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A Photographer’s Worst Nightmare

Photosessions can be stressful at times.  New customers, high expectations and things happen that are outside of your control.  Many, and I mean MANY things can happen to turn a happy go-lucky photo shoot into a nightmare.  But nothing that happens on a typical shoot compares to the feeling of complete and utter despair when you put your memory card into a reader and find it to be empty.  Nothing, nadda, zilch.  There is nothing there.  What happened to those shots of the smiling family?  Or the critical moment when a bride and groom first kiss?  You work again and again to get that baby to smile and in the end you have nothing to show for it.  What do you do?

In film days, there wasn’t a lot that could be done if you left the film in the fixer solution too long or your lab goofed and you’re faced with a reshoot, if you can even repeat the shoot at all.  Today I am breathing a sigh of relief since I experienced memory card failure only yesterday.  My Lexar Platinum II compact flash card inexplicably gave up the contents of a shoot to thin air.  I scoured the internet for solutions to recover the photos, complicated by them being RAW files and not jpegs.  There are several programs out there to recover jpegs, but RAW is a little more difficult to find a program that identifies the file type correctly.

I did find a few that I could download trials of, and some of them even found all of the files, but I was looking at a price tag of $80 or more to get the files recovered.   Now I don’t have a problem paying for such a program, but I found one that did the job for free, and was just not that easy to use.  It found more files than any other one I tried, and they were in better shape than any other program yielded.  It is called Photorec 6.12 and can be downloaded for free for windows or mac.  Every photographer needs a program like this.  When your business depends on it, you should see the value in taking precautions to prevent memory failure, and irreparable loss of pictures.

Step One: Use quality cards designed to take the beating cameras and their memory cards take.  It is not a lot of money to buy a high quality card, don’t make a $50 decision to chance loosing a $1000 job.  Personally I use Sandisk Extreme and Extreme Pro cards.  I have had 2 lexar cards fail (not pro cards though) and 1 generic brand card fail.

Step Two: Take care of your cards.  Most cards come with a little plastic sleeve or case, use it when not in a camera.  Among other reasons cards fail from the wafer inside cracking, getting dirt in the pin holes and from static electricity.  Don’t wear wool socks and run around on a carpet with the card.  Eject your cards before removing them from the computer or card reader.  Keep your card reader slot clean, blow them out with compressed air or vacuum them from time to time.

Step Three: Have recovery software in the event of a failure.  As mentioned above, I used Photorec and got back 64 of 83 files.

Here’s hoping you don’t experience memory loss.