Rescuing Deleted Files Aka. What Happened To Us Yesterday

Have you ever made a huge mistake? Like formatting a memory card you hadn’t uploaded yet? Or maybe you’ve accidentally deleted photos off your hard drive without backing them up? Maybe it’s not even your fault and your camera decided to start eating photos. Nom nom.

Even if you haven’t yet experienced the heart stopping fear of any of those scenarios, don’t think you’re invincible. It’s simple: when working with digital images things can go wrong. In our photography careers we’ve done all of the above. In most instances its been my fault for being absent minded, but most recently one of our cameras failed and seemed to automatically delete images from a memory card. You never know when it could happen to you….Are you scared yet?

Data Rescue 3

Mac Data Recovery Software copy.jpg

Fear not. Data Rescue 3 to the, well, rescue. This is a very awesome data recovery program that every photographer should know about. Why is it so cool?

  • You can recover from both hard drives and memory cards
  • You can perform a few different types of scans (Quick scan, deep scan, or even search specifically for files that have been deleted)
  • It’s easy to use!
  • It’s powerful. IT recovery experts and forensic data specialists use it. Legit.
  • It’s available for Mac and PC

What Happened To Us Yesterday

Let me tell you the story of our most recent use of Data Rescue 3 

Yesterday we went on a little photo walk around Buenos Aires. We were snapping away, having a blast.

We stopped for a little break and were checking out some of our shots when our camera flashed the message “Unable to display image”. We turned the camera off and then back on and all the images we’d taken that day were gone. Uh oh, not good. Panic, nausea, tears…Well, maybe not quite that dramatic, but we were scared.

Knowing we’ve had previous success recovering data from cards that we’ve unintentionally reformatted, we stopped using the card immediately and headed back to our hotel.

From there it was a matter of plugging the memory card into the card reader, opening Data Rescue 3 and running the “Deep Scan”. It took Data Rescue about 10 minutes to scan the 8gb card at which point it had identified all deleted and missing images. It was then a matter of saving the missing images to our hard drive, which probably took another 10 minutes.

In 20 minutes we had all the photos back. As well as our peace of mind. 

Here are a couple of images that would have been gone forever.



In another instance I deleted images from our hard drive without backing them up (this was very early in our career before we had an established backup system. I never made that mistake again). This was actually the first time we tried Data Rescue. We needed to connect an external hard drive to recover the files to, and we used the scan that specifically targets deleted files. Again, Data Rescue worked perfectly and we got all the files back. Huzzah!


  • When you realize that you’ve made a mistake (deleted files or reformatted a card) make sure you stop using the hard drive or memory card right away. You don’t want to accidentally write over the deleted files, which would then really make them unrecoverable.
  • Make sure you’re recovering files on to a drive that is separate from the one you’ve lost data on. This often involves plugging in an external drive if you’ve lost data on your main computer drive, or if you’ve lost data on a memory card you could recover the files to your main computer hard drive.
  • Make sure that recovered files get properly backed up! 

Another cool thing about Data Rescue 3 is that it’s a program that can be purchased and downloaded over the internet. We had the previous version (Data Rescue 2) and needed to upgrade yesterday so it was easy to do.

The new full version of Data Rescue 3 costs $99 and the upgrade version will run you $65. Considering professional data recovery often runs in the thousands this is a pretty affordable solution! You can also demo the software out which will allow you to perform a scan but you can only recover 1 file. You can see if it will recover your files before purchasing!

Obviously no one wants to find themselves in a situation with the potential for data loss (especially when it comes to your images!) but it’s great to know that there’s a tool out there that can really save you.

Rob Lim

Hi there, I’m Rob! I’m a photographer and head ninja here at Photography Concentrate. I love all things photography: shooting, teaching and always learning more! If I’m not reading up on the latest photography news, or studying a technique, I’m probably reading a book or planning our next adventure!


6 Comments // Leave a comment

  1. How nerve racking! I'm glad you were able to save them.

  2. Great tips guys! And I'm glad you were able to recover your shots – they're awesome! I can't wait to see more!!

  3. thank you so much! i lost my pics due to hard drive failure and i am currently seeking a place that can retrieve it inexpensively (in atlanta)…… does anyone have any suggestions for that situation?

  4. great tip thank you! I have nightmares about losing wedding images so this is great to know.

  5. I downloaded Zero Assumption Recovery. The image file recovery is a free download and worked wonders.

    It's crazy what they can recover, even after accidentally formating a flash card, twice. Managed to save images from 3 or 4 formats ago.
    Kind of makes me wonder if you could double the capacity of your flash cards by doing this on purpose if you were in an emergency situation. Be tough to trust that you'd be able to recover all those files though!

  6. I just wanted to note that if anyone is looking to buy Data Rescue 3 it is bundled with a bunch of other apps for only $50 at (The deal only lasts until May 12, 2011)

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