Dear Lifehacker, I'm running out of hard drive space because I have an enormous collection of photos. Apart from getting more storage or culling some pictures, the other option I've been thinking about is converting all my images to the WebP file format. It looks like it could compress down to somewhere between 40 to 60 per cent of the original size. Is this a good idea?
Am I committing myself to a file format that hasn't got the same backing as some more mainstream image file formats? What would you recommend? Thanks, Running Out Of Space
Photo file picture from Shutterstock
We wouldn't personally recommend this. WebP lossless images (that is, images that retain all original data in the compression process) are around 25 percent smaller in size compared to PNGs. Converting all your images to the WebP format will therefore free up a quarter of your used hard drive space, which doesn't sound too bad on paper.
However, the trade-off probably isn't worth it. WebP isn't compatible with all image editors and viewing devices. It also lacks native support for some web browsers including Firefox and Internet Explorer. This is likely to cause annoyances that negate any space gains you make.
Converting your photos to WebP lossy images will free up even more space, but this will result in a degradation in image quality. Deliberately culling detail from your photos is obviously a bad idea and is really only recommended to web developers working with small images.
Instead, we'd recommend investing in a separate hard drive or migrating some of your photos to the cloud. There are plenty of free online storage services available including Flickr, Google, SkyDrive. Click here for an overview of what five of the best cloud storage providers offer.
You could also try scanning your hard drive for image duplicates you no longer need. VisiPics is a de-dupe web app that lets you compare and delete duplicate images on Windows machines. It scans the photo content of each image file and then groups matches together. You can adjust the match intensity via a sliding scale which is handy if you want to delete similar photos (i.e. -- do you really need 500 wedding ceremony pics that all look the same?)
Whichever method you go with, be sure to retain backups of your favourite photos in different locations as an insurance policy; which is something you should already be doing.
If any readers want to jump to WebP's defense (or has a space-saving suggestion of their own) let ROOS know in the comments section below.
Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our contact form.