If you have ever deleted an important photo on your digital camera accidentally, you know what a gut wrenching feeling that could be, or even worse, accidentally formatted your memory card. We place a lot of faith in our technology and expect that our cameras will properly store our precious memories and let us retrieve them later on.
But what about the human error.
As a photographer, I have been called upon by friends and family when something has gone wrong with their photos and it has usually been because of their own mistake. Fortunately, I have not been in that situation…yet. When it does happen though, I will be prepared with a bit of knowledge and a few pieces of important software so that I may recover my photos.
The first thing you want to do when you realize that you have deleted photos from your memory card is to stop using that card entirely. Remove it from the camera, mark in a way that you will not reuse it and replace the card with a spare. This is the best thing you can do for yourself at this point.
Most cameras store images using the FAT file system. As an image is written to the card, the location on the card for that photograph is written to an index. When a file is erased, the information in the index is deleted the location is marked as available for more data to be recorded there. The original photo still exists, there is simply no index entry to point to the file. This is where the software comes in.
There are many pieces of software available, both free and commercially, to help recover lost or deleted files. Several brands of flash memory cards sell or include recovery software with their cards including Sandisk and Lexar. Along with the commercial software that I have received with my memory cards, I also keep a copy of Undelete Plus on my thumb drive for quick retrieval of lost photos.
The process is very easy. Using a card reader, insert your memory card into the card reader. Start your choice of file recovery software, choose the drive you card is represented by and start the recovery. Each piece of software will be a little bit different but the general idea is the same. Depending on the software, the erased images may automatically be saved to a location on your hard drive, or you may have to select which images you wish to recover.
Does this process work on every lost file? No. But if you follow my first instruction and stop using the card, you have a much better chance of recovery.
Every camera bag has it’s arsenal of tools and photo recovery software is one that should not be ignored.
Until next time, happy shooting.