MacBook laptops offer everything you need when post-processing your photos. They look fantastic, are extremely durable, and have amazing system specs. The best MacBooks for photo editing benefit from a powerful Apple processing chip, plenty of RAM, and a fast storage drive. The display quality is also magnificent, which is vital for color accuracy and consistent editing.
In this article, I’ve picked the six of the best MacBooks currently available. These include the latest models and some older versions that still perform incredibly well.
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1. Apple MacBook Pro 16” 2021 (M1 Max)
The Apple MacBook Pro 16” 2021 with the M1 Max chip offers the best raw components and power to cope with demanding, high-end photo editing.
Our top pick for the best MacBook for photo editing is the Apple MacBook Pro 16” 2021 (M1 Max). This is by far the most powerful and advanced MacBook Pro ever built, and it can easily cope with even the most demanding photo editing software, such as ON1 Photo RAW and Luminar AI.
If you are a professional photographer or a digital marketer and you need a reliable, multipurpose laptop for photo editing, this is the best option. It looks great, has an amazing display, and also has the highest current system specs available in a MacBook Pro.
The specs include:
- ARM 7100 10-core processor
- M1 Max chip
- 64 GB of DDR DRAM
- 2 TB SSD
- 16.2-inch display screen
As you can see, this MacBook Pro is a beast. The ARM 7100 CPU and M1 Max chip combined with a ludicrous 64 GB of RAM means that you can run any photo editing software. Not only that, but the performance will be incredible when working with multiple-image composites, doing HDR editing, and more.
This MacBook Pro also looks great and has a superb display: a Liquid Retina XDR display with a native resolution of 3456 x 2234 at 254 PPI. Thanks to True Tone technology and Wide P3 color support, your photos will feature accurate colors and excellent contrast.
The only downside to this behemoth is the price tag. It essentially costs the same as (if not more than) a high-spec gaming computer. The benefit, however, is that you can use it anywhere, whereas with a desktop computer or Mac, you are confined to a single location.
2. Apple MacBook Pro 16” 2021 (M1 Pro)
This MacBook Pro has a large 16.2-inch display and the powerful M1 Pro chip to run advanced photo editing software with ease.
If you want a laptop that costs a little less than our top pick but still boasts excellent specs and a glorious 16-inch screen, check out the Apple MacBook Pro 16” 2021 with the M1 Pro chip.
The M1 Pro chip is still the second most advanced Apple processing chip available (after the M1 Max). It has a 10-core CPU and a 16-core GPU; this is combined with an impressive 16 GB of unified memory that can be upgraded to 32 GB if needed. The processing power, memory, and GPU performance should still allow you to use high-end photo editing software.
The specs of this Apple MacBook Pro include:
- M1 Pro CPU
- M1 Pro GPU
- 16 GB of DDR DRAM
- 512 GB SSD
- 16.2-inch display
There is the option to upgrade the SSD to a 1 TB drive, which could be beneficial if you have a larger photo collection. However, 512 GB is a great starting point. It is also an NVMe SSD and thus offers incredibly fast transfer speeds.
This is the best pick for intermediate and professional use. It offers more processing power compared to the 2020 and 2019 models, and the M1 Pro chip is far superior to previous Intel Core i7 processors or the M1 standard chip.
3. Apple MacBook Pro 14” 2021 (M1 Max)
The MacBook Pro 14” 2021 with the M1 Max chip is more portable but still very powerful and great for photographers who need to do on-the-go editing.
Unless you’re doing pro-level high-resolution photo editing, you may not need a huge 16.2-inch screen. If this is the case, you might prefer the Apple MacBook Pro 14” 2021 (M1 Max), which is still incredibly powerful but is slightly more portable.
This could be the perfect photo editing laptop if you often travel to different sites. The 14.2-inch screen still looks superb, but the overall size and weight of the MacBook are smaller. This laptop has the following specs:
- Intel Core i7 CPU
- M1 Max GPU
- 32 GB of unified memory
- 512 GB SSD
- 14.2-inch display
The performance is driven by an Intel Core i7 CPU. This is still a fast processor with multiple cores and multi-threading technology. As a result, the MacBook Pro will be able to run several programs at once with no performance drop. It’s aided by an impressive 32 GB of unified memory and the ultra-powerful M1 Max GPU.
Despite the smaller screen, 14.2 inches is still more than adequate for photo editing. It offers an effective display resolution of 3000 x 2000 pixels, and it benefits from the Liquid Retina screen quality and True Tone colors.
4. Apple MacBook Pro 14” 2021 (M1 Pro)
The Apple MacBook Pro 14.2” with the M1 Pro processor is another great all-around laptop with superior processing power and a portable design.
There are also M1 Max and M1 Pro models with a 14.2-inch screen. Therefore, if you want to save a little money and you feel that the M1 Max is not needed, you could get the Apple MacBook Pro 14” 2021 (M1 Pro) instead.
This is still a highly capable MacBook and benefits from a portable body, magnificent display quality, and plenty of processing power to run advanced photo editing software. The only real difference is the GPU. You can see the specs below:
- M1 Pro 10-core CPU
- M1 Pro 14-core GPU
- 16 GB of unified DDR DRAM
- 512 GB SSD
- 14.2-inch Liquid Retina display
This is essentially the same laptop as the one listed above. The difference is that it has an M1 Pro chip. The M1 Pro CPU in many instances is superior to the Intel Core i7 chip. However, the GPU does not have as many cores and thus lacks processing power. Regardless, it is capable of running photo editing software like Lightroom without any issues.
5. Apple MacBook Pro 13” 2020 (M1)
The Apple MacBook Pro 13” 2020 is a perfectly capable laptop that could be great for hobbyists or for those who only edit photos occasionally.
The older MacBook Pro models shouldn’t be overlooked. The 2019 and 2020 models still have great specs, a stylish design, and a high-quality display. Therefore, a solid choice with a much cheaper price tag is the Apple MacBook Pro 13” 2020 (M1).
If you want an all-purpose laptop for photo editing, gaming, and general use but you aren’t a professional photographer, this 13-inch model could be a good choice. Specs include:
- 10-core M1 CPU
- 8-core M1 GPU
- 8 GB of DDR DRAM
- 512 GB SSD
- 13.3-inch display screen
The M1 chip is still a relatively new creation, but it has been surpassed by the M1 Pro and M1 Max models. Regardless, it has a 10-core CPU and an 8-core GPU. Combine this with the 8 GB of unified memory, and you have a capable MacBook Pro.
It may struggle a little with process-hungry applications, but the specifications should be enough to run virtually any photo editing software. There is also the option to upgrade the memory to 16 GB, which will further increase the laptop’s performance.
This MacBook only has a 512 GB SSD, which some could find limiting. However, if you are not a professional photographer or using the MacBook Pro for work, it should be enough. If your average photo is 30 MB, a 512 GB SSD could store over 15,000 photos!
This MacBook Pro also has an amazing display, and the smaller screen size and weight mean that it is more portable, too. In my view, it’s the best MacBook Pro for photo editing on the go, for hobbyists, and for general use.
6. Apple MacBook Pro 16” 2019 (Intel Core i9)
The Apple MacBook Pro 16” 2019 is an older model, but you actually get higher specs for a decent price.
Our last pick is an older model, but one that’s still incredibly capable and that features great processing power: the Apple MacBook Pro 16” 2019 (Intel Core i9).
This has a high-quality, 16.2-inch screen and benefits from a powerful processor, plenty of RAM, and a great storage drive. The full specifications are listed below:
- Intel Core i9 CPU
- AMD Radeon Pro 5500M graphics
- 16 GB of unified memory
- 1 TB SSD
You get a powerful 9th generation Intel Core-i9 processor and a brilliant AMD Radeon Pro GPU with 6 GB of dedicated memory. You get a solid 16 GB of RAM and an ultra-fast, 1 TB SSD.
Although this MacBook Pro does not have the latest Apple chips, it is still very powerful and can be used to run any type of editing software.
Factors to Consider when Choosing a MacBook for Photo Editing
When buying MacBook models, users often struggle with the amount of customization. There are multiple components that can be changed. To help, we have listed the core components and their variants below:
The processor is arguably the most important component for editing with a MacBook. It is the brain of the computer, and the multiple cores are used to handle software processes.
Apple has started using its own processor chips, whereas in previous MacBooks, they used Intel chips. You can see the best current options for MacBook Pro processors below:
- M1 Max chip
- M1 Pro chip
- M1 chip
- Intel Core i7
The M1 Max chip is currently the best option. This is a 10-core CPU combined with (up to) a 32-core GPU. It also has unified memory, which means you get more effective system resource usage. However, anything from an Intel Core i7 processor upward is capable of running high-end editing software (provided the other components are adequate, too).
The next important component paired with the processor is the RAM or system memory. While the processor is the brain, the RAM is the powerhouse and is responsible for how fast tasks are done. Simply put, the more RAM your MacBook has, the better performance it has. The following are common RAM sizes for MacBook Pro models:
- 64 GB
- 32 GB
- 16 GB
- 8 GB
I would advise purchasing a MacBook or iMac for photo editing with at least 8 GB of RAM. Most editing software requires 8 GB to run. But if your budget allows it, go for 16 GB or more as high-end programs like Lightroom and ON1 Photo RAW have a recommended RAM amount of 16 GB.
The storage drive is also important and has two main characteristics to consider. First, the storage amount is important as it dictates how many photos you can store on the drive. Second, storage speed is important as it dictates how quickly you can access files when using photo editing software. The following are common storage drive options in MacBook Pro models:
- 2 TB SSD
- 1 TB SSD
- 512 GB SSD
For large photo collections, a minimum of 1 TB space is advisable. 512 GB is only really sufficient if you have a small photo collection.
In terms of speed, modern 2019 and later MacBook Pro models have NVMe SSD drives, which are incredibly fast. These are much faster than traditional SATA drives and thus allow for quicker access, management, and editing of photos.
Display and Screen Size
Lastly, the display type and screen size are vital. Ideally, you want a large screen size so you can view your photos at high resolutions. A larger screen also helps make photo editing dashboards less cluttered. The following are the best MacBook Pro screen sizes:
- 16 inch
- 14 inch
- 13 inch
All modern MacBook Pro models – including the ones listed above! – have amazing-quality displays. They use Liquid Retina XDR technology, which offers an impressive level of display clarity, color accuracy, and brightness. They also use True Tone color technology and can display a wide range of colors. This is essential for high-end photo editing where accuracy and color depth are important.
Pick the Perfect MacBook for Photo Editing
As you can see, there is a range of good MacBook models to choose from. But which MacBook is the best choice for you? This depends on several factors, including your budget, intended use, and the type of software you prefer.
If you want an affordable MacBook Pro that can still run process-intensive photo editing software, the Apple MacBook Pro 13” 2020 (M1) is your best option. Alternatively, if you can afford the best and want top-notch performance, the Apple MacBook Pro 16” 2021 (M1 Max) is our top choice.
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