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Friday, 15 March 2013


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Advice I've gotten is to reformat in camera each time as this resets the file allocation tables on the card (I think that was the fancy term used). Haven't had any problems in doing this but would like to hear experts on the subject. It's the same number of button pushes either way for me.

About the Kindle, did you look in the magazine basket next to the john?

You're welcome!

I am exceptionally paranoid about losing images when I hit the road for a few days. In my D800, I use both a 16gb CF card and a 16gb SDHC card for redundancy. After each day of shooting, I back up the SDHC card on a netbook hard drive and also on a large flash drive which are kept in different locations in the car. At the moment, I have two 16gb CF cards and use them mainly as a fail safe in the camera for the much-cheaper SDHC cards.

If you do buy SDHC cards, I highly recommend the newer UHS-1 cards. The time it takes to copy everything over to a computer using them is significantly less than a standard class 10 card and the prices have gotten to be very reasonable for the SanDisk Ultra and Extreme versions.

I have all of my cards numbered on the back with a label maker. I carry them in a card case with the number label up (backside up). If the number is showing it is good to use. When a card has active images it is placed with the front of the card showing (non-number side up).

I too would join you at the "blindfolded over the shoulder trash dump" if I just put the used ones in my pocket. Been there done that, never again.

I have always formatted my cards in the camera and have never encountered any kind of a problem (been doing it for years). I am old school computer and was taught many years ago of the need to de-fragment my drives. I have carried that habit over to my memory cards and I am paranoid that just erasing the card will cause newer files to be fragmented when they are written to the card.

I won't reformat/reuse a card until the images have been transferred to my computer AND also backed up to the in house backup drive with the midnight backup process.

After a day or two they also automatically get uploaded to Carbonite for the offsite backup.

Here's my "standard practice". So far so good, no mess-ups.

I have an 800e, so I use both SD and CF cards. I've standardized on 16 GB. I keep one primary set in camera and two backup sets in a card wallet (these are face up) that I keep in my pocket (when at home, it's in the camera bag). I have my camera set to backup the primary card to the secondary card as I shoot. I'm not worried about speed. I've never filled a card, but if I do I will put the set of two from the camera in the card wallet face down and replace it with a backup set.

After the shoot, I import to Lightroom, and a portable hard drive backup. The card goes back in the camera. Before the next shoot, I format both cards in the camera.

"(Besides, I hate editing too much work. I'll tell you that story some other time.)"

Hidden in this little parenthetical, there is a lot of evil truth about the digital age.... I know

I have one rule for memory cards. I only ever format them when I'm in front of my computer and I've just unloaded the card onto one disk drive, manually copied the directory to a second drive and imported the files into Lightroom to verify that the photos are not corrupt (although I don't generally look at every photo at this point). I then immediately stick the card back in the camera and format it. I never, ever format cards while shooting and I never delete photographs from cards.

These days it's easy to own and carry enough cards for any day of shooting, event, trip or whatever that anyone should ever have to format a card while photographing. Seems way too easy to screw up and lose something you didn't want to lose otherwise.

An advantage of standardizing on one card size (which I have not done; I use three currently, in two different formats and two different cameras) is that you know what the "remaining shots" number should be for an empty card. So, when you put a card in the camera, if the wrong number comes up, you've loaded a non-empty card. One more way you might notice. (If you're not formatting/deleting in the field, this won't matter as much, you'll just run out of space sooner; perhaps MUCH sooner if the card is full.)

BTW, there are lots of reasons not to let images build up on a card. I don't know what your process is for cataloguing (DAM) but I like to make sure that when images are imported from the card they are at the very least tagged with IPTC image location information. All images from one shoot generally have the same UPTC template(s) applied. I'm shooting a lot of stuff destined for stock photography so that helps me, but in any case it's an easy first step in getting some organisation into your archive. Image location is almost always worth something in the future. If you let images build up on a card before importing them it makes life more difficult. If you do import them after a shoot and leave them on the card, sure most software will detect duplicates, but if you have already culled images from the import destinations, you won't be a happy bunny.

NB what's all this about importing a few images into their own folder? That suggest that maybe you don't have any DAM process in place. I have all my images (25,000) in ONE folder. (Actually that's an exaggeration, I have them in 4 separate folders, but that's another story)

On my 5D MkIII, I have 3 CF cards (fast, 32 and 2 16) plus I have a slower 64 card in the SD slot. Now, Canon fucked up something in the Mk3 as the SD slot is seriously slower than the CF.
So I have my cam set to record on the CF slot and use the SD in the case of overflow. But I usually change the CF card when full. Mind you I often use the 6 pix a second fast mode with my slow finger, so the 400 - 500 RAW pix that fit on a 16 MB some times dont last too long in a session (Portrait, Concert, Performance ...).
Whenever I make a pause of 20 Minutes or so I tke the full CF card and copy all to my SD. This method gives me a maximum capacity of 2x 16 + 32 + 64, or maximum 128 Gigabyte or maybe 4000 shots in raw, which also is roughly the maximum number of shots I can get out of my 4 batteries.
I rarely fill up all 4 cards, but it is good to know that I wont run out of storage before running out of juice.
Oh and I format my card in camera, too. Main reason is that is so much faster than deleting all shots.

I always carry at least one spare card in the camera bag with each of my cameras, and swap in the field when the card is nearly full and I have a convenient pause in shooting, With SD cards, I set the write protect tab when I take the card out of the camera, but it goes back in the card case and in the bag in the same place the fresh one came from. However, I do get all my cards from different manufacturers to make it easier to tell them apart.

When I put a fresh card in the camera, I do a quick review of what's on there, to make sure it's shots that I remember as having been uploaded, edited, and printed. the card is then reformatted in the camera. Note that I always reformat, rather than delete all. Anecdotal evidence (i.e. hearsay :) ) from a number of web forums and usenet newsgroups seems to indicate that the majority of people who suffer from corrupted memory cards have been in the habit of deleting images rather than reformatting. The only time I've had a corrupted card was with a brand new card that I neglected to format before use (because the camera displayed "No images found"). However, delete all obviously works for you, Mike - format works for me. I'm just saying. :)

When I get home, or at some convenient time thereafter, I upload the files to directories on the computer organised by camera and upload date. My main cameras (Pentax K20D and Samsung GX10) automatically place each day's shots in separate folders on the card, and I keep those subfolders as well. The write protect tab is reset to write-enabled, and the card goes back in the camera bag.

The computer's main hard disk is backed up to an external hard disk periodically, usually when I've completed a batch of editing, and includes the original camera files (raw and JPEG) and the edited files, as well as any special intermediate files from any stitched panos or HDRs. I used to periodically copy the external hard disk to another disk at a friend's house in another town, but then the social situation changed. However, the online print service I use retains copies of every JPEG I've upload for printing (which is everything that wasn't obviously total rubbish).

I'm not suggesting everyone should follow my procedure, or even that it's logical or self consistent, or that there aren't ways it could be improved. But it's worked for me over the last 5 years or so.

Heh, when I first got into digital, I made sure to get a card that fit about 100 images at the usual quality settings I worked with.

This was because three rolls of film with 36 exposures each works out to 108 exposures.

Change pockets are the perfect size for memory cards, and you're probably not using them for anything else, so they're fairly easy to remember.

Of all the card corruption issues I've seen around, a large majority have involved cardreaders. And with CF there's always the risk of bending a pin in the camera, which is probably worse than losing any single card's worth of photos for most of us. So I no longer use them. It's not a big deal to connect the camera to the computer via USB and download photos directly.

I number my cards and use in sequence. Load via card reader to two different drives, put in bag. Format next numbered card in camera after checking images, repeat.

I've only ever lost images when I break my own routine. Thankfully never with a clients images but annoyingly I've done it twice while travelling.

My cards are marked and used in order. It does much the same thing as your pile. Cards are reversed in my little LowePro Card wallet when used and also in a different pocket to avoid grabbing one in error. I make a copy in the field to a Hyperdrive and two copies at the computer and then immediately format the cards. It's a cleaner way than erase all and formatted cards are easily recovered if neccessary. I only format in camera because I've seen a couple of people get into the field only to realise they've formatted a card to the wrong type of file system and they're now useless for the day. I never format a card in the field so if a card has images on it it's from that session.

Breaking that last rule while travelling is the one that got me in trouble. Lesson learned.


I have nine digital cameras right now (redundancy). Three of them take CF cards and the rest take SD cards. I have backup cards available to the cards in the cameras (more redundancy). I don't know the sizes of the cards in each camera but it makes no difference because I never shoot the cards full before moving the images to the computer. I hardly ever shoot JPEGs. I edit in the camera before downloading, deleting images as necessary rather than downloading the duds and then deleting them. I'm a pretty light shooter and, when in-camera editing is considered, I usually don't have a lot of images on the cards per download. I use card readers--either a SanDisk that was relatively expensive or a Kingston that was pretty cheap. They seem equal in function to me and, of course, having two provides a bit more redundancy.

After downloading and processing the Raw images, I back them up on three portable hard drives (even more redundancy). I check to be sure everything is copacetic and then I reformat the cards in the cameras. I never use a card until it has been formatted in the camera.

I live by The Rule "If anything bad can happen, it will". So far, I've had nothing but good luck with this system. Still I can't help but think it's only a matter of time....

I would never consider removing a flash card from the camera and putting it down some place I expect to remember. Too many times I've been working in the yard, gotten hot and sweaty and removed my glasses only to have to blindly search for them later (See Rule above).

Your kindle is down the back of the couch, beside the tv remote. Why don't you ring it?!

YMMV - While I'm the sort of guy who can come away from a glorious dawn at Mesa Arch happy with 50 shots, my personal record is filling a 16Gb card and flattening a full battery in less than an hour, shooting Puffins off a headland in Iceland. The point is, you never know when you will need to change your card!

Before a trip I wipe all my cards by deleting the files in a card reader, then I use the "red flag" system in my Tamrac card wallet to mark the full ones. I never format a card in the field. After a shoot I download to the PC and make sure I have a second copy ASAP. Simple and foolproof.

Maybe it's because I have only a year's experience with digital cameras, but I'm surprised by all the talk about swapping cards. When I bought my X-Pro 1 a year ago in preparation for a three-week photo holiday in eastern and southern Turkey, I had no idea how many shots would fit on a card, so I bought two Sandisk Extreme 128 GB Class 10 SD cards, and didn't have to swap the first card ever. The price through Mike's B&H link was half the retail price here in Australia and I thought a better deal than smaller cards. Am I ahead of the pack on this? The big card works fine.

Now let me say up front, I am only talking about personal work on SD cards, not my pro jobs......

Go to Aldi and buy Sandisk Extreme cards, normally $12.00 or so for 4 or 8gb

Format all cards in camera

Place in storage box in camera case

Shoot shots, delete nothing

When full write a big F on the card

When home, load card to Mac and Copy to B/up drive, then burn to DVD.

Store card in card folder with attached tag indicating content

That's it folks, at $12.00 per card and about 400 Raw files why reuse it, it makes a good extra Back up, I am pretty sure my shots are worth 3-4 cents each. And I shoot worry free!

I follow the same rule several other posters have mentioned about keeping the cards in a case and showing their state by which side is out (label side is empty, back side is full). I got the idea from Thom Hogan, and it seems to work well. My rule of thumb is to get cards that are big enough for a busy day's shooting and use a fresh card every day. That way I rarely if ever have to change cards in the field, which is when I'm most likely to make a mistake and erase something I should have. If I'm on vacation or otherwise away from my computer, I make sure to have enough cards to last the whole trip at one card per shooting day, plus maybe an extra card or two just in case.

I'm not sure "the cloud" is what I think it is, but if it is, why not put the backups in the cloud? Whenever you'd been out shooting seriously, take one minute to stick them up there. When you're not out shooting seriously, just let the images stay on the card, because there won't be that many anyway. Anyway, if the cloud is what I think it is*, then it seems like it should be the answer to a lot of these problems.

*massively redundant on-line storage.

If I were looking for that Kindle, I'd look off the end of the bed, or around the edges of the bed, where it could have slipped between the bed and something else. That's where mine would be.

Hi Mike,

Regarding the off site backup, I've got that solved rather nicely with the offering at www.backblaze.com
They provide an unlimited backup to their servers for under $60 per year.
I really love their software which basically backs up everything it finds on the computer that's changed or new. (Not programms though only pictures and documents).
I have no affiliation to them and think that us D800 owners are severly stressing their business model with the large files. But I wish them all the best and can only recommend the service.

I'd be interested in building and maintaining the memory-card page

I don't know from cards, don't shoot much digital and my 3 Lexmark 2GB cards seem fine after about 4 years. The absolute maximum amount of film I ever shot in one day was 100 feet of Tri-X at Elkhart Lake race track in about 1973. I actually ran out of film before the end of the day.

The cameras? Two Olympus Pen F's, one with a medium tele and one with the 38 f1.8.

Switching in the field makes me think of the times I swapped out color film for black and white in the middle of a shoot, and then tried to put the original roll back in the camera, trying to accurately count exposures (did I start at "0", or did I start at "2"?).
I got some very arty double exposures that way, one of them was awarded first place in a college art show (which supports my theory that the good photographers are also good editors).
Put me in the doofus camp.

For the few weeks of Kobo ownership I was forever losing it around the house, I never, ever lost a real book; curious.

Now I make a point of strictly placing it in one of two locations, as I do house keys.

I do misplace filters, often.

I just took inventory of my cards. One 128MB card that I used in my first digital, a 4MB Kodak easy share, and the rest are 1-2 and 4GB cards. I have never reformatted a card, but i usually don't switch cards between cameras. Before I got my IPad (a raffle prize), I stored my pics on CDs via those programs that allow music to paired with the pics and played via a DVD player on the television. Soon after the iPad, my 10 year old computer disc drivers got corrupted and probably will stay that way, so I have recently been viewing the pics on the iPad. When the cards have been getting full, I have been retiring them and buying new 4GBs. I have one old bad (got submerged)128MB card with Bahamas pics on them that I did download to easy share software so not lost.

As for the missing Kindle, in the WC also check on top of the medicine cabinet. Also check your laptop case AGAIN. Also check under the bed, near the legs expecting to see it axially, across it's thinnest plane. You might find a wallet there, too. Did you put it in a REAL bookcase?

Mike, whenever I lose the iPad it's either in a stack of magazines or horizontal on top of books on a bookshelf. My better half always finds it somewhere near the commode. I suspect she snatches it from either above and plants it in the bathroom to justify her superiority theories.

On the other hand, THANKS everybody for the backup stories - caused me to increase my full backup frequency, and an hour later I was hit with the "FBI" extortion malware on my PC. It's laughably stupid in concept, but makes it appear as though your computer is locked up, your password useless, and unless you pay "bail" your files will be erased in xxx hours. Easy to recognize, (after the fact) difficult to clean.


With an image ingester like Photo Mechanic, it can import only new photos incrementally, i.e. previous imports are ignored. That way I keep writing to a large card until it's full.
Formatting a 16 or 32gb card every time I download ~30 photos from a day's shoot seems unnecessary. Formatting the whole card in-camera feels like I'm reducing the card's lifespan.

For copying card contents to your hard drive, I heartily recommend Digital Image Mover.

It allows you to automatically sort your files into date-based directories while copying, so if you shoot multiple days on a single card, you don't have to sort them out afterwards. I also use it to rename the files while copying (in my case, to the full date and time when the picture was taken), so I don't end up with the meaningless names the camera bestows on the files.

It can also detect if files have been copied before, so you won't end up with multiple copies if you forget to wipe a card before using it again.

As for erasing vs formatting: The way flash memory is made, even overwriting a file won't wipe it, since the wear-leveling software means every other location on the card gets written to first before the location you want to delete.

On finding lost stuff. When you have exhausted the possible consider the impossible. In this case the impossible is the place is where it should be, ie the place you looked for it first but for some reason did not see it. Works for me.

As a working journalist and commercial photographer, I have a slightly different approach and method due to my needs.

First off, I often work with multiple camera bodies, shoot a lot and by that I mean 300+ frames a day, occasionally more than 1500, and all in RAW. I've been worried about losing files, as we all are, from the get-go but except for the mechanical failures that I got from the old IBM Microdrives, remember them?, I've never had a card go bad. Even put one through the wash and it was fine. As a result I've stopped worrying about card failure. I’ve always used Sandisk since the Microdrive days and they have never let me down. There are loads of counterfeit cards sold on E-Bay so get yours regardless of the brand from a reputable dealer.

My method is rather simple: treat each card as you would a roll of film. By that I mean before you walk out the door to shoot you load up your bag with “fresh film” meaning that your cards are formatted and ready to go. You never format a card in the field as you could be destroying pictures.

All my cards have a label on them with my name and phone number on the front; as does all my gear. If it gets dropped and found it can be returned to me. On the back my cards have a strip of yellow electrical tape on them. The cards go into a red ThinkTank card wallet with all the fresh cards facing with the labels up. The wallet has a tether on it and that is clipped to my bag so that the wallet can’t fall out. I prefer the red wallet because it’s easy to see. I want all my gear to be invisible except for the card wallet. You never want to lose that do you? As I go through the shoot I place each full card face down in the wallet so that the yellow side is up telling me even in low light that it’s been “exposed”. This is just like how with medium format film the exposed film has a different color paper backing so that you don’t re-expose it. Simple. Since I’m often in a rush to switch cards this prevents any fumbling when the action is happening. I can do this on the run if necessary.

When I get to the office I transfer all cards to my workstations’ internal and external backup hard drives before formatting the cards which then go back into the wallet label side up.
When in the field I will sometimes have to edit as I go to speed up the editing/sorting process on deadline when I’m transmitting from the field. If I’m using my laptop I keep my “exposed” cards in the wallet and only format the cards once the files are again backed up on two drives at the office. The cards acting as my redundant file system in the field.

Over the years I’ve gone from the then huge 1GB Microdrive, to 2GB then 4GB cards with each group upgrading to the next to fastest speed made since download time is as important to me as write speed when shooting sports or news in the field. With the purchase of my D800 I went straight to all new Sandisk Extreme 16GB cards for all my cameras without a worry. I’ve never lost a card, never had a failure and always have my data, except when it’s in the camera, in two places for security.

Key things I do to limit loss are simple, I only use cameras with dual cards for proffesional work, set to back up mode. I never edit images in camera, meaning I don't delete any images until they are on the computer. This avoids errors and corruption created by the card controller as it tries to fill space vacated by the deleted images. The used cards then sit unused until the session is fully edited and stored to backup drives and archived. THEN I will reformat in camera and reuse. Obviously I have many sets of cards to be able to do this and only use top brand name (lexar, sandisk...) cards from reliable resellers.

Rod S. -- I certainly swapped cards a LOT more in the early days of digital than I do now; memory cards today are much larger relative to image sizes than they were then. I had a 2 megapixel Epson camera and around 32MB cards, eventually a 6 megapixel DSLR with 256 MB cards, and now a 12 megapixel DSLR with...up to 32 GB cards. 128 times the card space for double the megapixels. (That's not my complete history, but covers both ends).

I don't think I've ever actually filled the 32MB cards, and I've hit 1,500 shots in a day now and then (like, for two roller derby bouts, with halftime events). (Yeah, the estimate says that won't actually fit with some RAW compression settings, but it has.)

Yes, Mike, there should be a "best practices" resource. Herein, my contribution to the scattered information.

I had a scare recently, a working digital photographer's nightmare--apparently irretrievable files on a CF card--from which I learned a best practice, albeit one specific to the combination Lexar Card Reader (USB 3.0) and MacBook Pro Retina (Mid 2012). It might be applicable to other reader-computer combinations, but I have no experience of that.

I learned (from Lexar) the best practice that I should always fully insert the card in to the card reader *before* plugging the reader in to the MBP's USB port and attempting to download to the computer.

I'll add that I also learned that Lexar has exemplary customer support, for owners of the "pro" line of cards, which for me meant that they shipped me replacement cards, and then upon receiving my damaged CF cards, retrieved the files shipped them to me on disc--all at no cost to me, other than patience.


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