Today’s Question: I am running out of disk space and would like to know the best way to archive photos that are part of my Lightroom catalog without loosing the ability to restore them if needed.
Tim’s Quick Answer: There are a couple of options you might consider. First, you could simply move some of your photos to a different storage location, without removing them from your Lightroom catalog. Second, you could export some of your photos to a separate catalog, and then remove them from your master catalog.
More Detail: My personal preference in this situation would be to obtain a larger hard drive and then transition all photos to that new hard drive. This approach enables you to retain all of your photos within your Lightroom catalog, with the ability to gain access to greater storage capacity.
If you don’t want to transition to a larger hard drive, you could certainly archive a portion of your catalog to a different drive. The first approach would be to simply move some of your folders to a different drive, doing so within Lightroom.
For example, you could create an archival storage location on a different drive. Start by clicking the plus (+) icon to the right of the Folders header on the left panel in the Library module in Lightroom, choosing Add Folder from the popup menu that appears. Navigate to a location that has adequate storage, and click the New Folder button. Create a new folder named something like “PHOTO ARCHIVE” and click the Choose button to add that folder to Lightroom.
Make sure you have a good backup of your photos before actually moving images. You could then drag individual folders from the existing storage location to the new “PHOTO ARCHIVE” folder you created on a different storage device. This will free up space on your primary storage device, while still enabling you to access those photos within your Lightroom catalog.
If you prefer to move the photos and remove them from your Lightroom catalog, I recommend creating a new “archive” catalog. You can select all of the photos you want to archive, and then use a two-step process to copy them to another catalog and remove them from the current catalog.
The first step here would be to use the Export as Catalog command found on the File menu to create a new catalog with the selected images. Be sure to turn on the “Export negative files” checkbox so that the actual image files are copied as part of this process. Once you’ve confirmed the photos have been copied successfully and that you have a full backup of all of your photos, you can use the Photo > Remove Photo command to remove the selected photos from your Lightroom catalog, using the option to delete the photos from the disk as part of that process.
It is important to use caution with either of these approaches in order to safeguard your images and avoid problems in your catalog.