Partial-transfer absorption imaging is a tool that enables optimal imaging of atomic clouds for a wide range of optical depths. In contrast to standard absorption imaging, the technique can be minimally destructive and can be used to obtain multiple successive images of the same sample. The technique involves transferring a small fraction of the sample from an initial internal atomic state to an auxiliary state and subsequently imaging that fraction absorptively on a cycling transition. The atoms remaining in the initial state are essentially unaffected. We demonstrate the technique, discuss its applicability, and compare its performance as a minimally destructive technique to that of phase-contrast imaging.