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Your Little Gold Brick |A Few Basic Ways to Protect Your Data On Memory Cards

By Teagan Alex on September 17th 2014

With technology ever changing at such a rapid pace in our day and age, it is not a surprise when a new piece of technology acts up. Memory cards are one of the most important tools for a photographer and is one thing that can be buggy.

When you have spent your day out shooting and taken a record amount of photos, the last thing you want is the card to not work. It isn’t like film where you can know for sure, as long as you exposed it correctly, the images will be there. How do you keep your card from acting up? Luckily, there are things that can help a prevent a temperamental memory card.


1. Be Patient


Allow your camera enough time to write the images to the memory card. I don’t know about you, but when I am shooting, I will hustle myself along to get to a computer to see what I just created. It has happened a few times where my awesome shot was the last one I took, and I didn’t wait long enough to allow the card to write, thus resulting in a lost image. Insert frowny face. So, give your camera that extra few seconds to write the data so there will be no frowny faces in sight.

2. Check Battery Power

LowBatteryIt is a known fact that digital cameras can’t run without a little juice. It takes some of that ‘juice’ to help write data to your card. Even though your battery might have two bars, it might make saving data that much harder for your little camera. I myself have fallen into the low battery trap and forgot to charge my spare. Even though I have been lucky to not lose an image, the possibility is there. So, make sure you’re all charged up before you leave for a shoot, or bring along a charger just in case you can find an outlet.

3. Same Card, Same Camera

If you keep one card with one camera then the formatting and numbering of the images will stay consistent. When you mix and match, you run the risk of losing data or having corruption issues. Memory cards can be similar to external hard drives where they need to stay with their buddy to work at their best. I personally haven’t found this to be an issue, but I only shoot with one brand of camera so that could be my saving grace. Praise be!

4. Use A Card Reader


These puppies are worth the investment, if your computer doesn’t have a built in reader. They are easy to use, simple and often times cheap. I have had many times where I have gone to plug my camera into my computer and it just freezes half way through the import. This equals bad stuff, a few images have gotten lost in the transfer. But since I got a card reader, I haven’t lost a single image. Readers speed up the transfer to your computer and they use the computer’s battery to run instead of your camera, saving that juice for the shoot! B&H photo is an awesome place to find one, it is where I purchased mine.

5. Avoid Editing In Camera

When we delete, rotate or even change data while in camera, we can risk losing the data all together. When you make such changes, it makes the camera rewrite all new data and can cause loss of image information in translation – don’t let the wires cross! (Thank you, Ghostbusters). Often times when photographing family members, they want to see the image right after taking it. I let them look, cause it’s family, but they get no special treatment on their image. I leave them be, so there is no rewriting or crossing wires. Besides I’d rather edit on a nice large computer screen than my tiny camera.

6. Keep It Cool & Clean


Temperature extremes can make memory cards go haywire. When you take it on a hike on a hot summer day, the inside of your camera bag can top 120 degrees or more! And on the opposite side, cold can make things slow and cause parts to freeze. So try and keep your cards at a good temperature. I live in a climate that sees lots of cold and ice, (go,Utah!), so when I go out to shoot, I put my memory card in my inside jacket pocket. This way it is close to my body heat and stays relatively warm. Also those outdoor shoots can risk getting dirt and water near your cards. Keeping them in a case or a ziploc bag and help them better weather the grime.

With most of these situations, there is a percent chance of recovery available. For me, it is better to not risk it at all. So, keep those memory cards safe, like your own personal little gold brick.

via [Picture Correct]

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Teagan Alex is an Event and Fine Art Photographer based in Salt Lake City Utah. She believes that all people are inherently beautiful, and loves to capture the details of the world around her.

She received her BFA degree from UVU in photography and since has been published in books and magazines, multiple gallery shows, and won best in show for her work. Visit her website at and connect with her via Facebookor Instagram.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Barry Cunningham

    While an ounce of preventions IS worth a pound of cure, there are many data recovery programs available that will work for recovering pictures off cards that have had their directories corrupted due to simple carelessness with removing the card too quickly, etc. So don’t despair too quickly if you have a problem. At least once I have had a card report it was unreadable, but been able to recover the data and reformat the card in camera as good as new.
    Of course, nothing can protect one against an excess of stupidity, so don’t make it part of your workflow.

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  2. Jeff Morrison

    thanks for sharing

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  3. Ralph Hightower

    I read about the SD Card Formatter several months ago on Photofocus.

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  4. John Cavan

    Okay… I think this is years too late. For example, waiting for the writes to the card… I can hustle to my computer as fast as I possibly can (which is pretty darned fast), but the camera will have completed the writes by the time I do that, even with my D800 on to an SD card. I just don’t move in fractions of a second. So, buy a fast card and keep up to date there rather than trying to use old cards in a new camera.

    With respect to one card, you have a limited number of writes and so one card means you’re going to hit that limit faster than if you rotated around the cards. The camera handles the file numbering and there’s no magical affinity here, if the card is faulting, it will fault on any camera. This is also the basis for your editing comment: extra writes to the card. The number of writes is pretty high, certainly, but I know a few people that are on their second shutter and hitting the limits of their memory card as a result.

    From my perspective, your best defense is to spread the eggs across a number of baskets. A bad card is hard to fix, so your only real option there is to mitigate the risk of it with spread. For that reason, I think the safest way to protect yourself (if you can’t shoot tethered) is more smaller cards than one larger. Better yet, a camera with dual slots that mirrors the images is even better. If it is truly critical, for your business, that you suffer no loss then you need to be shooting with a camera that has dual card slots.

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  5. Ryan Orcullo

    Great tips!

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  6. Austin Swenson

    This might sound like a strange place to keep a memory card, but I also keep a back up card in my wallet in case I forget to take it out of my computer. It’s saved me the trouble several times of having to go back home and get it, but I think that to keep it in a fair temperature environment, you might consider that as well.

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