I was getting ready to photograph a recently completed painting the other day, so I grabbed my SD card out of my card reader, tossed it into my camera and got ready to shoot. When I turned on my camera, I noticed the card was full, so I deleted all the images to make more space.

Sounds normal enough.

Except I forgot that I never actually uploaded the previous contents of the card, which contained all my reference for the next painting I had to do! Thats hundreds of photos, hours of work, and a paid photo shoot completely trashed!

Normally, this would be occasion for a TOTAL freak out! Luckily (or stupidly, depending on your outlook), I’ve had this happen to me before, so I knew what to do.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with how hard drives and memory cards work, deleted files are never actually deleted. They are simply written over. When you supposedly delete a file, you are telling your computer (or camera) to allocate that previous space as available. The file doesn’t actually go away until you write something on top of it (and sometimes not even then).

I discovered my error seconds after hitting the ‘Delete All’ button, so I did not save any new images to the card. The old files were still there, I just couldn’t see them.

Fortunately, there are a ton of programs out there that help you retrieve those lost files. Some of those programs are free, some are not, some are fake and malicious, and some don’t recover every type of file.

My favorite program, which has saved my butt TWICE now, is Photorec.

Photorec is free, trustworthy, works on a Mac, and can retrieve RAW files, which many of the other programs can not do. In about 10 minutes, Photorec recovered ALL of my photos from the previous shoot, both RAW and JPG, and saved me a ton of aggravation.

The other nice thing about Photorec is that it doesn’t actually require an application install. It’s simply a script that runs in Unix, so you don’t need to worry about viruses or uninstalls when you’re done.

You can download Photorec (as part of a bundle) here: http://www.cgsecurity.org/wiki/PhotoRec