How to Download Photos - Important Considerations

See our other digital photography tips : DOs and Don'tsChoosing a Camera and Accessories, Taking Digital Photos, and Editing Photos.

Downloading Digital Camera Pictures

  • I have been taking several hundred digital pix per week for over 6 years. I have twice in that time inadvertently modified the pictures during the initial sort after downloading but after having deleted the card contents. The last time I removed the resource fork for the whole batch.
  • My rule since day 1 is to check the first 2, middle 2 and last 2 pix on the computer hard drive before deleting anything from the card. If possible I also do the rough sort, using the slide show before deleting, and better yet, if time allows, I do the editing (cropping, adjusting, etc. before deleting.   I make some errors every time as I try to automate my eye-hand movement, including shortcuts for SAVE, CLOSE.... Sometimes it is Wooops! and the file is messed up forever, unless the original is on the card. I now keep the card loaded or make a duplicate folder until I am through my rough sort.
  • When deleting all the pictures on a card, use the reformat control.   It is much faster and thorough, giving the camera fresh space to lay down your pictures. Before I learned this, my Canon and Nikon prosumer cameras both had fatal errors in the middle of shooting after having used the computer to empty the memory card folder. I graduated to only using the camera to delete the pix and had no more problems of this kind. I reformatted the card every few times, particularly after using it as a USB storage device with a card reader to transfer computer files. This also seems to mess up something on the card. I then learned that the pictures should not be erased, unless just making room on the card, or editing out some clearly bad pictures while killing time. Rather, the card should be reformatted.
  • Many professionals burn CDs or DVDs on the spot, to avoid all the bad things that can happen....This fits right in with the conservative step of keeping all photos in their original state and editing only the copies. If you need to do more editing, it is better to work from the original and your taste in what looks good may well evolve, making you wish you had the original.
  • Devise a filing system and stay with it. Mine is: Year/MonthPlace/DateTimePlace.jpg  For example: 2007/Pix094Hungary/070923134523BudapestZoo.jpg which translates to the folder of 2007 pictures taken in September (4th batch) in Hungary on year 07 Month 09; day 23; hour 13:45; second 23 while at the Budapest Zoo. Shortcuts or aliases to important photos can be made and place in subset folders (e.g., African elephants or foreign zoos) so that only one copy of the picture itself is on the HD.

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This page updated or reviewed in March 2011