Tips For How to Avoid Losing Pictures on Your Digital Camera

The opportunity for that perfect photo comes rarely and nothing is more frustrating than getting your shot onto the camera only to lose the image before transferring it to your computer. Here are some of the most common reasons digital cameras lose pictures:

(Note: when referring to “cards”, this includes all removable media including memory sticks and micro drives)

  1. Changing devices. Taking the memory card out of your camera to use in a friend’s camera will change the format and make a mess of the file structure. Every device has its own format and numbering sequence. Have a card specifically for each device you use.  If you must use the same card in different devices, save all of the data to your computer first and then format the card in the new device.
  2. Pulling the card out while it is in use. Whether it is in the camera or in a reader attached to the computer, pulling the card before it is finished being written will cause trouble.  Any missing data will cause an error that the camera can’t overcome. Usually it will tell you that you need to re-format the card. Even when you think the camera or computer is done with the card, allow an extra minute to be sure.
  3. Low batteries in the camera. Low batteries can prevent all of the necessary information from getting to the card. Don’t use a camera with low batteries or you risk losing the whole card.
  4. Overfilling the card. As in #3 and #4 above, if the camera runs out of room and can’t finish writing to the card, the file system will be corrupted.
  5. Formatting or deleting pictures. Some cameras use a destructive format and some use a destructive delete – that is, they write 0s to the entire card. This overwrites all of the picture data. These pictures are gone forever and nothing will bring them back.  Fortunately, most cameras do not write over all of the picture data and the photos can be recovered. Chances of recovery depend on the make and model.
  6. Editing or rotating a picture while viewing the card. Some people report that they were viewing their pictures and rotated one and lost the rest. Manipulating a photo on the card will cause the information to change. This will usually overrun the location on the card dedicated to that picture. It can overwrite other data on the card or at the least make a mess of the file structure. Always finish the download before editing the photos.

Environmental concerns. Temperature extremes can ruin memory cards. Even specialty cards rated for extreme temperatures are only good to about 120 degrees F. On a hot day, a car’s interior can soar past this temperature quickly.

Moisture and dirt are also causes of failure. The contact points on memory cards can become dirty and cause a poor connection. If you can see the connectors, you can clean them with a couple of drops of Isopropyl Alcohol on a cotton-tipped swab. The bad news is if you can see the contacts, you can touch them. This can cause a static jolt that will destroy the card. Avoid touching these directly. At the least, your fingerprints can degrade the contacts.

If you have a micro-drive, treat it like an antique vase. If you drop it, it will be ruined. These are miniature hard drives with a rotating platter and moving read/write heads. It does not take much of a shock to ruin the delicate precision.

If you do have a problem with lost photos, there are services and software available to help you. LC-Technology is the maker of PHOTORECOVERY for Digital Media. They help people recover their pictures from digital cameras every day.
LC-Technology encourages you to run their free demo at before buying, which will show the photos that can be recovered. Purchasing the full version ($39.95) will allow you to save them.