Ask few wedding photographers what is the biggest fear they have and the majority would most likely answer: Losing the digital images after a wedding. It’s the absolute nightmare as these images cannot be easily recaptured.
Try to replay the wedding so a wedding photographer can capture the images again?
Most likely won’t happen. Imagine how the bride and her family would feel if all of their wedding images have been lost forever. No wonder many file lawsuits against the wedding photographer they have hired and request hefty compensations.
Digital cameras and specifically DSLRs have gained huge popularity and are the most widely used type of digital cameras by professional photographers currently. They use CF (Compact Flash) or SD (Secure Digital) memory cards to capture and store the digital images and sometimes the images cannot be read or retrieved from the memory cards. The reasons and how to prevent this from happening are topics for another blog which I am planning to write soon.
For now we will focus on the question: What are the options to recover digital images from memory card and what is the software or services available?
There are three types of photo recovery solutions currently available on the market:
- Memory Card Vendor Solutions
- Independent Software Application Developers
- Data Recovery Service Providers
Memory Card Vendor’s Solutions:
Many memory card manufacturers offer digital image recovery solutions to the customers who purchased their memory cards. It is part of the post-sales support which differentiate them from the competition and all of these are doing pretty good job on recovering digital images.
Although these are offered by a specific memory card manufacturer for their specific memory cards, they are capable to recover images from memory cards from different manufacturers. The recovery software is designed for the specific memory card specifications these manufacturers produce and sale, have been tested on the manufacturer specific memory cards and are usually supported by their software development teams.
The recovery software is offered for a specific period for free with the purchase of a new memory card. The software download link and activation code is provided into the memory card package. The only catch is that the activation code is valid for a specific period or time after which am yearly renewal is required at additional cost.
Below are two image recovery software solutions from SanDisk and Lexar which do pretty good job and are affordable considering the sentimental or professional value of the images they can recover:
Image Rescue from Lexar:
- URL: http://www.lexar.com/products/lexar-image-rescue-4-software
- Price: $34 (one time payment)
- Features: Available for both Windows and Mac operating systems. Recovers both still images and video and allows you to reformat your memory card and take it back to the factory settings
SanDisk Pro Rescue from SanDisk:
- URL: http://www.lc-tech.com/pc/sandisk-rescuepro-and-rescuepro-deluxe/
- Price: $40 (Standard Edition), $60 (DeLuxe Edition), $250 (Commercial Edition) for 1 year subscription
- Features: Available for Windows operating system only. Recovers images, video, email, documents or simply anything stored on the memory cards. Supports wide variety of memory cards. Allows you to see a preview of the file to be recovered which is useful if you are looking to cherry pick a file to recover. Formats and securely removes files from the memory card.
RecoveRx from Transcend:
- URL: http://www.transcend-info.com/Support/Software-4/
- Price: Free
- Features: Offered for both Windows and Apple OSX operating systems. Recovers digital files, documents, audio and video files from all types of memory cards, MP3 music players, USB flash drives, external hard drives and solid state drives. If also offers memory cards formatting and password protection in addition to recovery data files.
Independent Software Application Developers:
Apart from digital recover solutions by memory card manufacturers, there are software programs created by independent software development companies which are competing into this lucrative market. These software developers have created a solutions capable of recovering photos from all major memory card brands. The cost varies from free to below $100 per activation and their capabilities and user interface friendlies varies.
Software development is a very competitive business, so when considering which solution to purchase or use, check the memory card compatibility and latest updates available before making the final selection and purchase.
Here are few software solutions which do pretty good job on recovering pictures from memory cards:
- URL: https://www.piriform.com/recuva
- Price: Free or $25 for registered commercial license
- Features: Can recover a single file only and securely deletes files from the memory card. Setup Wizard is useful to do the initial setup. Can recover mp3, images, videos and documents
Zero Assumption Recovery (ZAR):
- URL: http://www.z-a-recovery.com/
- Price: Free or $60 (single user) / $200 (site license) for commercial license
- Features: Available for Windows operating system only. It has been around since 2001 and was first used in MS-DOS on 486 CPUs so it is very successful and reliable.
- URL: http://cardrescue.com/
- Price: $40 (single licenses)
- Features: Available for Windows and Mac operating systems. Recognizes all major file formats (JPEG, TIFF, PSD, etc) as well the RAW formats from all major camera manufacturers (Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Fuji). The scan for recoverable files takes between 5-20 minutes and the success rate if about 90%.
- URL: http://www.datarescue.com/photorescue/
- Price: $30
- Features: Available for Windows and Mac operating systems. Created back in 2001 but has been updated lately which is always good to have more recent version available. Recovery utilizes a Wizard which makes the recovery process even easier. One time license is good so there are no additional perpetual cost after the purchase.
Card Recovery Pro:
- URL: http://www.cardrecoverypro.com/
- Price: $50
- Features: Available for Windows OS only. Created back in 2002 and can recover multiple file formats: images, audio, video and documents from digital cameras, memory cards, mobile phones and iPods. It supports RAW digital image formats from all major digital camera manufacturers including Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, Olympus, etc.
- URL: http://www.cgsecurity.org/wiki/PhotoRec
- Price: Free (although donations are accepted and help the developer’s of the project)
- Features: Available for both Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems. It’s an open source software released under GPLV v2+. It recognizes more than 440 file formats (check the documentation for full list) and has been tested with major camera models.
- URL: http://www.stellarinfo.com/digital-media-recovery.htm
- Price: $39 (Basic) or $78 (Platinum Edition)
- Features: Available for Windows and Mac operating systems. Recovers RAW files from all major digital camera manufacturers (including Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, Pentax, Sigma, Olympus, Panasonic, etc). The company claims their software can recover digital images even from formatted memory cards which is impressive and has 30% improved files scan.
Data Recovery Service Providers:
Apart from the photo recovery software a photographer can use to recover images on its own, for those who don’t have the time to recover images or are able to recover the photos by using the applications above, there are also photo recovery services. These services are specializing into data and image recovery from data storage media (hard drives, memory cards, USB sticks, etc).
The advantage of using these services is that they have perfected the recovery process and have proprietary software and technicians able to recover photos from memory cards. They work with both government agencies, corporate clients and individuals and can deal with various types of data loss reasons. Their services are fairly priced considering the value they provide. The cost varies but it’s generally below $60 for a memory card. Considering the value of wedding images on a single 64GB memory card, this is very affordable.
Here are two photo recovery services a photographer can use:
- Tekserve (www.tekserve.com) in New York City, NY is a service provider and provides data recovery services. They have been in business since 1987 and are Premiere Apple Service provider. The company is offering free estimate for the recovery cost and guaranteed their services by no charge policy for data that cannot be recovered. Rush service is available and this is a real time saver for any emergencies.
- Flashback Data Recovery (www.flashbackdata.com) in Austin, TX. They do data recovery for the FBI, but anyone can use their services. Free estimates are available online and it’s simple as filling an online form with the data recovery request and receiving an estimate within 1-2 hours. And if you lost images from your computer’s hard drive or external storage array, they have Class 10 clean room to repair the hard drive before attempting to perform the recovery. They also have No-Data, No-Fee policy so you would only pay for their services if they are actually able to recover your data.
- 1st Data Recovery (http://www.1stdatarecovery.com) with locations in USA, Canada and UK and 22 years of data recovery experience offers support for lost data on: hard drives, RAIDs, NAS arrays, data tapes, digital camera memory cards and sticks. Supported files are RAW, JPEG, TIFF, PCX, DWG, etc. They event support recovery of data from dead, deleted, formated, corrupted, fire and water damaged hard drives, removable media and data tapes. Check their FAQ section for types of recovery they perform, but the list looks impressive.
- Data Recovery (datarecovery.com) has four clean-service full-labs in USA and Canada. Founded in 1998 is has long history of data recovery and currently has Class 100 Data Recovery Clean Room. You will get 24×7 support and assurance that your data will be recovered. The proof? NASA, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft are just few of their clients. Not only their can recover photos from a memory card but all sorts of files from a single hard drive, arrays, iPhone or laptops. Online chat and recovery request available for your convenience.
I hope that, you as a photographer or simply an owner of digital camera would never need to recover your pictures from a memory card, but in case you have to do it, you have a good guide on what options are currently available to you. The data recovery is a field in which many software companies specialized for many years as well there are many new entrants who are trying to establish themselves.
I am not sure after 2-3 years these same companies would be still offering digital image recovery solutions but one thing is for sure: With the rate of which consumers generate pictures the amount of memory cards and photos being captures has exploded over the past 5 years. Even as the Wi-Fi enabled cameras and cloud storage solutions for digital photos are getting available and more affordable, the memory cards are here to stay for at least another 10 years.
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About the Author:
Trifon Anguelov Photography is a premiere wedding and events photography business based in Mountain View, CA 94040 and serving clients in San Francisco Bay Area, CA. You can review his current Wedding and Events Portfolio and Book an Online Appointment for one of his services.