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Four Steps to Protect Your Digital Photos


The recovery of digital photos is one of the most frequent requests we receive at Kroll Ontrack. Some of them come from professional photographers, many others from home users with hundreds of images stored in smartphones and tablets. Why are photos so important?

For a professional photographer, losing photos is a direct economic impact – and more seriously, reputationWho wants to break the news to the happy couple that they will have no wedding album to browse? Who will explain to the publisher that the reportage will not be available? For home users, the value of the photos is usually emotional and connects to places or moments in their lives which are often not repeatable.

Regardless of whether you’re a professional photographer or just a photography enthusiast, here is our advice on how to protect your photos from loss:

Reflex, mirrorless and compact digital cameras

Step 1 – Memory card

  • Beware of hardware failure – Digital photos are stored on memory cards, typically SD cards. It’s a good idea to pay a little bit more to purchase a quality memory card. Keep the memory card in the camera or in its case to avoid environmental contamination.
  • Do a mix of practicality and security – Your SD card should be able to save a lot of data, but not too much! For example, two 16GB cards may be a better choice than a single 32GB card. In case of a problem with one card, you will be able to access photos stored on the second one.
  • Wi-Fi SD card – With this type of SD card, you can transfer photos from your camera to your PC (a sort of real-time backup). Don’t forget to check the compatibility of the memory card with your digital camera before purchasing.
  • Low-level formatting – Digital cameras have an option to low-level format the memory card. Do this periodically on your SD card, but first check that there are no photos on it that you want to keep.

Step 2 – Taking photos

  • Safeguard your camera – Protect your camera from water, excessive humidity, heat or cold. This suggestion is even more important for those who do not use tropicalized camera bodies. Extreme weather conditions can damage electronics in the camera and in the memory card.
    • Extra tip: If taking photos outdoors in cold weather, place camera in a somewhat tight-fitting, sealed, plastic bag before going inside. This will prevent condensation on the camera while it is warming up.
  • Avoid shocks – Put the camera in a padded backpack or in a specialized case when not in use to protect it from bumps and accidental falls.

Step 3 – Download your photos

  • Download photos to your PC as soon as possible – Do not leave your photos on the SD card for extended periods of time and do not interrupt the transfer, either by clicking on the “cancel” button, disconnecting the USB cable, or removing the SD card.
  • Copy your photos, do not move them! – Change the settings of the software to copy photos to your PC instead of moving When the copy process is over, check if you can open the photos without errors and do a backup on a second hard drive. If all is ok, you can consider deleting the content of your SD card.

Step 4 – Choose your backup strategy

  • Buy an external USB 3.0 hard drive – After downloading the photos, it‘s the time to back them up on a second hard drive. The simplest method is to purchase an external hard drive and copy photos. It’s better to buy a large capacity hard drive (1TB minimum) especially if you shoot in raw format (e.g. NEF, CR2, DNG, etc.). If you are a professional, you should consider more backup drives. Professional photographers typically use two external drives in their studio and a third in another place (i.e. in case of a theft or a fire). You can also manage your backup through a multi-disk NAS, but in any case, a copy should be in a different place.
  • Cloud backup – The backup on the cloud may be an alternative, but a common problem that arises is in relation to the speed of uploading large files (18MP cameras generate raw files around 20 -25 MB or more). Not all services allow you to upload extremely large files and low performing connections may take several hours just to upload a few hundred megabytes.

Managing photos taken with mobile devices may be easier. Smartphones and tablets do not use raw formats and the sensor resolution is smaller, so the size (MB/GB) of the photos to be stored is usually less.

The photos taken with these devices are nevertheless useful both for professional as well as consumer use. So therefore here is our advice for:

Smartphones and tablets

  • Back up photos to your PC – Periodically connect your smartphone or tablet to your computer and perform a backup of the contents with the appropriate application. If the memory where the photographs are stored (internal memory or additional memory card) is directly accessible from your PC, you can make a copy on your hard drive of the folder containing the files. Then, remember to do an additional copy on a second drive.
  • Cloud App – Cloud apps are often integrated into smartphones and tablets. To protect your photos you can use iCloud on iOS. On Android devices, you can rely on apps like DropBox, OneDrive, Google Drive, Amazon Cloud Drive Photos and more. Remember to connect to a Wi-Fi network as it may be required to transfer a lot of data.

Following this advice you should be able to drastically reduce the risk of losing your precious photos. If that’s not enough, you can, in the event of data loss due to logical problems such as deleting / formatting or accidental corruption of the file system on your SD card, try a DIY recovery with Ontrack EasyRecovery software .

If Ontrack EasyRecovery does not give you the desired results or if the storage medium has a hardware failure, you still have the chance at recovery. Contact Kroll Ontrack for our in-lab data recovery service.



Image source: Canon Italy (www.canon.it)

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