You open up your computer, insert your camera memory card, and expect to see the beautiful photos you just spent all afternoon taking pop up on your computer. To your dismay, the only thing you see is a notification hinting card errors. Or, worse yet, you open the card only to find it is completely empty, devoid of any recollection of your hard work and time investment.
We’ve all been there. Having issues with camera memory cards is nothing new; however, there are a number of things that you can do to help prevent them. Use these ten simple habits to take care of your camera memory card, and you should be able to avoid those dreaded error notifications.
1. Use a high-quality card and card reader
As with anything else, you get what you pay for, so if you want to protect your precious digital files, make the investment in a quality memory card and reader. While all the reader does is “read” the card, there is still the chance that it could damage it. To try to avoid issues with your card, use a reader from the same manufacturer as your card.
2. Always format the card in your camera
Anytime you are shooting photos, make sure that the card is appropriately formatted. To structure the card specifically for the camera you are using, always format it in your camera. Reformatting in a different one or via your computer can cause certain errors. AC Guevara has a nice video showing you how to do this step by step.
3. Remove the card only after you turn off your camera
One of the easiest but most often forgotten ways to prevent card issues is simply turning off the camera before removing the storage card. If you forget and yank out the card while the camera is still on, chances are the camera is still reading/writing files on the card, which could be detrimental to the data.
4. Safely eject your card from the computer
If you take your card out of the computer the wrong way, you are taking your fate, or that of your files, into your own hands. The issue with improperly ejecting your card from your computer is that you could cause data corruption; or even worse, put the integrity of the storage device at risk, according to a test conducted by Andy Betts.
5. Stop shooting before the card is full
Most cameras have a number on the screen indicating how many photos you can take before you’ve filled the memory card. The only problem with that number is that it is just an estimate, and if you end up taking another photo once the card is actually full, you risk corrupting the whole card. Rather than risking this issue, just leave some extra space by leaving a few extra shots empty on the card.
6. Put your card in a safe environment
This is to protect the contacts of your memory cards. Any number of elements can damage your contacts, including water, dust, and static electricity. According to DFWCI, even the smallest amount of static can destroy storage cards. Too often, cards are thrown into gadget bags or grungy pockets. Try to avoid materials that are static generators. Anti-static bags are cheap, prevent static, and provide a clean storage environment for your cards.
7. Never shoot when the battery is low
Your camera’s battery is nearly as important as your card, so don’t skimp on batteries and avoid pushing it to the limit. If you are shooting on a low battery, there is a chance that it’ll run out just as your camera is writing to your memory card, which could cause you to lose all of your data. To prevent this loss, switch out your batteries as soon as your camera indicates that the current one is low.
8. Think twice before you delete something
Sometimes you never know which photo you take is the best, hence, you would probably regret when you find the one has actually been erased. Also, if you choose to delete photos in the middle of a shoot, whether it’s one or several, you run the risk of corrupting the data on the card. Instead, delete images on your computer once you have uploaded all of them and preferably made several backups of the images.
9. Stop using the card when you see errors
No matter what error pops up in your camera or on your computer (after you plug in the card), stop using it immediately. Go ask your techy friends or post a question in your favorite photography communities or send it to a nearby camera repair shop. I also published a guide on fixing memory card errors that you may find helpful.
10. Don’t put all eggs in one basket – always backup
Having suffered a couple of heartbroken data loss situations myself, the hard lesson I’ve learned in the digital age is – make multiple copies of everything on a regular basis. All storage devices including camera cards have a lifespan; you never know when it’s going to end. So again, backup! Meanwhile, if you can, always have several new cards at hand. Remember, your photographs are more important than anything else.
While there is no guarantee that you won’t run into a memory card issue, following these habits and tips will make issues less likely to occur. Comment below with your best tips for avoiding camera card errors or share your own story about your camera card woes.
About The Guest Contributor
JP is an amateur photographer and a technology enthusiast based in San Diego, California. He is passionate about writing useful tips to help people solve computer or device related issues. When he is not in front of his MacBook Pro, you’ll probably find him enjoy the city with his loved camera.