How To Organise Memory Cards As A Motorsport Photographer

by Oct 13, 2021

Storage and memory cards become an important area of focus when the seriousness level of your photography grows.

To highlight this, across my three cameras on a race weekend I will easily use 40 memory cards and for larger events this amount is generally not enough.

This is a lot of cards to keep track of making it integral to not misplace or lose these as the images cannot be captured again. It also important to not format cards without downloading the images or backing up your library.

With all these considerations, how do I organise my memory cards?

Let’s get into it.

Why have so many cards?

First and foremost, I don’t want to be in a position to have to format a single memory card until the event is over. In fact, I don’t format my memory cards until I’ve made it back to the office to make sure I’ve got multiple back ups of the images I’ve taken first.

There are two key reasons for this. If you don’t have to format a card during the event, you take away the possibility of accidentally formatting the wrong card and losing images that you have managed to download yet.

Unlike many other types of photography, high action sports like motorsport can’t simply be recaptured the next day making it imperative to not risk losing any images that customers have purchased for any reason.

Secondly, having a copy of every image captured during an event serves as a backup until I’ve had a chance to create multiple of these.

During motorsport events, the days are long and the turnarounds on images are tight meaning the opportunity to sit down and back up everything properly at the media centre is rarely possible.

Downloading your images to the computer, while still leaving them on the card will give you at least one extra copy if you have an issue of any sort during or shortly after a race weekend.

To take this to another level, all professional cameras offer dual card slots. I set mine to record to both cards, creating another separate copy in the scenario a card fails during an event.

It’s rare, but card failures can and do happen.

How to make sure you don’t lose memory cards?

This one is fairly straightforward.

I make sure I use memory card wallets to prevent this, which store enough to fill each slot and my camera at all times.

It’s a quick and easy visual reference, if there is an empty slot, there is something missing. I never just pop a card into my pocket or leave one on a desk in the media centre. I always make sure all the cards are in their place when I’m moving around.

Not only are these cards expensive, but due to being so small are easily misplaced or can fall out of your pocket while travelling around the circuit making it almost impossible to locate.

So how do you keep track of which cards have been used?

I have an organised system in my memory card case that helps me visually identify which cards are empty, have remaining storage or are ready to be downloaded.

Memory cards face up (with all the manufacturer branding) as pictured are fresh cards that have been formatted and are ready to be used.

The memory cards face down (with the blank space to record your details) are the cards that have images on them that have need downloaded.

While cards that are sideways (in the instance of my CF cards) or upside down (SD cards) are the ones that need to be downloaded to the computer.

I might take an extra second to think about while you are trackside or getting preparing to head back out, but it’s a system that has saved me plenty of times from checking which cards need to be downloaded at the end of a long day at the circuit.

Given how quickly things happen during motorsport events, it’s these little checks that you put in for yourself that make life so much easier.

This organisation technique saves you from explaining to a customer why they haven’t received images from a particular session.

Unless of course they didn’t make it out on track, it is motorsport after all.

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Rhys Vandersyde

Rhys Vandersyde

I've been working as a motorsport photographer in Australia since 2012, building up my business InSyde Media. I am very fortunate that I have been able to work at all sorts of motorsport events including Supercars, F1 and WRC all over Australia and New Zealand. Also, check out my personal website where I document my travels and a few other things.

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