Rescuing your lost or accidentally deleted photos

canon-5dmk3-lexar-professional-memory-cardHas this ever happened to you? You’ve just come back from an amazing holiday, remembered some of my tips, and are excited to see the photos you’ve taken. You go to look at your pictures and get that sinking feeling, your photos aren’t there. The next few minutes are spent randomly pressing buttons and shouting various expletives!

From the number of friends ringing me and asking for help it seems this is more common than I thought, but the good news is all is not lost! Whether you have pressed ‘delete all’ or ‘format memory card’ by mistake, or get the dreaded ‘corrupt card, cannot read data’ message, there is hope. It’s always good to be pass on a bit of wisdom that might help someone. Hopefully you’ll never need to know this, but just in case!

Accidentally deleted photos or formatted memory cards: Doing this does not physically delete the photos off the memory card, it just deletes the data that tells the card where the photo is stored. So, the photo is still there but the memory card or camera cannot see it, and therefore thinks there is free space on the card for new photos. As long as you don’t overwrite the physical data by taking more photos, you are likely to be able to recover them.

Corrupt memory cards: Sometimes you may see a ‘corrupt memory card’ or ‘memory card error’ message, either on the camera or when you get home and try and download your photos. Firstly, don’t panic! As I explained above, deleting photos doesn’t physically remove the data off the card. In a similar way, the photos are likely to still be on a corrupt card, it is just that the camera or computer can’t read the data that tells it where to find them.

Recovery software: There are lots of options out there. If it is urgent, there are instant download pieces of software that will scan your memory cards and show you what (if anything) they can get off them before buying (try Data Rescue, $29, or Image Rescue, $34).

The best option if you can wait (or get in advance) is to buy a Lexar Professional range memory card, which is cheaper than downloading the software mentioned above. These come with a licence to download the software for free. A quality card and recovery tool for less than it costs to just download the software, sounds good to me! These memory cards are guaranteed for life, and in the unlikely case that recovery software doesn’t work, you can send the card back and they will use their own secret, magic way to get the data off and send it to you free of charge.

Where to buy memory cards: I have found MyMemory ( and Amazon ( to be good options.

Prevention is better than cure; memory card top tips:

– Buy quality memory cards (by either Lexar, Sandisk or Kingston).
– Never buy a new memory card and use without testing (e.g. at the airport when you’re about to go away on holiday!). Always fill up a new memory card, leave for a couple of days and see if the card is still readable). The quickest way to fill up a memory card is to set the video to highest quality and hit record.
– Always ‘format’ new memory cards, and do this rather than ‘delete all’ when you have run out of space. Read your manual for instructions on how to format a memory card.
– Do not delete photos on your camera one by one. As well as running the risk of ‘deleting all’ by mistake, it also increases the chance of the card corrupting. Download them all to your computer and then delete from there.
– Hide your camera from any irresponsible younger siblings, children and pets!

I hope that helps, and if this makes no sense and you’re still panicking, feel free to get in touch.


PS. You might be interested to know that some professional cameras like mine save photos to two memory cards at the same time, creating an instant backup. This is especially important for wedding photos, and gives me and my couples piece of mind! It’s worth checking that your wedding photographer‘s cameras have this if you’re on the lookout for one.

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