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I'm running out of space on my laptop hard drive and will have to move some of my photos to a portable hard disk or burn them to DVD. Is there a way to keep thumbnails of the photos that I've archived on my laptop, to allow me to search and view them? This way I could save space and then pull the original photo out of my archive if I wanted the original file.

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Any decent Digital Asset Management software will do this - it will allow you to index and catalog photos (including a small thumbnail) using its database while the actual files themselves may live on external media (that doesn't need to be attached).

Examples of programs which do this include:

  • Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
  • Apple Aperture
  • Extensis Portfolio
  • Expression Media
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Does Lightroom let you archive off the RAW images, but keep the image searchable in the main catalog? – Rowland Shaw Nov 24 '10 at 18:46
Yes, once you've cataloged an image in Lightroom you can detach that media (remove a DVD, unplug a hard drive, etc) and the image thumbnail and metadata remains accessible/searchable from Lightroom. If you end up wanting to make any actual edits to the image, you'll need the source media at that point. – ahockley Nov 24 '10 at 18:59

I've made a Python script called thumbtree for this purpose. It makes a "copy" of directory with images, keeping the structure and file names, but scaling down all the images. I then keep the lower resolution version on my laptop. When I add some pictures to the archive, I just rerun the script and it updates the low-resolution copy.

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I use ThumbsPlus from Cerious software. It stores the thumbnails in a database, with tags and other information. Set the thumbnail size to 200x200 or so if you really want to be able to figure out what you had.

I'd keep a local set of the photos downsized to screen resolution and highly jpeg compressed on the laptop as another option. This might allow you to have all of them accessible.

Another thing would be to get one of the 320Gb USB powered drives that are now less than US$80 everywhere, and put your photos on that.

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