Hans Electric | Guides by Charli - Equipment: The Memory Card 'Needle in a Haystack'

Guides by Charli - Equipment: The Memory Card 'Needle in a Haystack'

Images and content © Copyright 2014 Charli Photography

I get asked regularly about the equipment I use for a wedding.  Something that keeps popping up is the mountain of memory cards available and what combination(s) I use with my two 5D Mark III's.

As a photographer, I think it is so important to share knowledge.  I wouldn't be where I am without the guidance and advice from fantastic photographers who were also willing to share.  

When I started out in photography I didn't have a clue about what memory card to get.  I happily bought some 4GB Sandisk cards for my Canon D-SLR and away I went.  What I soon realised is how tiny a 4GB memory card is and, whilst this may be ok if you don't plan on capturing too many RAW files (or only JPEGs), it does not really work for a wedding!

So, what should you look for when purchasing your trusty little companions?

1. Invest 

These little black rectangles hold the heart and soul you have put into capturing memories for your client, your artistic thoughts and months, maybe years of planning... People happily spend thousands on cameras and lenses to capture the perfect photo without too much thought that these little cards hold everything.


  • The price is usually dependant upon the read/write speeds and the GB.  The speeds are not guaranteed and will depend on other factors (speeds are usually stated as 'up to'); always visit the manufacturers website to read a bit more about the card you are investing in.
  • In particular, read about the speeds on the cards as, generally, these relate to the read speeds and not the write speeds.  'Read' = downloads etc and 'Write' = the transfer of data to the card (i.e. the camera transferring a photo to the card).

2. Size matters

I prefer to shoot with 16GB cards as these allow me to shoot proportions of the day as opposed to holding the whole day on one card.  If a memory card was to corrupt then I will only have a relatively small section of the day on that card.  I also tend to swap the cards around so that I have one part of the day shared between two cards - this is just a preference to again ensure that the photos are as safe as possible.


  • Do you want to shoot in RAW or JPEG; if RAW then you will need a larger card size.  Cards at 256GB can be purchased nowadays so the possibilities are endless.
  • If you choose to have smaller cards and more of them then you will need to work out how many you need to have enough to capture all of the images you need - and then some extra for backup.

3. Backup

I am fortunate that my 5D Mark III has a dual SD card slot.  I use 32GB cards in this slot to capture duplicate RAW files.  Whilst I am fully insured, having to explain to the client that part of their memories are gone forever is not something I EVER want to have to do and so I do everything in my power to prevent this as best as possible.


  • Does your camera have dual card capability.  If so, what size cards will you buy?  I chose 32GB so that I don't have to keep swapping my backup dual cards too often.
  • Try to match your dual cards write speed to the main card as otherwise this could slow your shooting down whilst the camera is saving to the dual card.

​This is not meant to be an exhaustive list by any means and is just there as a guide to the memory card market and some of the options available :)



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