Photography Friday: Formatting...

If you don't know what Formatting is - READ THIS!

A friend of mine went on a Mission trip to Haiti and took tons of pics while up on a mountain for a few days. That was the only time they would be up there and that was a very important part of the trip. After coming down from the mountain, he was reviewing his images and somehow ended up in the menu and the option to "format". He had no idea what this meant, sounded like something important to do so he selected "OK".


Actually, formatting in a good thing, but for most regular point&shoot camera owners, it can be not so good. You can delete images from your card and they are gone but actually still hidden on your card. You can format and this will delete your images but also delete some of the hidden info making it near impossible to retrieve. My friend went even further... he took more images with the card. Basically, he put images over the hidden images and now those are lost forever.

I format my cards all the time. BUT only after I've downloaded the images onto my computer. Then burned a copy onto a disk. Then let CARBONITE back up my computer. Then make sure they really are on the disk. Then I reluctantly delete. Then I double check that all my images really are backed up on disk and computer. Then I finally format. lol I am not usually so obsessively worried but I do take percautions since I have client images to handle and I don't want to miss a moment of my kids!

Here is one explanation that was pretty good about all this formatting stuff:

First off, deleting an image and formatting are almost the same procedure, the big difference being that a format is a mass delete of all the file headers ( a delete is a single file header erasure), as well as the file table.

What's a file header?

Basically, cards have sectors.. or areas. Think of them as plots of land. Some houses take up more land than others, and everyone has an address.

Well what if all the addresses were erased. the houses would still be there, but how could you find a house?

When you format, you simple erase those addresses, not the DATA itself.

You can recover from a format or a delete, since a delete is the erasure of a simple address

HOWEVER, this is only if you do not start writing to the card again. if a file hearder (address) is available.. then you will be writing over old data, since the camera believes that area to be empty (Becasue it has no file header).

In fact, this is important when throwing out old hard drives with any sensitive data. You need to do a SECURE delete. That is to format, then write blank data (a bunch of zeros) to each area of the drive, then format and repeat. DOD (Department of Defense) standards are 3 passes like this I believe. Some places do 7. I've heard one does 43 passes like this.

So what are the key points in all of this:

1) if you delete or format a file or card, and need it back, STOP USING IT IMMEDIATELY. put it away, put in a new card, keep shooting.

2) when you go home, get recovery software. I use Lexars. It's free, and I mention it in my blog.

(His cool blog is RIGHT HERE.)

So all that to tell you to NOT FORMAT until you understand all of this! Formatting is good to give you a nice clean card again but it can be difficult to recover images once a card is formatted. Not necessarily impossible, but difficult.

Hope this information helps someone!

And since a post isn't as much fun without pictures, here are a few of my boy from a while back when I bribed him to let me shoot him in his boots
(this was way back before they were a part of his EVERY outfit!):

Playing with a little fill flash:

My sweet boy...

The Lollipop Bribe dance...

Have a great weekend!