Memory Card Organization For Photographers!

May 15, 2017

Another Monday, another fun day! I can’t help but laugh at myself saying that, because I really am so jazzed about what we’re talking about today! In high school, you couldn’t have paid me enough to use the words Monday & Fun in the same sentence. Actually, most weeks, my mom couldn’t pay me enough just to get there. I wish I were kidding!

It’s always days like Monday that leave me humble and grateful to be 20 and working away in a passion that rarely has me dragging my feet to my desk (but I wont say always, we all have our days where work is hard work)! For me, the business side of photography is exciting and something I am equally as passionate about alongside the creative process!

Last week, I got a big  shipment of cards for my 2017 Season in the mail and I made a little Instagram chatting about them! I quickly realized that there is not nearly enough information out there for photographers to access regarding memory storage. So today, my friends, we’re diving into the good stuff.  No, not the perfect Instagram curations or tips on posing, we’re talking memory card organization and workflow. 

This is arguably one of the most important things we could ever talk about in photography. Fun? Maybe not. Crucial? Absolutely. Our clients rely on those little chips that slide into our cameras and hold their dearest memories. It’s our jobs as photographers to take care of those cards and make sure that our ducks are in a row!

This year I ordered myself the following (all from B&H Photo – the best place!) to go inside my Dual Card Slotted Canon 5D Mark III: 

I know, “Wow, Whit.. Why so many SD cards?! Why don’t you get 64 GB Cards to save some money & space?!”

Answer One: I have all of my second shooters shoot on my cards. They will shoot a 32 SD Card for the full day in RAW format. If their camera is dual card slot, they are more than welcome to use their own CF Card to record their own copy of photos! At the end of the night, they’ll hand over the SD Card and I’ll take them home. No more chasing down second shooters weeks after the wedding asking if you could upload the photos. Gone are the days of coordinating coffee meetings just to get those photos back. Systems are important and more importantly is the consistency of those systems! I used to do a mix of everything! Some days, my second shooters would shoot my cards, they’d turn them over to me, and a week or two later we’d meet so they could have the photos. Other days, I would have them shoot their cards and the rest we’d “figure it out later”. Let me be honest with you guys, that is hot mess express. Sound like you? Create this rule with your second shooter! The SD Card comes home with you on the wedding day so your clients  can reap the benefits of those beautiful photos, that is most important.

Answer Two: Many will ask why I wont shoot 64 GB Cards. The answer is personal preference, but it’s backed by the idea that data separation is important. I want to eliminate as many possible ways for data failure to occur and relying on one big card holding all of my files just doesn’t sit right with me. I shoot two 32 GB CF cards throughout a wedding day to eliminate that risk. Typically, Details through Family Photos will be on one card and Ceremony through the end of the wedding day will be on the second. Alongside this, I have a 32 GB SD Card recording all of these photos in JPEG Format. 

What that looks like is on a Wedding Day:

  • Two 32 GB CF Cards recording RAW
  • One 32 GB SD Card recording JPEG
  • One 32 GB SD Card recording RAW for Second Shooter (I encourage all of my second shooters to stay within a 32 GB Card for the entire day! This challenges them to be intentional about the photos their taking and really think about the value of each photo. This is a lesson I learned early on in my career as a second shooter and it really does teach you to shoot with PURPOSE, not just aim, fire, and pray!)

So let’s move on to what happens with my cards after the photos have been recorded!

The Aftermath:

My cards are held in two memory card holders by Think Tank and I LOVE them! They are roomy and have room for plenty of cards!

When my cards are full, I will turn them upside down in their case so that I know they are full and cannot be formatted. This is a GREAT tip to apply during a wedding day so you don’t have to spend the time fussing through cards to see whats on them, if you’ve delivered that session, or if you should format it

All of my photos are backed up the night of the wedding onto hard drives, but I also keep the 32 GB SD card I recorded all of my JPEG files on in my little box under my computer until the wedding is delivered. Hear me there!! That means their wedding photos are in THREE places at once at all times until they are safe and in their hands via my online gallery delivery system! I wont put that memory card back into my ThinkTank pouches until that wedding is delivered.

Here’s a few more tips I’ve picked up over the years!


  • Replace your cards each season. The older the card and the more its been used, the more likely they are to have data failure or corruption.
  • Label your cards! I label my cards with the year and the number! You can see this for example in the photos above! This year, it looks like “17 – 1” “17 – 2” etc. etc representing that it is 2017, Card 1. This helps IMMENSELY when remembering what cards hold what on them!
  • Never format a card until you are positive its in 3 safe places until they’re delivered to your clients. This can be a combination of a second card (like my JPEG backup source!), hard drives, or an online gallery! This makes it near impossible for mistakes to happen!

Something that I think will continue to be revealed to you guys as I do these education based blog posts is that while I am a total goof and I come off care-free, I also recognize and understand that professionalism and systems are crucial in the success of any business! I take a lot of things with a light heart, but man, the safety of my clients photos just isn’t one of them! I hope this gives you a few ideas on ways you can organize the back end of your business and boost your confidence when it comes to carrying those memories your clients trust you with!

Please, comment down below if you have any questions at all! Encouraging and educating my friends around here sets my heart on fire!

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