being attitude towards the rest of the world.

    I’m sure Mac is a good computer but for me it’s a tool, not a lifestyle. Do you rant like this about other peoples choice of toothpaste as well?

    I don’t think i’ve seen a forum topic about a PC problem without a smartass post like “buy a mac”. Instead of helping out with a link to a driver, the advice is to buy a new computer. Thanks!

    Now when mac has switched to intel and people are using OSx on PC’s, OSx will see the world Windows have been living in for all these years. Writing an OS that runs with practically all hardware availiable isn’t that easy, trust me. Apples OS is/was designed to run on a strictly controlled hardware platform. A little less complexity there.

    My point is, can’t we all just be friends?

  15. 17 says

    Hi Neil,
    A great post! I am a PC user who recently moved to using a laptop as my only computer. I’ve wanted to do it for a long time, but cash flow held me back. At home, I plop my laptop into a docking station (that already has ALL of the cables connected, including desktop monitor, keyboard, mouse) and I just love the setup.

    The absence of noise from fans spinning in my old desktop is almost eerie.

    However, two thought occurred to me that you now need to be aware of as well:
    1) You need to be religious with your backups, as data loss on a laptop could be considered more likely, simply because of the environments and travel that many laptops are subject to. It sounds like you have this one covered.

    2) When your laptop is your main or only computer, with ALL of your data (both home and travel) you need to be extra careful of what could happen if your laptop was stolen. Imagine someone having access to EVERYTHING digital in your life. I am looking into hard drive encryption like Safeboot, but I haven’t solved this issue for myself yet.
    A password doesn’t really do anything, as anyone can always pull the drive and view it’s contents pn another computer. Hence, the drive encryption solution.
    I just know that I’d be very nervous and upset if my laptop with its 400GB of data was stolen.

    I’m curious what others think or have done regarding this.

  16. 18 says

    Mark .. very pertinent observation about the vulnerability of data on your computer should it be stolen. And laptops are high-risk items.

    I’m also curious to hear any advice on this.

    Neil vN

  17. 19 says

    I would like to extract a truth or reality for me from the essence of this discussion.
    That is, when we become locked into the details of our lives (Mac vs. PC, Canon vs Nikon) etc. we miss the bigger and I think more important picture and issue: what is it that I should do to achieve my goal(s)? i.e. How can I see better, capture better, present better: will this software or that lens help me with my end product?
    That’s what this conversation has reminded me of and that’s why I read something from this site everyday in order to constantly evaluate my efforts and achievements in photography technically, visually and emotionally.
    Neil, I greatly appreciate your openness and patience in sharing your knowledge from every aspect of your trade. Keep up the good work, you’re a mentsch (the highest accolade I can give you). If you were in Toronto I’d be learning with you.



    BTW I’ve been a Mac User since 1985 and it wasn’t always so much fun, but I went with it because everyone I knew who had to use MSDOS was miserable and had a huge learning curve just for the system before using any practical applications.

  18. 20 says

    Fred .. thank you for those very kind words. High praise indeed.: )

    You are right .. I am less interested in comparative benchmark tests than in how the equipment will improve my work and workflow. The ergonomics and functions .. ok, I’m going to stop before I go all ‘feng shui’ in my description of this. You do get the idea.

    Neil vN

  19. 21 says

    I switched from PC to Mac in 2006, and I have found that in most cases, most of the software I used on the PC has some equivalent in Mac. The only time I use Windows is when I need to do browser testing, and I do that with Windows virtualization software for the Mac (i.e. Parallels or VMWare).

    I find that for a lot of resource intensive software, the software runs smoother on the Mac than the equivalent software on the PC (i.e. Photoshop).

    RAID actually has several different levels (RAID0, RAID1, RAID3/4, etc.), and some RAID configurations are designed for fast access rather than data backup. The manufacturers do not always make this clear.

    For my low-level usage, I use G-SAFE, which does a backup using 2 hard drives.

    In any case, most of these RAID drives require OSX drivers to recognize the internal hard drives, so the absolute 100% way of backup is still using DVDs or conventional USB/Firewire hard drives, since those formats can be read by any PC or MAC.

  20. 23Dudley says

    There is a holy war between Mac & PC just the same as Nikon v Canon. There is a very good reason for Mac owners smugness though and it’s called happiness. You rarely meet people for whom their Mac is just a computer and that’s probably what winds the PC owners up. Macs are way way cheaper than PC’s due to their long lives and bundled lifestyle software. And the best thing? You can kiss goodbye to anti-virus software. You don’t need any. Forget it.

  21. 24Libby says

    As Fred said

    “when we become locked into the details of our lives (Mac vs. PC, Canon vs Nikon) etc. we miss the bigger and I think more important picture and issue: what is it that I should do to achieve my goal(s)?”

    The fanboy debates are tiring and useless. The question should be “What can the product do for me?” I run both PC and Mac (since 1998). Because I do work in publishing, nothing works like Mac for switching between apps quickly and having all the essential tools easily at hand. On the other hand, there are many cool little narrow sector programs available for PC that simply don’t run on Mac. I have a little $29 Flash creation program that is just great and was never written for Mac. I even output some job things with that silly little Flash program and life would be hard about it. Yes you can host Windows on a Mac, but for me more trouble than it was worth and I abandoned that idea.

    Neil, nice that you got that 24″ display. Even without calibration software the thing is top notch. And even though I have top end displays for the PC, the 24″ Cinema display REVEALS ALL SINS ;-) Nice piece of hardware. I had actually tried out the 30″ here courtesy of a friend and it was just too big for me. The 24″ is perfect.

  22. 25Jamesd3rd says

    I used Mac IIs when I was in Aerospace a long time ago. It was just for Powerpoint, Word and pretty simple things. There was no internet yet. I have been using PCs since the mid 90s and I have never, ever, ever, ever had the problems that I see users encounter in my I.T. job. And I’m not the average PC user either. I’m pretty convinced that most of the issues people have with PCs is what I commonly refer to as ‘pilot error’. Doing things you have no business doing.

    Windows 7 has been praised as Microsoft’s best OS since XP so who ever mentioned that it was going to crappy should take look at the trade journals and tech mags. I have been using it for several months on my primary system at work and have zero complaints. It’s fast and responsive and has never crashed.

    It kills me when I hear people say that the Mac is easier. I mean, regardless which system you use, you still have to do the same things. Double click to launch or open something. Macs have no right-click so you have buy a separate mouse get used to the ‘option’ key. That’s a minor hurdle. Installing apps, you still have to run a ‘setup’. It’s not rocket science folks. Macs have the dock, PCs the quicklauch bar. They both so the same thing. Some of the comparisons are so trivial they don’t even bear addressing. So I don’t get the ‘easier’ thing.

    I’m also amazed by the people who continue to ‘drink the cool-aid’ and are still under the misguided belief that Macs don’t need anti-virus software. This is the ONE marketing thing Apple has been good at selling people on. I have dealt with virus infected macs so don’t for even one second buy into that fantasy. Not to mention that with a Mac you are pretty hamstrung with what you can interface with it outside of the arts. I mean photo, video and music is its strong suit. But there seems to be way more equipment that interfaces with the PC especially where I work where there are a lot of medical labs. Plus the pricepoint is much more appealing. I still think Apple charges way too much for their products.

    Photographers, videographers and musicians have a specific set of criteria and their workflow demands efficiency. Although I do know people in those areas that are very happy with their PC for photo/video editing or music composing, I do respect their [the Mac buyers] decision making process when it comes to identifying which system works better for them based on their criteria. They’re not these clowns who just say PCs suck or get a Mac because they are better. To those people I would say learn how to use the thing first. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s no wonder the thing breaks down on you.

  23. 26 says

    James, one of the first programs I installed was an anti-Virus program for my Mac. I just don’t buy into this idea that Macs can’t get infected with viruses and worms. Common sense can take you most of the way. ie, don’t click on random links. But some kind of anti-virus software is necessary.

    To everyone who is so cocky about Macs not getting viruses .. it’s just a matter of time. ; )

    Neil vN

  24. 28David says

    Firstly and because not many people read full posts! :-)

    There is fantastic free (open source) hard drive encryption available for PC, Mac OS X and Linux called TrueCrypt, I have been using it for over a year, very stable.
    Just don’t forget your password as there is no way to retrieve your data if you do! (in case the full link below doesn’t work)

    Hey Neil,
    I think you have just opened a big can of worms. Maybe you could have a computer either real or virtual running Linux to keep everyone happy! :-)

    I’ve not checked but I would imagine that your RAID box will be running a combination of RAID 0 and 5

    In RAID 0 two or more hard drives work as one big drive, when a file is written parts of the file (depending on the size of the file and how the RAID is set up, strip size) are spread over the different hard drives (the operation is invisible to the end user) the benefit is speed, the downside is data loss, if one hard drive in the array fails then all data is lost (because single files are split in pieces over the drives)

    RAID 5 this works at the same speed as a single hard drive except that multiple hard drives are storing the same data file, benefit if one drive fails then the rest still have a backup of the file. Downside, not as fast as RAID 0 but more secure, no matter how many hard drives are added the end user only sees the connected hard drives as big as the smallest capacity drive on the array.

    Also in RAID 5 because all drives share the same file, if a user deletes the file on their computer then the file is marked as deleted on all drives (as long as no further data has been written to the drive then 100% file recovery should be possible)

    If it’s helpful. The duel monitor problem you were facing sounds like a display settings issue, even with XP both screen can have independent resolutions and aspect ratios (in same ways dependent on the graphic card) with Windows 7 multi monitor operation is even easier.


    “Now when mac has switched to intel and people are using OSx on PC’s, OSx will see the world Windows have been living in for all these years. Writing an OS that runs with practically all hardware availiable isn’t that easy, trust me. Apples OS is/was designed to run on a strictly controlled hardware platform. A little less complexity there.

    My point is, can’t we all just be friends?

    Comment by Magnus”

    Hi Magnus, Apple are still controlling the hardware, people running OS X on (other than Apple authorised) hardware are doing so illegally.

    Yes I think everyone should get along and help each other too!


    Must admit; I really do like Windows 7, tested it for Microsoft right from the beta version and it was fast and stable then.

    I think as long as a system does what the user wants and a bit more, then they can be happy. :-)

    Kind regards,

  25. 31 says

    Amanda … actually, I have had Lightroom since the very first official release, and have kept the software up to date. I just haven’t used it much aside from a few times I checked it out.

    I really should do that, now that I have a fast enough machine .. and my time is a little more free than it has been the past two years. It’s really been a matter of being too busy to check out the things that will save me time!

    Nice thing about Lightroom .. Adobe made the license cross-platform … unlike them smoking me for the entire amount to have CS4 on this computer as well as the PC. Grrrrrrr …

    Neil vN

  26. 32 says

    Many of my peers are Linux fanboys a few are die hard Windows users. I’ve used darn near every OS that’s been released in the last 20 years. Windows is common and generally works well enough. (Vista, not so much) Linux is great in the datacenter but I can’t understand why anyone but a systems admin would want a Linux desktop.

    I shied away Macs for many years. I didn’t love the fanatics and I didn’t love the prices. Then came the Aqua interface, Unix kernel and Intel processors. Rather than a windows machine and Linux or Sun workstation, I could have the best of both on one piece of hardware and I could run Parallels if I had a windows app that I HAD to run. I eventually made the jump just as I was getting into photography.

    Here’s what I learned. The Mac just works. I spend almost no time tweaking the OS, fixing problems and searching for some fix to a compatibility issue. I spend my time in Lightroom and Photoshop working on photos or a word processor writing or mail or chat or Firefox (I still hate safari).

    That level of productivity alone is worth any small premium over a Windows or Linux OS. Moreover, I don’t need to buy or fiddle with extra software to make the the Mac do what it’s supposed to do.

    Also, it is intuitive but it does take a little time to learn even simple things. My son, when he was 12, started using my Mac. I didn’t give him any lessons; I didn’t even know he was using it. He had only used Windows up to that point. He didn’t ask any questions it was all obvious to him. I gave him that Mac and bought one for myself. He’s 15 now and uses a Mac every day.

  27. 33Dan says

    This will probably get buried and you’ll never read it, but as a years-long user, I strongly recommend you take a look at a demo of Aperture.

    I’d could give you the full promo, but let me just hit the highlights. The system behind RAW processing is a gem in terms of accuracy and saving space and time. Using the built-in adjustments saves me so much time compared to the methods used in photoshop. The filing system, whether its references or kept in one library puts so many pictures at your fingertips so that projects like your *alive 365* one are more fun than work. Coupled with all of my photoshop filters, it’s made the process of straight photobooks or even collaged versions very reasoned and enjoyable. Thanks to a relatively inexpensive GPS logger, now my trip photos even have their lat/lon/alt data tagged right in and can be shown on Google earth with the click of a button.

    There’s a lot more to Aperture, and I know you have a *very* successful method setup on your end, but if you’ve got some free time it’s definitely worth a look. For the guy who turned me on to flash photography, I figure I should return the favor where I can.

  28. 34 says

    Dan … I’ve been curious about Aperture, and a friend of mine also swears by it. But at this point I just wonder how many post-production software programs I could possibly use in this lifetime. Nevermind master.

    Neil vN

  29. 35Dave P says

    I agree with Dan. I fell in love with Lightroom. I used it everyday. Then about a year ago, I was reading about Aperture and decided to give it a try. Although it lacks some of Lightroom’s adjustment features, I found that the simplicity of the interface and the ability to edit photos in full screen mode with a simple double click, outweighed any disadvantages. After all, I can use Photoshop for those specialized adjustments. Just like people’s preferences with Canon/Nikon and Windows/Mac, it’s simply a preference, not that one is necessarily better than the other. All I say, is give it a try.

  30. 37 says

    I just made the switch back to Windows (Windows 7) from OSX… My first MBP the fans died first year followed by the Super drive, then bloated battery… So I got a white MB to carry around and right after the first year the whole case developed craks in it. The battery died in the 13 month… The can the Snow Leopard debacle where a lot of my older software stopped working….

    I built a W7 PC from TigerDirect for $1600 that smokes MBP and MP and I’m really happy. I still have the MB for family videos just researching for a good iDVD replacement.

    There’s no silver bullet

  31. 38 says

    Hi Neil,

    A bit out of subject but you mentioned LumaPix software. I use Yervant and I find it OK. Is LumaPix better in your opinion?


  32. 39 says

    Motti … Yervant’s album software (like most other album design software on the market), offer you templates into which you drop your images.

    Depending on the sofware, this can be tough to edit afterwards if you want to change the design … or easy to an extent. But it is still a lot of work finding the template type you need.

    For example, you might have 2 vertical images + 2 horizontal images that make sense together on an album page. But one of them is the more dominant image.

    Good luck on finding an exact template page that fits your needs.

    Fotofusion Lumapix do offer templates, but where its real strength lies, is in the free-hand design it allows you.

    Now you can simply drop those 4 images on the page, and quickly resize and reshape them to fit the way you need.

    Dead easy, and very flexible. And it gets you out of the straight-jacket of template-based album design.

    Neil vN

  33. 40 says

    Great read – I’m in a similar situation right now. My current PC setup is due for a refresh, and of course I’ve always been tempted by Macs – especially with the whole “99.9% of photographers and graphic artists use them”.

    Whether I take the plunge and go for Mac or not, it’s also great to read your experiences with switching to a laptop as main computer… that is starting to look like a very smart way to go right about now!

  34. 41Jason Smith says


    Welcome to the land of Mac. Cant wait to see the post when you recieve your new iPAD – cmon you know you want one.

    I converted a couple of years ago with a Mac Pro which was an easy (albeit expensive) transition as I still have the freedom to upgrade with additional HDDS, RAM and PCI Cards.

    As the Mac Pro reaches its 2nd Birthday I am starting to think of upgrade options, one of which is a specced up MacBook Pro. I have the NEC 2690 Specravision Monitor which is awesome.


  35. 43Chris says


    I’ve been looking at the Drobos for quite some time as I do a lot of video editing and I take a lot of photos. My current solution is to run a linux server as a fileserver and backup my images to it. No solution besides DVD for the video. I do not keep source around for lack of space and I always keep the original tapes.

    I would like to point out that I believe that the Drobos is not a “true” RAID since it allows you to keep drives of different sizes, which is a plus for me. You can fill it up with whatever spare drives you have and later when your favorite tech store has a sale you can swap out with a bigger drive and the drobos will re-distribute the data, supposedly. I believe the drobos site has a calculator that will estimate how much space you will get with a proposed drive configuration.

    Have you ever considered offsite, online backup? I have thought about using Mozy for my pictures.
    They offer a “pro” plan that costs 3.95/month plus an additional .50 per GB/month. They also offer an unlimited home plan that costs $5/month or $55/year.

    Anyway, thanks for all your great info on flash photography. My pictures look better because of you.


  36. 44 says


    Thank you. Very well explained. By the way, I just received your book from Amazon and I am looking forward to read it and practice the different things. I will comment on the proper book article.


  37. 45 says

    Hi Neil,

    Another vote for Aperture here, new version (Aperture X) on the horizon and since I’ve been a user of it since day 1 I can’t wait to see the new improvements.

    I did have to smile reading some of the posts, I love Mac computers and have been using them for years and years. It does make me smile when you read posts from people who haven’t done their research ;-) (Jamesd3rd – Mac computers have had right click mice for YEARS!!!)


  38. 46Laura says

    Hi Neil!

    I just got my first Mac about 3 weeks ago. I previously owned a nice HP pc. It really never gave me any problems and at first I was hesitant to switch. Honestly, I switched just for the heck of it. I tend to do that simply because I’m curious about the other side (did the same with Canon and Nikon) I ordered an iMac. Oh my goodness, what a beautiful machine!! I couldn’t believe there were no wires! My pc had a gazilion wires coming out of it that I had to tie together, and the biggest pain in the butt was when my 10 month old crawling baby would pull out one of the wires and there would be a malfunction. Argh! The iMac setup is so neat, it’s a breath of fresh air!

  39. 47Chuck says

    Neil…You get annoyed with Mac useres be cause of their “fanboyish”…..well I feel the same way when i hear “capture it in RAW”…..

  40. 48 says

    Chuck .. what is different about the RAW vs JPG debate, is that there the benefits of RAW are easily described and experienced.

    It isn’t even remotely anything like Mercedes vs BMW / Mac vs PC … or even Canon vs Nikon.

    So I would have to support anyone who advised you to shoot in RAW.
    As far as I am concerned, the RAW vs JPG debate is a trivial one, since the one format is clearly superior.

    Let me put it another way:
    There is NO photographer on this planet who is good enough to get:
    – correct white balance,
    – correct exposure ,
    – correct brightness level,
    – correct overall and local contrast,
    – correct saturation,
    – a good black point,
    – (anything else you’d like to add),
    DURING the moment of capture for EVERY situation they are likely to encounter.

    If you shoot in a studio, and have absolute control over the lighting, and colour balance, and have fine-tuned your in-camera settings … then sure, shoot JPG. Knock yourself out. You are all set to shoot within one specific scenario. Great.

    But let me emphasize my previous statement again:
    There is NO photographer on this planet who is good enough to get EVERY aspect of the image quality correct at the time of capture for every situation they are likely to encounter.

    This implies that you WILL have to do some kind of adjustment on your selected images.
    And then you might as well use the file format that gives you the most latitude and control for your initial edit and adjustment.

    Neil vN

  41. 49Scott says

    I use Macs at work and PC at home (photo editor) There’s no question that macs are great but there’s one thing that mac users and you forget to mention. That style and “looks” comes at a cost. Macs cost 3-4 times what a pc does for comparable hardware. Just look at what memory costs to upgrade your mac. 8gb for a pc, less than $200. Or look what it costs to go from 640gb hd to 1tb. An extra $100 for the difference? 1tb internal hd at the store, $89 But if you’re willing to pay to look cool, Macs rule.

  42. 50 says

    Hi Neil. A bit late to the party I suppose…
    I’m chiming in as a daily user of Aperture. The first thing worth mentioning is it’s output. While not perfect is quite a bit better to these old eyes than say LR2. It’s got more details and you can correct moire issues with relative ease while LR will leave you cold (I got the files to prove it ). It is quite nasty when the bride’s gown or the groom’s shirt don’t look quite right. I’m. Confident you know what I mean… Aperture’s project oriented workflow is a deffinite plus for me as I could keep the library small (with evident speed advantages) and import/export weddings as projects with all the selects, album layouts…you name it. While LR’s tools are WAY cooler and more intuitive to use, it’s catalog structure and output issues have kept me away (I will still upgrade to the next one though just to keep the subscription alive).
    Couple Aperture with Nik Software apps and you’ll find your PS trips substantially decreasing in frequency. However some of the Nik stuff is so cool you’ll find yourself playing endlessly with the possibilities. Drop by their site and have a look at Viveza’s demo videos…
    As for MS Office… Well I took it out of my MacBook. OS-X has this nice discipline of where applications should go and do. MS Office on Windows writes itself everywhere. If MS could write a couple of files on the computer’s power cord I’m sure they would do it in a heartbeat. It’s like a dog peeing everywhere just to mark his territory. MS does a similar thing on Mac. Try uninstalling your copy and you’ll see. I’m deeply annoyed by this behaviour especially on a laptop that’s supposed to be a lean mean road machine. For the sake of compatibility my wife has it installed on her new iMac.
    Sorry for the mini-rant… I still use win7 on my desktops and media center. It is the best out of Redmond yet…

  43. 52Walter Rojter says

    Hi Neil,

    What is your opinion about the 24″ glossy Apple display? I hear a lot of people complaining about it.



  44. 53 says

    Walter, I immediately got myself better blinds for my study so that the window behind me doesn’t reflect in the screen. Now the glossy screen isn’t really a problem that I’ve noticed.

    Other than the glossiness (which I’ve dealt with now), I love the screen.

    Neil vN

  45. 55Steven Seelig says

    I scanned this long thread so I hope I am not repeating.
    1. I recently upgrade a 4 TB drobo to an 8 TB drobo. And yes, you really can take one drive out and replace it with a larger drive to expand available drive space. It takes a while to repopulate the RAID, but it work, four time as I went from 4 to 8 TB.
    2. I back up my Drobo to external Western Digital drives. SuperDuper is great software for this functionality on the Mac.
    3. You may want to consider Western Digital Passport drives. They are great drives up to 640 GB and can either be USB or firewire. I typically carry 2 or 3 500GB drives with me as storage (one drive) and backup (second drive) when traveling.
    4. I use Aperture for workflow and supposedly (hopefully) there will be a new Aperture out soon. Lots of people use Lightroom. I use Photoshop as a giant plug in to Aperture.

  46. 56Steven Seelig says

    Oops. I should add that the Passport drives pull their power from the computer and you don’t need an additional power cord!!

  47. 57 says

    I have one 500Gb portable hard drive (USB) connected directly into the 24″ cinema display. I drag random stuff onto here that I want to make sure I have an extra copy of. I also drag stuff here that I might want to have with me when I travel, or want to move to another computer. It’s quite handy, and sits out of the way on top of the shelf mounted onto the monitor’s stand.

    Neil vN

  48. 58Seamus says

    Hi Neil

    I’m very interested to read more of your experience using your mac for photography, I’ve just switched over to a new 27″ imac, which so far has been great, noticed you mention using a microsoft mouse, can you tell me which model as i would like to replace my apple mouse for working in photoshop.



  49. 59 says

    It’s the Microsoft Explorer Mouse (1362). The bulk helps my hand.

    The only thing I don’t like about it, is that the scroll wheel is smooth, and not ratcheted. This makes it difficult to scroll down just one click. Or two.

    Neil vN

  50. 60 says

    Don’t understand why anyone would go with the offputting distraction of the glossy screen particularly a large screen .When I got my macpro jan ’08 version I did a lot of research to find a non glossy screen & ended up with eizo 24″ & together with the mac makes a very professional set up indeed & makes workflow a dream…
    Does anyone have a good off site backup recommendation other than Mozy as I have heard mixed reports on this provider ?
    great blog………..& good luck with the mac.

  51. 61Seamus says

    To everyone commenting on imac glossy screen, it only becomes a problem if you position it with light reflecting on to it, position it correctly problem solved, with regards to photography once calibrated provides excellent colour results, i.e final prints match on screen photo, best investment ever made.

    P.S. 27″ of screen is great for photography.



  52. 63 says

    Funny thing about this. I bought Aperture 2 on Saturday (Feb 6), and three days later they announce Aperture 3. For the same price. Or $99 upgrade from Aperture 2. I hadn’t even cracked open the manual yet.

    The Apple store where I bought the software was very nice, and without fuss gave me a full refund on the opened software. So now I’ve put in an order for Aperture 3. Yay!

    I have noticed some troubling feedback on the forums where users of MacBook Pro machines complain how slow certain things in Aperture 3 run.

    We’ll see.

    Neil vN

  53. 64 says

    I’ve always wondered what it is about this apple + pc flame war thing.

    First: There is a lot of excellent hardware out there from IBM,Apple,HP and other high class vendors.

    Second: There are different desktop operating systems…

    I think it is safe to call Mac OS the best desktop operating system even though I don’t use it myself. Does anybody really wonder? Apple has to support IT’s Hardware. Microsoft has to support 99% of the Hardware everybody else is building…
    Apple controls most of the peripheral hardware you wanna use together with your System: iPod, iPhone, AirPort,…
    They just can make everything match and make them perfect complements. Microsoft just can’t…

    But there is a price for all that magic:
    – money $$$
    – flexibility or call it freedom. Good luck everybody writing your own applications for an iPad without a jailbreak…

    In a way Linux is a lot less “evil” than Microsoft is a lot less “evil” than Apple…

    For now I’ll stick with Windows 7. It is a quite good system.
    Might be that I switch to Apple when I can afford it…

  54. 65 says

    I need to comment on the ‘$$$’ thing. : )

    For myself, and for my business, the need to get the job done and do so efficiently, outweighs the need and time to find the less expensive version.

    As an example:
    In my description in the beginning .. I could’ve spent time to find the right codec and make Adobe Elements 7 work for creating video clips for the website. It was just simpler to buy something that works out of the box. I have things to do. Other things than mess around with the computer hardware and software.

    The summary: I’m a photographer, not a computer specialist.

    This will also explain why I picked the 24″ Apple Cinema display over potentially better choices. I simply didn’t have the time to do extended homework on this. Here’s a display that works great. I’ll take it. Thanks!

    Neil vN

  55. 66 says

    Late to this but so glad SB directed me to read your experiences.

    I’m PC and will purchase a new desktop within the next month because of the need to move into video. Was looking at the Canon Vixia’s (HFS10)and also the Sony XR150. Also looking at Premiere.

    My concern was also the $$ hit from Adobe for the new creative suite, PS and Lightroom if I were to switch to MAC, now I know, thanks Neil. Also didn’t know
    about the Canon Premiere – Windows 7 glitch, bummer.

    Neil, that was one expensive switch.


  56. 67 says

    Kathleen .. re the software, you could contact Adobe, and for a very small fee, transfer your Windows license for a Mac license for your Photoshop software.

    Lightroom is cross-platform, so no drama and extra cost there.

    I took a hit in having to buy another copy of CS4 because I wanted Photoshop on my Mac as well. (I still think it is extortion from Adobe.)

    Neil vN

  57. 69Niko says

    Great website Neil, thx for sharing so much! I use both Mac and PC, but ended up doing all photo(NIKON) work on Mac, it works great, and a choice must be made because collecting software for both platforms does not make sense. I’ve been using CAPTURE NX2, which works just excellent (except for speed when doing batches in RAW). Those who have not seen it, may want to take a look at it: great value for price. I’m getting more and more curious about Aperture I must admit, but like you said yourself, one simply cannnot know, own, and use them all..

  58. 70John.B says

    Note that while the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse are “nice to haves”, they aren’t necessary to run your MBP in clamshell mode.

  59. 71Neil vN says

    But how are you going to control your computer?
    Aside from a wired keyboard and mouse?

    The wires would make it a cluttered setup again.

    Neil vN

  60. 72Anka says

    In photography terms you can look at PC and Mac users as you do JPG users and RAW users. RAW just rules. JPG users don’t want to hear the simple solution of changing to RAW, they just want to know how they can fix their ever problematic JPGs. It’s only when they change over to RAW that they understand what the fuss was all about! Simple.

  61. 73 says

    First I want to say this is great website. My question is about IPHOTO. Are you using it for any part of your workflow or storage. I generally inport my photos directly to IPHOTO and then go from there to LR OR PS for any editing. I have had mixed results with IPHOTO. It has crashed twice and lost all my photos. Forunately I was able to recover them but it has made me very wary of using IPHOTO as one of my storage locations. I back up my images that I have on my website on the hard drive in a file and on a backup storage unit.


  62. 74 says

    Jay … I don’t use iPhoto for anything other than getting images and video clips off my iPhone onto my computer. And I also use it to assemble the slideshow on my iPad.

    I don’t like how iPhoto removes direct control over the images (and their location) away from me.

    Neil vN

  63. 75trev says

    HI Neil,

    Did you ever get to try and evaluate Aperture?

    I did not see any posts you did unless I missed it.

    Aperture has by far the best ‘details ressurector’ I have seen. I am PC based at the moment and tried Aperture on a mate’s iMac.

    I am going by whereby I had to shoot a house for a client [already shot his daughter’s wedding and he was selling his house], and of course he wanted it done in the ‘wrong’ time of day, with daylight falling opposite the main features he wanted to show. No amount of talking could convince him to choose another time of day.

    So I took the shots, and I deliberately opened up the exposure by shooting 2.5 stops over the ‘proper’ exposure to get more details in the shaded area. It really blew out the white walls in the sun, but I thought I would take several and combine them if need be [camera on tripod].

    Opened up the raw in ACR, recovered the highlights, looked pretty good, tried it in LR, same result, then I took the file just for the hell of it to my mate’s place [iMac+Aperture] as he’s been on my case for years to get a Mac.

    Well, I was absolutely stunned, the details in the wall that come out were amazing, very easily seen.

    So I was wondering if you had any chance to compare.

    Thanks for all the great info on your site btw, even though I and many others here may have been shooting for years, you always learn, and even looking thru some of your older posts, I can see how you have evolved yourself, and the best piece of advice I have ever received is the ‘black foamy thingy’, used to use white cards to bounce back or sides, but the ‘black foam’ just makes perfect sense.


  64. 76Howard Owen says

    Glad you like your macs. I was forced to use them in graphic design school and couldn’t get away from them fast enough once I was done.

    Having said that I might one day entertain the notion of trying a new mac, especially now that they have Intel processors and can run the Windows OS… seems like it *could* be the best of both worlds.

    But for now, I’ll continue to be PC.

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