Photo Recovery

Photo recovery and rescue

Written by Gail Bjork

Despite what most digital camera manuals say, recovering deleted and erased photos and video files from a memory card is possible!

found-folderThe thought of it makes us shutter…we accidentally erase the digital images stored on our memory card.

Or maybe the card was incorrectly formatted or the losses were caused by battery or system failure. Files can be inadvertently erased if a memory card is removed while an image is in the process of being written to it.

Whatever the cause, we just want our photos back.

Can lost images be recovered? The answer, in all likelihood, is YES!

There are a variety of digital photo recovery and rescue programs available. Many are capable of recovering lost images, video and animation files. Some free recovery programs only recover jpeg files.  We have a listing of free photo recovery and other image editing programs listed here.

Digital image recovery process

The photo recovery process is generally easy and straightforward.

It’s important to follow the specific instructions as the software wizard prompts you through the recovery process, usually only a few steps. Some software programs have different levels of recovery so, if one doesn’t work, the process starts again at the next level.

Photo recovery not guaranteed

Good image recovery programs have a large degree of success. However recovery is not guaranteed and not always 100% effective. Sometimes only a few files are recovered, or no files can be recovered at all.

Whichever program you decide to use, visit the developer’s website and read the information, disclaimers and help files. Paid software usually has a 30-day trial period, though it may have some limitations such as only allowing a limited number of files to be recovered.

Some photo recovery programs, such as Sandisk RescuePro, recover files other than just photo and video.  Check the manufacture’s website for information about which types are supported.

Professional data recovery labs

If you can not recover deleted images, consider using a professional data recovery lab such as LC Technology. Professional photo recovery is expensive but at times may be worth the cost.

Basic photo recovery tutorial

About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.

21 Comments

  • I could really appreciate a reply,I have a Fujifilm Camera & was wondering if “Zero Assuption”a recovery program on your website would be compatible with an XD memory card?Thie is the only card my camera takes.Could you please reply back?Thanks,I look forward to hearing your reply.

  • claire, I’m unfamiliar with a site that recovers photos. If that didn’t work, you should try photo recovery software. It may produce better results.

  • hello..i recently took photos from my camera and then went to look for them but they were gone. so i went onto a site and i was able to recover all my photos that i took from the camera except for the most recent ones any idea on how i get them back???

  • Rachel, sorry to hear about the loss of your photos. You may be able to recover some, perhaps all of your photos, with recovery software. We have some free recovery software listed here. They may not do as good a job as recovery software that can be purchased, such as Rescue Pro by Sandisk.

    I recently had a hard disk failure but, fortunately, I regularly back up my photos (and other important data) to an external hard drive. Also, some photo hosting sites let you upload full sized images for storage and viewing. Some are free, such as Picasa Web Albums, and others charge a nominal annual fee.

  • I have a Canon powershot SX120is, with a sandisk SDHC 4GB memory card inside, which I’ve had for about 18months. I have always deleted photos from the memory card in my camera,after I’ve copied them across to our laptop, thinking I’m doing the right thing to free space up, now I’ve lost all these photos that I’d copied across to my computer, hard drive died with no backup…..durrr….Can I recover deleted photos from my SD card from my camera?

  • I could really appreciate a reply,I have a Fujifilm Camera & was wondering if “Zero Assuption”a recovery program on your website would be compatible with an XD memory card?Thie is the only card my camera takes.Could you please reply back?Thanks,I look forward to hearing your reply.

  • would Zero Assumption Digital Image Recovery be compatible for my camera & XD card?I havent heard your reply.

  • Thanks for that,I’ll let you know how i get on.I hope I can get all the images back.You’ve been so helpful,thanks again. 🙂

  • Yes they show up when viewing them on the camera. What would the best recovery program before windows XP?

  • Christine, Unfortunately it sounds like your files are corrupted, and the problem may be with your card. Try recovering them with a popular photo recovery program like Recuva. It’s free.

    I’m curious, do the photos show when you view them on the camera LCD?

    Good luck!

  • I have a Finepix Camera & have “Finepix Viewer”loaded on the computer to load/transfer photos from camera to computer,I have just tried viewing some recent photos from a holiday & some have loaded but others are coming up with a question mark,when I try to view these it reads cannot preview. What do I do to restore these photos Question marked please?

  • jolyn, if the images are still on your memory card, transfer them again to the computer (after removing the corrupted files on your computer. If the files are also corrupted on the card, try a photo recovery program. If that doesn’t work, format the card in the camera and try the recovery program again.

  • I took photos and when I went home, while viewing those photos in my computer, it suddenly.stopped responding and forced shut down.
    When I turned the computer on again, the photos are gone and in turn there are some weird files with weirs names and formats I have never seen. The files also take up a larger space than the capacity of 4gb, but when I checked the properties, it says that only 3gb is used, the amount of storage I used with the photos.
    What do I so now?
    Please help!

  • I just moved to Spain and left the usb cable in the States. I tried buying one but the store did not have a cable that fit my camera and offered me the card reader. In the DCIM file, there are some pictures that are visible because they are in the standard Jpeg format but the other pictures files are composed of characters and symbols.I was able to see the pictures earlier but after I removed and inserted the USB card reader several times( I was trying to find the easiest way to import the photos to my computer)..the file format changed and now I cant see any of the photos on my computer nor on my camera. Any suggestions to solving this?

  • User, make sure your card reader and memory card are compatible. That aside, use the USB cable that came with your camera to transfer images directly from camera to computer. Make sure you have the software installed that came with the camera. Also make sure your camera batteries are fully charged so they don’t run out of power while photos are being transferred.

  • I bought a USB card reader and inserted my memory card from my camera..But when I tried to import the pictures..I received the error message’THe filname, directory name, or volume syntax is incorrect’ I need these pictures. Can anyone tell me the best way to restore this pictures?

  • When the memory card is in the camera then all photos are able to be viewed however when viewed from computer (SD card inserted into card drive) then half of the photos have ‘invalid image’ and cannot be viewed.  Are these photos corryupt/lost?