Lightroom on a Laptop


Today’s Question: My work takes me on the road for 40 weeks a year. I would really like to sell my iMac [desktop computer] and connect a large Apple display to my MacBook Pro [laptop computer]. Would it be advisable to run my master Lightroom catalog on my MacBook Pro using the 2TB solid-state drive?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I can tell you from personal experience that you absolutely run Lightroom very effectively on a well-configured laptop computer. In fact, because I similarly am traveling much of the year, my MacBook Pro has become my primary computer for all purposes, including running Lightroom to manage my catalog of over 300,000 photos.

More Detail: There are, of course, some advantages and disadvantages of using a laptop computer compared to a desktop computer, especially when it comes to image management.

One of the key potential advantages of a desktop computer is that you are generally able to configure a desktop with better performance specifications compared to a laptop computer. It is often possible to employ faster processors (or more processor cores) as well as more memory (RAM) on a desktop computer. You will also often be able to make use of more video memory (VRAM) and a faster graphics processor unit (GPU) on a desktop computer.

So, in general it is possible to achieve greater performance with a desktop computer compared to a laptop computer. However, I have found that a well-configured laptop computer can provide excellent performance for Lightroom and other critical tasks.

In addition, a laptop provides some advantages in terms of portability. Obviously there is the direct advantage of being able to move your computer from place to place. But perhaps more importantly, by having your Lightroom catalog on a laptop computer that you travel with, you’ll avoid the challenges associated with trying to manage multiple catalogs. In addition, you’ll avoid the perhaps greater challenge associated with attempting to transfer key files (such as your Lightroom catalog) between multiple computers when you depart for or return from a trip.

In other words, using a laptop computer as your primary (or only) computer can be a tremendous benefit if you travel frequently. Rather than keeping track of which files are on which computer, or trying to make sure you are always working on the latest version of a file, you simply bring your laptop with you when you travel and use the same laptop when you are at home. The result can be a much more streamlined workflow compared to other approaches you might take involving multiple computers.