Desperately Seeking to Recover Deleted Photos! (“Saving Private Photo”).

Mohamed al Amin mosque (Hariri mosque), Beirut, Lebanon

I recently took a two week trip to Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.

No trip to Jordan is complete, of course, without a stop at Petra. One of the most interesting and beautiful sites in a region that is absolutely overflowing with historical sites, Petra is also one of the most picturesque. Shutterbug that I am, I got up extra early to head to Petra before the crowds did. I was in luck– the place was nearly empty and the lighting was beautiful.

And I had an “on” day with the camera– it seemed like I could do no wrong, each shot was coming out perfect. I was surprised with myself, but thankful as well, and I said a silent prayer of gratitude to the Camera Gods.

When I arrived in Beirut and started click-click-clicking away again, my memory card hit its capacity. I went into a copy place that, amongst other services, burns photos to CD. I surrendered my full memory card to them, went to breakfast with a friend, and returned an hour or so later.

“We couldn’t put all your pictures on one CD,” the guy behind the counter said, “so we burned it to DVD instead.” He handed me the full DVD and the empty memory card. No problem, right?

Building, Gemmayze, Beirut, Lebanon, Liban

Apparently, there was. When I got home, I found a DVD full of blank files– the sizes were there, the names were there, but the pictures were empty. I passed the DVD to several friends– you know, tech types– and they all scratched their heads and said they’d never seen anything like it. One of them asked me if I’d taken more pictures on that same memory card. Indeed, I had. “Ooo, that’s too bad,” he said. “If you hadn’t, there is a way to recover deleted photos.”


As I have been mourning the loss of my pictures– and the memories they captured– I have vowed to never let this happen again. Learn from my lesson and:

1) Carry extra memory cards with you. They’re small, they’re portable. They’re relatively inexpensive. Yes, burning to CD is cheaper, but it’s better to spend a little extra on backup memory cards then to take a chance that what happened to me will happen to you.

2) Find an internet cafe and burn them to CD yourself— cutting out the middleman reduces the margin of error.

3) If you have someone burn them for you, ask to check the CD (or DVD) before you leave. Chances are, they still have your photos on their computer… and if you check the CD and find there is something wrong, you can ask them to burn it again.

4) The best bet? Don’t delete your photos from your memory cards until you get home and see them safe and sound on your computer. Fill memory card after memory card while you’re traveling AND burn to CD as a backup (double-checking the CD after you do so). This way, if anything happens to the memory card, you’re set– and if anything happens to the CD, you’re still set.

However, if both the memory card and CD fails… well, you must have offended the Camera Gods. In which case, you must appease them (and I don’t have any tips for that).

This might seem like a lot of unnecessary precautions, but it’s worth it. It’s not always possible to recover deleted photos. It’s better to be extra careful… better safe than sorry.

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