This may surprise you, but that “delete” button on your camera is one you shouldn’t really be using. Why? because it can mess with your memory cards’ filing structure.
Deleting individual photos may corrupt portions of the memory card. It can cause you to lose some or all of the pictures on the card. At the very least, you will degrade the cards performance. This means slower read/write speeds, or image files becoming corrupted more often.
A far more reliable option than the delete button is to format the entire card when you are done.
For those who have never used this function, a warning: Formatting will delete all the photos from the memory card. Only format your card after you have downloaded (and backed up) all the photos that were on it.
It is best to format your camera’s memory cards using your camera’s inbuilt formatting function, (as opposed to using a computer). Every digital camera has this menu option.
If you are swapping memory cards between cameras, you should always format the card in the “new” camera body before starting to use it.
(Remember: this will wipe the card, so only format after existing pics have been safely downloaded off the card!)
Try not to fill your card completely. As cards reach capacity, their performance will begin to slow down. So when the counter on your camera tells you that the card is almost full, its time switch out to a fresh one.
Have more than one memory card.
Deleting individual photos “on the go” is usually a habit borne out of running out of card space – trying to create more room to fit new pics.
If you do find you are always running out of space on your camera, or perhaps planning a longer than usual holiday: Just buy a few more memory cards.
Memory cards are not expensive. Especially when compared to the cost of the rest of your photography kit. Also, the memory card you buy today will often be useable on the next camera you buy too, and the one after that. So the initial cost may provide a storage solution beyond just the initial camera/device it was bought for.
Class “10” or better.
Unless you are shooting super high end video, you don’t need the most expensive memory cards available.
If your camera takes SD cards – Look for “Class 10” or better. If your camera takes the CF type, aim for 60mb/s or better. These are fine for most cameras and will even handle HD video. I personally recommend sticking with the main brands – Lexar, Sandisk and Sony.
If you have plenty of storage, you won’t be tempted to use the delete button to try to fit in a few more pics. Your memory cards will reward you with better performance and reliability.
Even if memory card performance wasn’t affected – there are other very good reasons not to use your camera’s “delete” button:
You might be taking photos out on the street, in the wild, or at an event. Trying to capture great images and also edit out bad pics “as you go” is not a good use of your time. It is an unnecessary distraction that takes you away from what is going on around you.
Spending time and thought on deleting pics can make you miss capturing photo opportunities around you. But even worse than affecting your photography efforts – it can reduce your enjoyment of the event.
This also applies to anyone shooting in a studio – deleting “on the fly” eats up valuable studio time and simply dilutes your attention.
Shoot now. Edit later.
Leave the editing to after you are finished shooting. You cannot trust a tiny little 2 inch preview screen to make solid editing decisions about the images you are capturing.
Shoot now, edit later. On a proper sized screen.
Save your battery.
Editing “on camera” also squanders valuable battery power. We have all felt the anxiety that comes from using a device that is about to run out of charge. Especially when we are away from our home base.
Patience brings its own rewards.
Being patient and editing later has other benefits too. Seeing what story you have captured – is more fun after a little time has passed. Importantly, it gives you fresh eyes. A clearer perspective of what to keep and what to reject.
In truth, the greatest burden in editing is not in weeding out the worst images. It is in finding the images that serve best to tell the story. Deleting a bad pic should never be a priority.
- Don’t use “delete”. Instead use “format” when you want to clear all the photos from a memory card.
- Format on your camera whenever using memory cards from a different camera body.
- Don’t fill cards to capacity. Switch to a fresh card when almost full.
- Have plenty of storage. If you only have one memory card – buy more.
- Shoot now, edit later (on a proper sized screen).
For more info on the technical side of getting the best performance from your memory cards, check out this article on Jeff Cables blog.
PS: When you format a card, you haven’t actually deleted all the pics. You have simply cleared the way for new data to be written onto the card. If you have accidentally formatted a card, you can usually recover most of the data – as long as you haven’t overwritten the existing files. So, stop using the card immediately and take it to your local camera shop. (or look online for data recovery applications) – GM