Recommended Hardware for a High End Photography Workstation

Hardware We Recommend for a High End Photography Workstation

Designing the right system for the current scenario is a core element of our mantra at Top Flight Computers. If you don't get the right parts, it doesn't matter how much you spend on your'll be stuck with expensive hardware that doesn't work well with your situation.

Workstation Build Index

High End Photography Workstation Overview


Processor (CPU): Intel i9-9900K

We chose the i9-9900K for its extremely high single-core performance. The i9-9900K also has a very competitive multithreaded performance, which is helpful in situations that can use several CPU threads. NOTE: Changing from a 9900K to a different, higher-end CPU, can give you access to more memory at the cost of single-core speed. Sometimes, this extra memory is worth the CPU speed hit, as it saves you from having to re-render content. This can be very helpful when working with a very large project.

CPU Cooler: be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4

To ensure that the CPU remains cool under load, we've selected a very good aftermarket air cooler. While water cooling does cool better than air does, a big air cooler will do quite well when leaving the CPU at stock settings. Air coolers are also more reliable, as they don't have a pump that can fail. If the fan on this air cooler fails, the system has enough internal cooling to allow you to quickly order a new fan, and finish your work. That being said, higher-end closed-loop liquid coolers do come with very long manufacturer warranties (upwards of 7 years), so the failure rate is extremely low.

Motherboard: ASRock Z390 Taichi Ultimate

Because this system requires a large number of SATA ports, a high degree of reliability, and multiple IO ports on the back, we chose a high end motherboard from ASRock. This motherboard has 8 SATA ports, excellent power delivery, three network ports (single 10G and dual 1G), a muted visual design, support for multiple M2 NVME drives, several rear USB ports, and up to 64GB of memory.

Memory (RAM): Corsair Vengeance LPX 32GB DDR4-2666

We went with 32GB of Vengeance LPX memory due to the extremely high quality of the internal chips. This setup will give the user plenty of room for open applications. Photoshop and Lightroom can both use large amounts of memory during certain operations, and with certain filters and effects enabled. As Coffee Lake Refresh is a dual-channel DDR4-2666 platform, the system is more stable by using 2 DIMMs of DDR4-2666.

Storage (Hard Drives):

Samsung 860 EVO 500GB OS/Programs SSD

Samsung 860 EVO 1TB Lightroom Cache SSD

Samsung 860 EVO 2TB Work/Current SSD

Western Digital Blue 1TB Rejects HDD

Western Digital Red 2TB JPEG HDD

Western Digital Black 2TB Work Clone HDD

6x Western Digital Red 6TB NAS Archive HDD

Synology NAS Diskstation DS1819+

The SSDs and HDDs were chosen for their high capacity and high reliability. This complex storage array is designed for a per-drive file management setup.

Drives are associated for OS, Lightroom, Work, Rejects, JPEG, Work Clone, and Archive.

Video Card (GPU): MSI GTX 1060 6GB GAMING

The video card was chosen for its large memory capacity, ample CUDA cores, and support for 4K resolution. This video card has a very capable aftermarket cooling solution, and will prevent any sort of thermal throttling from taking place. We do recommend having at least a GTX 1060, as CUDA acceleration in Photoshop CC is growing as Adobe adds support.

Case: Fractal Design Define R6 USB-C Blackout

The case was chosen for its high build quality, room for plenty of high-end hardware, and incredible amount of cooling potential.

Fans: 7x Phanteks PH-F120MP

We have selected a set of high-quality pressure-optimized fans to ensure sufficient airflow in the case to keep the system stable under heavy load. Having high quality fans also means less noise, even when the fans are spinning at high RPM.

Power Supply: EVGA SuperNOVA P2 750W

The power supply was chosen for its high build quality, ample power capacity, and respectable thermal efficiency. Upgrading the wattage will potentially make the fan run slower, creating less noise overall. A higher wattage PSU than necessary will also prolong the life of the unit, as it isn't being operated near peak load. Using a high quality power supply means better power delivery, and cleaner power. Messy power can result in a system failure, corruption of data, or even a hardware crash.

About Top Flight Computers

Top Flight Computers designs high-performance custom-built computers. We specialize in workstations, gaming computers, and water cooling.

We are based in Cary, North Carolina, and we ship across the USA. Check out our previous builds and our page on Facebook.