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How to Recover Lost Travel Photos

Alexandra Gregg

We’ve all be there. That horrifying moment when you try to shoot your next holiday photo and your camera pops up with an angry error message. But whether it’s telling you your pictures are corrupted, or your favourite shots have been deleted, there are ways to beat it – and you’ll be surprised how easy it is. Follow these steps ;to help recover lost travel photos and, with a little luck, you'll be feeling snap-happy in no time

Keep the card safe

Firstly, take the card out and keep it safe – don’t shoot anymore pictures on it. If you don’t have a back-up SD card, this may mean forking out an extortionate fee for a spare to use for the remainder of your trip, but it’ll be worth it. Chances are you’ll recover at least some, if not all, of the photos simply by temporarily retiring the defective card.

Use a card reader

When you get home, try using the malfunctioning card in a card reader: most new PCs/laptops have a reader built in, but an external piece of kit will work just as well. You may discover that the problem is actually with your camera as opposed to the card, therefore the images may appear absolutely fine when you try and access them on your computer.

Make a copy

Contrary to popular belief, unintentionally formatting your SD card isn’t the end of the photographic road – images can still be recovered. Avoid saving any new data on the card after it’s been formatted and make a clone of it too, to ensure you have a backup should the problem get any worse.

Use free recovery software

You don’t need to blow your holiday fund to get your hands on some reliable recovery software. In fact, there are some reputable free downloads out there – such as Recuva Free or Undelete 360. Both will scan the entire card, as opposed to just the index files that your operating system searches for, and hopefully find your missing pictures. If you’ve recovered your files successfully but they won’t open, you may need to use a piece of file repair software too. This will see to a range of image formats that have been damaged by viruses, system crashes or general card failures.

Worst case scenario

If your pictures are really important to you (i.e. from your honeymoon or for work) and the recovery software didn’t work, you can send the card off to a specialist, who will have more sophisticated (expensive) software. It’s not a cheap solution, but if you’ve tried everything else, this could be your last hope.

Pagoda Burma

Shoot this Pagoda photo in JPEG rather than RAW...

Next time…

Common user errors include accidentally formatting a card or selecting the ‘delete all’ option as opposed to removing a single snap, so be sure to use your camera carefully.

It’s also worth considering what format you’re shooting in. While RAW files are higher quality than JPEG and easier to manipulate in the editing process, they also contain a lot more information, meaning they are easier to corrupt. RAWs are far more difficult to recover too.

Lastly, if you’ve already lost your photos and didn’t see our handy guide before you chucked the offending SD card in the bin, remember for next time that you should NEVER throw out a card until you’ve tried all of the above.

And when you’re shopping for your next storage device, be aware that faulty memory cards are often associated with cheap brands. So while it may seem like you’re saving money when you buy the budget card, it may actually cost you more in the long run and give you a very big head – and heart – ache. Is it really worth the trouble?

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