It is a fear that lurks in the heart of every photographer - what if something should happen to my image files? We take every precaution. We make duplicate copies. We back up our computers. But yet we have all heard stories of failure. This post will walk you through how best to take care of your memory cards to prevent disaster, and second post in this series will explore common options to recover your files if disaster strikes. Though I hope you will never need the advice, it will be here if you do.
Proper Care of Memory Cards
Rotate your memory cards. Just like shoes, memory cards can wear down and wear out. How and when that will happen is not predictable, but you should be prepared. Many photographers recommend relying on a collection of smaller memory cards (say 8 GB or 16 GB), rather than storing all your photographs from one day or one trip on a single 32 GB or 64 GB card. If you do not regularly fill your cards to capacity, still think about switching to different cards, say once a month, to prevent any one card from constant wear.
Format your memory card in camera. Every time. Especially if you are putting a card into a different camera or are using a new card. Formatting your card helps reset it internally and keeps it functioning at its best.
I know there are those among us who dread the thought of deleting images from their card, but a memory card is a far less reliable means of long-term storage than your computer, the cloud, and multiple, redundant flash drives. (Not sure about adequate protection for your digital files once they are off your card and on your camera? Please read Top Tips for Camera Memory and Storage for important advice and suggestions.)
Get in the habit of reformatting your memory card before any big shoots. Once you know that your photos are downloaded to your computer and backed up at least twice, you should feel confident in reformatting and deleting them from your memory card.
Watch your battery levels. When your battery level indicator gets low on your camera, you should be prepared to switch to a new battery. If your battery dies in the middle of when your camera is trying to write a file to the memory card, it can cause the entire card to become corrupt, and you may be unable to retrieve any images from the card. Always be prepared with a backup battery, and you can feel confident replacing a low battery without having to discharge it completely.
Be careful when downloading from your card to your computer. There are many ways to download your photographs to your computer - you can plug your camera into your computer, you can plug your memory card directly into your computer, or you can plug your memory card into a card reader. Whichever method you choose, take extra care when handling your memory card. Try not to touch the electrical contacts on the ends of your card. Avoid magnets and static electricity as well. As soon as you are done downloading, put your card either safely back in the camera or in its carrying case.
Next StepsBut, no matter the precautions, sometimes disaster strikes. The next post in this series will cover what to do if memory card problems arise.
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