Direct Deletion from Memory Card


Today’s Question: I have started using Photo Mechanic when I shoot wildlife because it is so much faster than the Lightroom Classic import. A friend told me I should do my sort of the keepers and rejects from the card itself, then erase the rejects directly from the card using my computer. My workflow is to then import the remaining images into Lightroom Classic. I know it is bad to erase images from a card using the trash button on my camera. But is it OK to erase individual images from a card via the computer?

Tim’s Quick Answer: It is perfectly safe to delete photos from a memory card, either on your camera or using your computer. However, I don’t generally recommend this approach because it involves deleting photos without having made a backup copy of the photos first.

More Detail: First and foremost, I don’t recommend deleting photos directly from a media card because doing so often involves deleting photos without having made a backup copy. If you later decide you wish you hadn’t deleted a given image, it would likely be too late to recover it (though there are still possible options for recovery). In other words, I don’t recommend deleting photos from media cards for pragmatic reasons, not because there is an inherent risk in doing so.

Whenever this subject comes up, I can count on hearing from photographers who insist that it is very dangerous to delete photos directly from a memory card, and that doing so will somehow scramble all the other photos on the card or cause other damage.

I’ve heard a lot of interesting explanations for why it is risky to erase photos from a memory card. All of those explanations have either relied upon anecdotal experiences that don’t prove a causal relationship between the deletion of photos or outdated information.

For example, a related piece recommendation suggests that media cards should never be formatted on the computer, but rather only in the camera that the memory card will be used in. As long as the format used on the computer, such as FAT32, is supported by the camera, there is no problem formatting on the computer.

The bottom line is that today’s cameras are well-designed and capable of managing data on a media card. There is no inherent risk in deleting photos directly from a media card, even though I don’t generally recommend the practice.