So you’ve booked a cheap flight, you’ve left home to travel abroad for a while, possibly to take advantage of a great vacation package. But no matter the reason, the important thing is that you’re traveling — and ready to snap hundreds of amazing new photos.
And then you come home to find that your camera memory cards are broken or corrupted, which means you’ve lost all of those wonderful memories. Is it the end of the world? Of course not, but it’s certainly a pain in the neck.
That’s why you should heed the following tips before embarking on your next trip, especially if the resulting photos are one of the main reasons why you’re going on said trip in the first place!
1. Don’t Delete Individual Photos
When they take a shot they don’t like, most people will immediately open up the last taken image and trash it. Other people wait until the end of the day, then browse through all of the images they took, trashing the ones they don’t like.
But worst of all is when people connect the camera to a PC, then delete images from the camera with the PC. All of these methods are risky because they may damage the internal file system that tracks each image, and you could end up with a corrupted card.
The safer option is to copy the images off of the card, then format the entire card using the camera that you intend to shoot with. This will refresh the card’s file system and make sure there are no errors for the next round of photos.
2. Shoot With Multiple Cards
Ever heard the saying, “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket”? Well, if you only carry around one card and you take all of your photos on that one card, then you’re doing exactly that: putting all of your egg-photos in one basket-camera.
After all, if that card gets corrupted, then all of the photos on that card are lost along with it.
Instead, look into getting a lot of small cards rather than relying on one massive card. So, yes, four cards at 8 GB each is a safer option than a single card at 32 GB (assuming the card specs are the same). Then again, four cards at 32 GB each is an even better option!
Once you have multiple cards, the trick is to rotate them every day. Don’t shoot until one card fills up, then switch to the next one. You never know when it might malfunction, and you could lose everything before it fills up. By rotating, you will never lose everything at once.
3. Store Your Cards in Cases
Like all gadgets and accessories, memory cards are subject to physical elements. Water, heat, and dirt can all interfere with a card’s proper working order, which means you need to be sensitive to things like humidity, temperature, and how to handle a card with dirty fingers.
The easiest way to protect your cards? Get cases for them, like the Eco-Fused Card Carrying Case which has 8 plastic pages that can hold up to 22 cards total and a zipper to keep out the elements. Or you could go for a Generic Card Carrying Case instead to save money.
Be aware that memory cards are also susceptible to static shocks, which can result in all kinds of errors and issues, including data corruption.
4. Copy Photos to a Local Device
The cardinal rule to never losing your data, whether photos or otherwise, is always make backups for everything! And we’ve already mentioned the easiest way to back up your photos: copy them off of your card and onto a computer.
Now, obviously, your options for a computer will be limited when you’re out traveling. However, if you can, bring along a small laptop that you can use for pulling photos. Laptops can be bulky, but Chromebooks are really portable so consider getting one of those.
Another option is to bring along a tablet, but in order to connect your camera to one, you’ll probably need a USB OTG cable. Fortunately, you can grab one off of Amazon for just a dollars. A tiny investment that lets you tether your DSLR to your camera? Worth it. (Also works for smartphones!)
5. Upload Photos to Cloud Storage
Local backups aren’t enough. Let’s say you copied every important image from your card to your laptop and tablet. As you’re flying home, what happens if you lose your luggage — and your camera, laptop, and tablet along with it? Say bye-bye to your precious photos.
So to be really safe, you need to copy your photos a second time: onto the Internet. The good news is that there are plenty of online photo storage services to pick from. Just keep in mind that photos take up a lot of space, and they eat up a lot of bandwidth to upload. Use Wi-Fi when you can.
If I had to pick a service, I’d use Amazon Prime Photos, which allows unlimited photos and comes with a whole bunch of other Prime benefits. If you have Prime, use Prime Photos. If not, try Google Photos, which is free and offers unlimited storage too.
6. Use a Data Recovery Program
Let’s say you didn’t heed any of the advice above. You stuck with one big memory card, you didn’t back up any of your photos, and by the time you arrived back home, the worst happened: your card got corrupted. Are you out of luck? Not yet!
Hop over to our Best Windows Software page and look under the File Recovery section for programs that might be able to reclaim images that still reside on the card but can’t be accessed normally. Read our introduction to data recovery if you want to know how this is possible.
The programs that are recommended most often are Recuva (read our review), PhotoRec (read our review), and Pandora Recovery (read our review). It’s better to practice good habits than to rely on data recovery, but it’s a valid last-ditch effort when something does go wrong.
How Often Do You Lose Photos?
One last thing: there’s nothing worse than coming back from a trip with photos that don’t look any good. Boost your skills with these awesome photography blogs, these YouTube photography channels, and these Lynda.com photography courses.
Have you ever lost photos from travel? What other tips do you have to prevent such a disaster next time? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments below!
Image Credits: Digital reflex camera by Roberto Caucino via Shutterstock, Delete Key by dani3315 via Shutterstock, Memory Card Stack by Luca Lorenzelli via Shutterstock, Camera and Laptop by Kitch Bain via Shutterstock, Lone Memory Card by Ensuper via Shutterstock