General Question

lookingglassx3's avatar

How can I recover a deleted photo from my camera?

Asked by lookingglassx3 (2134points) February 11th, 2012

Yesterday I took a really good photo of me and some friends, and I really loved it. But one of my friends didn’t like the way she looked in it, and so whilst she was looking through my camera (which is a Fujifilm if that’s of any relevance) deleted it. >:(

I’ve downloaded I don’t know how many free trials of recovery software, but none seem to be working. :( Does anybody know a guaranteed way of recovering deleted photos?

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17 Answers

likipie's avatar

I don’t really think you can. I’ve never tried but logically speaking (and my logic isn’t very advanced) it doesn’t seem doable.

dabbler's avatar

It is possible if another photo has not been written over the same spot.
“Deleting” a Photo on a camera card actually just removes the directory entry and tags the space it’s in as empty. If you took a bunch of pictures after the “delete” that space could easily have been overwritten with a later photo.
I managed to recover all the later photos from a day of vacation that accidentally got deleted, after I’d shot not so many pictures the next day. The later ones had not been overwritten, the earlier ones were irrecoverable.

deni's avatar

Did you take any more pictures afterwords? If not, go to a camera store that also has a photo lab and many times they have software that will recover your photos. And if it doesn’t work you aren’t charged. But it can be 30-ish dollars, not sure if you wanna pay that much.

JaneraSolomon's avatar

It’s’ virtually impossible for YOU to do, but there are some professional companies that specialize in data recovery for instance the “Data Rescue Center”

auhsojsa's avatar

Reshoot :P Hm, I would recommend utilizing the “lock” per photo next time around. Sorry for your loss :(

dimitri685's avatar

The only way for you is to get a file recovery program. There is a free program called pandora recovery and it worked for my parents and myself. You can obtain it here at

auhsojsa's avatar

I don’t understand how once it’s deleted from your card stick, you can recover it back, am I missing something here? Can someone please explain? Thanks :)

dabbler's avatar

”“Deleting” a Photo on a camera card actually just removes the directory entry and tags the space it’s in as empty.” Only the directory entry is changed, the picture data still sits out on the mem card with nothing pointing to them. In general there isn’t anything that will actually touch the picture file data, until that space is needed for a later picture.

Files are stored in ‘sectors’ that the directory points to.If the file is bigger than one sector there will be a pointer in the first sector to the next sector used by that file.
This is true of any file you “delete” from our ordinary file systems.

This means the actual picture file/data is still out there on the card—until the space it’s in is re-allocated to a later picture…
If you didn’t take any later picture the picture data is still on the card. A recovery program looks for things in the sector headers that look like part of a file, and the recovery program will try to follow any pointers available to earlier or later file parts that are still intact.

Because there is a finite amount of times any given part of a mem card (like in your camera) can be reliably used before wearing out, the mem cards put a space recently freed up (file ‘deleted’) at the end of the available list so it will get used last.

If you filled the card up following the ‘delete’, there is unfortunately a good chance that the freed-up space got allocated to another new picture.
If you did not take more pictures, that space is still on the available stack and the data you had in it is still there in the sectors. A good recover program will try to find stuff like that.

auhsojsa's avatar

@dabbler I run a Canon 60D with a PNY Optima SDHC 240 Mn 16GB. When I reformat (delete) the memory card, I can assure you, it is fully deleted. Can a recovery program find photos in this case? Thanks!

dabbler's avatar

@auhsojsa What do you mean by ‘fully deleted’ ? How did you attempt to find them?

I certainly believe you didn’t see them on the file system when you plugged the camera or card into your computer. But that by itself does not mean the picture data are gone from the card. It just means there is nothing in the directory pointing to the picture data.

Also depending on what the manufacturer means by ‘reformat’, they might not be gone from the card following that – almost always ‘reformat’ means the visible directory is wiped clean and the space is tagged available in the card’s internal allocation charts. In which case nothing has overwritten the picture data out on the sectors and it’s still out there on the card, a recovery program can find those.

Sometimes there will also be available a ‘deep format’ on a camera, for initializing a new card when you first get it, that sets up the sectors and puts data patterns on the storage space. In this case the picture information is overwritten and is not recoverable by a recovery program. If it is extremely important and you are well-connected you could get some scientists with a scanning electron microscope to analyse the structures which can reveal the previous values of cells. This is extremely tedious and expensive, probably only the three-letter agencies would do something like that.

This is the way our computer file systems work in general, including mem cards used in cameras. That’s why something like Norton file recovery programs can work, the directory says it’s gone but the data are still out there in the sectors. This is also why it’s advisable to do a ‘deep format’ of your hard drive, or destroy it, if you are discarding a computer. Snoops can fairly easily recover any file information that has not been overwritten.

Also I know file recovery from a camera card can work. While on a vacation I took a lot of pics one day, filling the card. I thought I had uploaded my whole card of pictures, but something went wrong. I ‘reformatted’ clearing out all the pics on the card. The next day I (fortunately) took a lot less pics. While reviewing them at the end of the day I noticed the previous day’s pics were missing. I used another card for the rest of the trip and when I got home I used a recovery program to retrieve all the pics that had not been overwritten the next day.

auhsojsa's avatar

@dabbler That’s awesome. I’m just having a hard time visualizing this. I mean not really but in the sense that my memory card does have a certain limit. My camera takes huge photos 15mb per photo. So when I have a bunch of video and images that are maxed out to 16gb and then I reformat it to delete that data, and then I reshoot and max it out again, I’m just having a hardtime believing software can find the photos that would otherwise take up space, and still be in the memory card?

dabbler's avatar

@auhsojsa Understood. The problem is the way we been trained to think about these devices in convenient layman’s terms. When you “fill” the card up, it really isn’t any more full than it was before. It has some (several millions) devices charged one way or another to represent bits of a picture. And there is a directory entry pointing to the first section of devices that represent that picture.
When you ‘reformat’ only the directory is cleared out so the directory entries don’t point anywhere anymore, but those millions of devices still have whatever charge states that represent the picture. Because it’s a memory card and intended to keep information even when power is turned off, that state can persist for a long time.—so the information is still there.

If/when a new picture is written to that same space those old charge states are changed as needed to represent the new picture.

[ok, so someone will note that technically some of the devices are more full of electrons than they were before, representing one’s, and some are less full of electrons representing zeroes, but that is not what we mean when we say the card is full or emtpy.]

auhsojsa's avatar

@dabbler Ah, fantastic thanks :D

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