A post over on This Week in Photography got me thinking about my memory cards and the rituals or practices I take to conserve my image data. As they suggested over at TWIP, I do format my cards in camera prior to using. This in-camera formatting optimizes the data sectors and creates folders to organize image data. However, I also occasionally format my cards on the computer for that exact reason. Since the XT only has an image counter that goes to 100, whenever I pass that 100 mark, it creates a new folder. If I were to never format the card outside of the camera, those folders would always remain there – and I would wonder if there were images in there not being copied out to my hard drive for backup.
So, I do format my memory cards in the computer. About once a month I’ll insert my cards into the card reader, plug ‘er up, and format away. On the PC, that would be: format E: /fat32 (With “E” being whatever drive letter is assigned to media once you connect it. Having said that though, once the PC format is complete, I will do another format in camera to optimize sectors for the camera prior to shooting.
The last step I take in the format process is to take a picture. My very first picture on each card is a screen shot picture from my monitor. On my monitor, I put together a Word document that gives my contact information (Name, mailing address, phone, and email address), along with a request to return the card to me (see above – naturally, the info there is more accurate, but you get the idea). That way, if I ever lose the card, hopefully some benevolent person will find it and put it in their computer or camera and find that content there. I took the shot with PrintKey (Windows only- if you are on a Mac, use CTRL+SHIFT+4 to grab the area manually yourself), and then opened in PS and saved for web settings to minimize the space it takes up on the CF card (32K). This may seem rather a p.i.t.a., but the step for me is worthwhile just as a safeguard against the possible loss of my CF cards.
One final note, in case anyone is interested, I do have a few suggestions for vendors to use: I like Sandisk and Ridata. Both have been very good to me, and with three 2 Gig cards, I am probably safe with those. Although, I do know of others (like Scott Kelby) that recommend Hoodman. For those of you that are technically inclined, and want to know all the nitty gritty details of write speeds, failure rates, etc., Rob Galbraith also has an excellent page on all that stuff if it is up your alley.
This may be a rather unique approach to memory card maintenance, but it works for me. Maybe this will give others ideas for procedures to use in their own approach to memory card management. What about everyone else though? Any other tips or tricks to suggest for managing your media? Feel free to share those in the comments.