A really large iPhoto library

My cute wife takes a ton of pictures and I’m glad she does because it is really fun to go back and replay events from our last 10 years of marriage. Our iPhoto library has grown to ~70,000 pictures, which is taking up about 350GB of storage on our hard drive. I don’t think iPhoto was built to handle a library that large, because now when we open up iPhoto, the entire machine grinds to a crawl. Here’s what I plan to do to fix this problem.

  1. Buy more RAM. Our iMac is a 2009 model that has only 4GB of RAM. I ran the Crucial System Scanner, which recommends that I can safely upgrade to 8GB of RAM. I think this will make a big difference, because right now the Activity Monitor shows high “memory pressure” when iPhoto is open.
  2. Buy another external drive. I’m not sure which kind, but if anyone else has good experience with any external drives, let me know. I’m considering buying a drive enclosure that would allow me to install a few hard drives and put into a RAID configuration. It would be preferable if it connected via the thunderbolt port, because this iMac only has USB 2.0 support, which is pretty slow.
  3. Upgrade to Aperture. After digging through a bunch of Apple forum threads, I’ve come to the conclusion that I really just need to buy Aperture. Aperture has all the features that I appreciate about iPhoto (iCloud, file system integration, etc.) but brings a bunch of new features that I could really use. It allows you to split your photo library into smaller chunks and to put those photo libraries on multiple drives. This should allow me to “archive” the old photos to the external drive(s) and keep the active library trim, which should allow me to not kill my system’s memory every time I open up photos.
  4. Remove multiple event shots. We usually take about 4 or 5 shots of memory we are wanting to capture. We do this because it is really difficult to capture just the right shot. We haven’t been diligent in removing the unwanted shots, so they have bloated our library. With 70k photos, I’m not sure this is really feasible. Perhaps we should at least do this with photos captured via our DSLR which take up a bunch of space.

I’m going to work through this in order of the items listed above. I think the RAM may cut some of the pain in the short-term. I believe the drives will be necessary for Aperture to really take advantage of splitting up the photo library. Maybe someone will develop an app to help with #4. Google claims to do this for you with its latest Android/Google+ stuff…