memory cards, memory cards, why so many memory cards?

I was shooting a beach Portrait Session not long ago, and one of the brothers asked me what size memory cards I was using as I was in the process of changing out a CF card.  So I held up my 4GB card and told him that I was using my bigger cards today, since I was also shooting RAW files for a backup.  “Your bigger cards!” he exclaimed, and then added in a mocking tone, “you know they make 16GB cards now, right?!”
Ahh, Rookies – bigger is always better…

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Wrong!  At least not in my book.  My preference to use more and smaller cards goes waaaaay back to those ancient film days – anybody remember them?  Way back when, I remember asking my first employer why we didn’t have any 220 backs for the Hasselblads (120 film gives you 12 exposures, 220 film gives you 24 exposures.)  He had a very simple answer, “if it happens that I lose a roll, (either by damage, loss, or processing problems) I’d rather lose 12 shots than 24.”  It’s that easy.

The same goes for digital – it’s the old “all your eggs in one basket” trick.  Sure, you can load a 32GB CF or SD card into your camera and fire away all day, never once thinking about changing out that card.  But, what happens if there is an issue with that one card that has all of your images on it?  You hear it all the time with people that go on vacation, and have every vacation photo on one memory card.  Then the camera gets stolen, they drop the camera off a boat, the memory card get corrupted somehow, they mistakenly format the card in the camera.  I advise that you don’t do it.  Memory cards are cheap nowadays, there’s no reason you can’t get a few.

For my Wedding Sessions, I like my 2GB cards.  Just enough space to hold a very long sequence of photos, but small enough that I have a whole day spread out across 6-8 of them.  Yes, I know that 2GB CF cards are no longer made.  That’s why about 4 years ago I bought up about 4 dozen of them.  I still had a few brand new ones that I circulated into the mix just last year!  I also usually keep a 512MB (yup, that’s megabyte!) in my pocket, just in case I need a quick few extra photos at the end of a card.

And just so you don’t think that everything I do is so old-fashioned (you know who you are!) – for my Landscape and Travel photos that I do, I have a select group of 8GB and 16GB 800x and 1000x CF cards that go with me.  For those shoots, I need the bigger cards because I have the cameras maxed out as far as file size goes.  But even those cards, I’ll usually only use one or two per day.  Plus, there’s always the times when you get the real killer shots!  Say for example, the northern lights up in Healy, Alaska.  A few dozen shots on an 8GB CF card – the card was not even an 8th of the way full.  That special CF card came out of the camera and went right in my pocket.  I didn’t put any more images on that card until I could safely download it at home!

But, back to that beach Portrait Session – I was shooting RAW just because beach photos can be tricky.  I was using the RAWs as a backup in case I had to make any major changes to my images later on.  Yeah, all of the JPEGs were just fine, and those were what I printed from.  RAW vs. JPEG – that’s another story for another day…

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