Tag Archives: memory card

Tech Tuesday: Memory Card TLC

5 Apr

Fancy lenses, flash accessories and the latest dSLR aside, the most important thing in your bag is your memory cards. You probably realize this – but are you treating those little guys the way they deserve to be treated? Here’s some tips and information you may not have known… to help you keep ’em safe and cared for:

Don’t skimp.

Go with a reliable manufacturer (SanDisk, Lexar, etc.) and choose the best card you can afford. When I say “best” I’m purposely being vague; the right card will vary based on your personal needs. Research, figure out your budget and ask a professional at your camera shop which is best for you.

(This can be an entire post in itself – so if you’re interested in learning more about specifics a few good places to start are here and here.)

Find the perfect fit:

A few big cards? Or several smaller ones? You’ll find photographers split on this one – but personally I feel I’d rather have several back-up cards and switch more often – and not put all my eggs in one basket. Using smaller cards lets you spread out your photos and reduce the probability that you’ll lose them all at once. Heaven. Forbid.

Label ’em:

Number and date your cards – for several good reasons. To help keep track of them, to know which cards have been used and which cards are empty while shooting, and to know how old they are. If you already have a bunch in your bag, find a taxonomy that works for you. It could be largest to smallest, fastest to slowest, ROYGBIV… whatever make sense for you.

I shoot primarily weddings, so I began numbering with the smaller, slower cards that are “safe” for getting ready, then followed with the larger, faster cards. I know I’ll want those later in the day for quick bursts and lots of action – and when I won’t want to worry about how many shots I have left, or switching cards.

Protect ’em:

Lightware's Compact Flash Media Wallet (in Raspberry Pink)

We’ve all thrown our memory cards in a pocket or bag once or twice when rushing, but they are super sensitive and easy to lose… so be careful!

Keep them dry and clean, away from extreme temperatures or electro/magnetic currents (this includes magnetic enclosures for purses/bags) and don’t ever drop, crush or bend them. Although those plastic holders that come with the cards offer an extra layer of protection – when you’re going through a dozen or so cards – they aren’t realistic. Pick up a protective wallet (or two) to keep track of and protect them.

Many manufacturers now have fine-tuned cards which now work in extreme temperatures and survive dirt, dust, and even submersion in water. SanDisk even has a video on their site showing how their cards pass the “Stomp Test”, where a dozen eager, energetic middle school kids go to TOWN on a half dozen cards. If you invest the money and trust in those – awesome. But being careful couldn’t hurt, right?

Stick to a plan:

Have a method when you gear-up, during your shoot and once you get back to your studio. Have a simple set of steps – and stick to it.

Format beforehand:

Always format your cards before you begin shooting to save time. This will wipe any data, images and file names – and prevent accidentally shooting with old photos on the card – and therefore less room for you to shoot. Also, it will just make life easier and leave one less thing to remember, so you can focus on capturing amazing images.

Don’t fill up:

Don’t shoot every last frame available on the card. Leave room for a few shots as some cards can run into issues when they are completely full. Some photographers only fill them halfway, I’ve heard of others who split portions of the wedding day or session over multiple cards to serve as a safety net, this way they have some images if a card goes bad.

Turn off your camera:

Don’t forget to shut off your camera before removing the card, and wait a second or two as a precaution. This avoids ‘voltage shock’ when removing it – which is less common but still a possibility. (Lexar recommends you “count to 5 before turning the power off. This will ensure the camera has finished writing to the card – especially large files – and helps avoid possible corruption.”)

Also – be sure to keep charged batteries in your body; don’t let it run all the way down, which could result in the camera turning off while buffering.

Heed the warning signs:

If an image preview is damaged, your camera gives you an error message related to your card, or things just don’t seem right, stop using the card and switch to a new one. Everything might be fine, but there’s a chance the card is corrupt and not recording your shots, or that you are overwriting existing files.

Have a Back-up Plan:

Lexar® Image Rescue® 4 Software


Obviously, as safe as we are, stuff happens. And when it does, you can be prepared with recovery software. Each manufacturer has their own, and includes information in your memory card packaging.

Just remember that if you have an issue – be it an error, accidentally formatting the card, whatever – stop shooting and stay calm. Your photos might be fine. If you continue shooting, the images that you capture will override the files already on the card. Remove it from the camera and run your recovery software on it to retrieve the images.