Importing files from a memory card onto a computer doesn’t seem to be a complicated task, and it shouldn’t be. However, it’s probably one of the most crucial parts of your workflow. If you forget a file on your card or format and reuse the wrong one, it can generate bigger issues than any photographer would like to face. Because let’s be honest, no one wants to tell a client that files have been lost… let alone a full job! There is a trick to avoid that kind of problem, and if you’ve never heard of it, you may be surprised by how simple it is!
The tip that I’m going to describe in the following lines should work with virtually any camera on the market. I’ve used it with Nikon’s, Canon’s, and Phase One’s cameras. I guess Sony, Fuji, and the likes should work as well. When a card is formatted, your camera is going to create a folder structure. Usually, it starts with a DCIM folder at the top, and then other sub-folders inside. This is where we can trick our camera system. It reads what’s inside the DCIM folder and when it must save new files, such as videos or pictures, it will write in there as well.
No need to change anything in your import routine. Simply import your files like you always have, no matter what software you use, nothing changes until just before you are about to eject the card. Once all the files have been copied, open the Finder or any file explorer, and rename the DCIM folder. I tend to rename it _DCIM so that I know it’s been imported and that it’s not a folder that’s been copied from another disk.
When the DCIM folder has been renamed, your camera won’t display the pictures that are in it anymore. So you know the card is either empty or has been ingested, and you can format it. If you have large cards, you can even keep the files on your card and keep shooting. The camera will just create a new DCIM folder. This way, you have a backup on your card for a while. Only format your card whenever you don’t have enough space anymore.
As simple as this trick may sound, it has saved me many times! When shooting important large jobs or weddings, it’s easy to lose track of what cards have been imported or not. Going through the trouble of comparing files, or letting a software analyze everything can eat up quite a bit of your time. With the DCIM folder renamed, I don’t even need a computer to check it anymore! If the camera tells me there is no file to display, I know the card has been imported, and I can use it.