No matter which brand your memory card is, it will eventually happen. I know because it just did to me three days ago after a shooting session with over 300 pictures on my card!

The first thing to do, or not to do, is to panic. There are many reasons why your camera may not be able to read the card and the least probable of them all is that it is broken. Memory card (from good brands) are build to survive extreme conditions so the fault is most probably caused by your camera. I saw the error screen a few times in my photographer career and while it always stresses me, I have yet to lose anything from it. Lets see how…

What to do?

First, dont try to take anymore picture until you have confirmed that all your pictures are on the card. That is important because you don’t want to write over any existing picture. Next, remove the card from the camera, turn the camera off, check if if the card is damaged and if it is not, insert the card back into the camera, start it up and check if your pictures are back. 99% of the time, the issue will be fixed.

If you can’t see your pictures, put another card in the camera and resume shooting. There is nothing you can do until you are in front of your computer.

Once back home, try again to read the card but this time from a card reader. From there, three things can happen:

  • you can read the pictures
  • the pictures are not on the card
  • the card does not want to mount on the computer
If the pictures are not on the card, you will have to use a software like Stellar phoenix photo recovery to get them back (Google away, there are a few available). Chances are, the software will work but to make sure you dont waste your money, make sure you download the free version first. It will allow you to see if it can or not recover the files.
As a good preventive measure, if you have to recover your files using a software, just throw away the card and get a new one. If the problem was just reading the card, make sure you format it back using the camera before your next shoot!

How can I prevent this from happening?

The easiest way to prevent this problem is to always format cards within the camera that is going to use them prior to shooting. I have heard some people saying that excessive use of the delete function on the camera may corrupt cards but I can’t confirm.

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