Digital photography involves all of the same principles and necessary skills that photography has required over the years, along with some understanding of computers. After all a digital camera is exactly that, a small computer with a lens attached. The "film" or recording device for digital cameras is the memory card.

We can not stress enough the importance of formatting your memory card. This article explains the reasons you need to format your memory card. Compact flash cards, memory sticks, microdrives, secure digital cards, or the X-digital cards are all different camera makers’ names for their magnetic storage media. This entire media group acts like the standard computer’s removable disk, with which you are probably familiar.

When the magnetic media is inserted, most cameras will write its own type of computer code to the media when no previous user instructions have been provided. It is most advisable to insert the media and perform a format operation prior to photographing, however. The format operation allows the camera’s computer to scan the entire media card for its recording length, any bad or unusable sectors and set up its non-viewable computer codes and storage folder information. That non-viewable information is unique to each and every camera.

Transferring a media card between two different cameras, even from the same manufacturer, will cause the camera computer to begin a new folder in each camera. The non-viewable information from camera number one is ignored by camera number two and vice-a-versa. The same reiteration of hidden folder information happens when a media card is shared, by say a Canon and a Nikon camera. Nothing is ruined or hurt on the media card, but camera number one cannot see or access what camera number two has done. There now are two different sets of pictures and hidden information existing on the media. When the media card information is accessed, by plugging the camera directly into the computer, it is likely that only the information for that particular camera will be displayed or downloaded. It will be necessary to return the media card to the other camera for downloading of its images. Generally, both cameras’ data folders will be seen and be accessible if the media card is removed from the camera and read and downloaded through a separate media card reader plugged into the desktop computer.

Of course, non-desirable images may be erased in camera at any time, which will leave room for additional picture capture on the card. Also, the media card does not need to be filled to capacity before removal and downloading or being delivered to a processing establishment for prints to be made from it. Once the image picture data is downloaded, recovered, or printed and is no longer needed, the images on the media card may be erased and the card used for further image capture.

After erasing, the media card may be plugged into any camera for further use. At this point in time, is very strongly advised to reformat the media card. Erasing alone will remove the picture data from the card, but not all of the hidden, non-viewable, computer folder information. If the camera menu is consulted the user will be informed that the recording length of the media card is in fact decreased. The hidden files residing on the card will be the cause for the diminished capacity. If left unattended and never reformatted it is possible to render the media card incapable of further picture data recording with no actual images on the card at all. Reformatting is to be done in the camera of intended use, not in the desktop computer, as long as the data is safely stored somewhere before the reformatting process. No images may be saved or recovered once reformatting is completed.

Reformatting will help keep your media cards healthy and usable for longer periods of time. For any unforeseen reason that an internal data sector should be damaged or rendered unusable, the reformat will discover it. Reformatting will not allow images to be written to the bad sector, which would later make, the pictures unreadable or irrecoverable.

To provide the longest life of any magnetic media, remember to keep it in its original container or other safe media wallet to prevent dust or other matter from fouling or damaging the contacts. Keep the media away from all magnetic fields, such as the television or appliance motors, which may damage the data. Store and use the media within the prescribed temperature and altitude range for which it was built.

Happy formatting.

March 2010