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How to Recover Deleted Photos From Camera's Memory Card

One of my photographer friends who is a wedding photographer came running to me with an urgent demand. His hard drive crashed and he has no backup for the pictures of his latest work. He had also formatted his camera’s memory card. If he cannot recover the photos he will soon be in deep trouble. After spending a couple of hours in the internet searching for various methods and software’s to recover deleted photos we finally succeeded in doing it and recovered all the photos from the camera’s memory card. The best thing about it is that we did it for free most of the software’s we tried does analysis for free but need paid licenses to do the actual recovery. so I thought I will make it the subject for today’s article as it may benefit many photographers.

The software we used is PhotoRec, it comes bundled with TestDisk which is used to recover data from hard drives. The software is a command line application and it is open source (so needless to mention that it is free).

So let us discuss how to use PhotoRec to recover your photos if you have accidentally deleted them or formatted your camera’s memory card.

1. Do not use the memory card

If you need to recover photos from a formatted memory card you should not use the memory card to shoot more photos. The reason is when you delete data from the card what the software does is to mark that particular area of the card’s memory as free, so that more data could be overwritten on to that space. So practically your files are still there safe and recoverable even after you have deleted them. But if you again use your card then they will be overwritten with the new data and your old files are permanently gone.

Memory Cards
Memory Cards

2. Get the Data Recovery Software

You can download PhotoRec for free from here. Select the version suited for your operating system.

3. Make use of your Card Reader

Insert your memory card to the card reader so that the program can access it as a mass storage device.

USB Card Reader
USB Card Reader

4. Install and Run the PhotoRec software

In windows you may install the program as you install any other software, but for Mac and Linux operating systems you need root privileges to install it. Installation is pretty simple you only need to point the disk to recover, partition type, destination to save the recovered files etc. The photorec wiki has all the resources needed to guide you through the process.


After successfully extracting the photos, out of curiosity I tried it on my hard disk and it worked. It works on normal hard disks and all types of files, not just photos.

In the next article we will discuss about Photography - How To Photograph - Candlelight Photography - Tips For Photographing in Candlelight

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