Bringing the prize back home: pro solutions for image storage, transfer and recovery on the go

Getting the shot isn't the only thing – getting it home is also vital. Action photographer Richard Walch reveals why photo storage is critical for him, with insights from Canon and SanDisk experts.
A man taking a photograph with a Canon camera and lens on the side of a snowy mountain.

For extreme sports and action photographer Richard Walch (pictured here), shooting in challenging locations is part of the thrill, but it does mean it's often impossible to go back the next day if something has gone wrong, such as misplacing a storage card. That's why reliable, high-performance image storage is critical for Richard – and for all photographers shooting unrepeatable moments. © Richard Walch

Canon Ambassador Richard Walch knows all about the importance of capturing the moment. He specialises in extreme sports photography, typically shooting fast-moving action in the most demanding conditions in the snow or on the water. He also knows that after getting the shot, the most important thing is bringing it back. For him, photo storage is a critical part of the photo shoot. That's why he is also a member of the SanDisk Extreme Team, a group of photographers recognised by the storage manufacturer for pushing the limits in their genres.

Whether he's shooting snowboarding or sailing, Richard takes image storage very seriously. "It's the backbone of my work," he explains. "If you shoot in a studio and lose the data, it would be dramatic but you could reshoot. The work I do is something you cannot repeat. If I'm out on location and lose the data, how do I say to riders who might have risked their lives, 'Sorry, guys, maybe we can go back tomorrow'?"

Many photographers need to bring back shots of unrepeatable moments, even in less dramatic genres such as wedding, wildlife or documentary photography. So we spoke to Richard and industry experts from Canon and SanDisk to get their best advice on image storage, image transfer and, should you ever need it, photo recovery.

A man in a hooded red jumper and black hat taking a picture from the back of a speeding boat of a young woman wakesurfing.

With so many options, selecting a suitable storage card will depend on the card format your camera supports and also the type of photography you do. Changing small cards on a speeding boat, for example, could be challenging. "They're all different," says Richard. "SD cards are good, but they're quite small. CFexpress cards are big enough to grab and they're blazingly fast." © Richard Walch

A Canon EOS-1D X Mark III camera sits on a desk next to a laptop and a SanDisk Extreme PRO CFexpress memory card and reader.

SanDisk's Extreme PRO CFast 2.0 and Extreme PRO CFexpress memory cards represent the state of the art in photo storage. With high read and write speeds, these cards can keep pace with the latest cameras and image or video formats.

Image storage solutions on the move

  • Micro SD, SD, Compact Flash cards
  • CFast 2.0, CFexpress cards
  • Portable Solid State Drives (SSDs) and cloud storage
Richard emphasises the importance of using the most reliable, high-performance media for the job. Trying to save money on image storage is a false economy, he explains. "I work with really good cards, because I come from the era of film. I used to pay €15 for a film and processing and would go through 15 rolls daily, so that's €225 per day. Spending €100 on a storage card is comparatively good value." Using a cheaper, slower card isn't a good idea, he says, because it then becomes the bottleneck in your workflow, slowing you down.

While some photographers carry multiple cards with smaller capacities and swap them when necessary, Richard's approach is more direct. "If I'm sitting in a helicopter and need to change the card, the chances of losing it are quite high!" he points out. "In the beginning, I used to use several 8GB cards over a shoot. Today, I use the biggest cards I can get. I might load two 512GB SanDisk Extreme PRO® CFexpress® cards in the morning and not touch them for the rest of the day. I can't lose the cards because I don't have to touch them."

The SD (Secure Digital) card is the industry staple, according to Ruben Dennenwaldt, senior product marketing manager at SanDisk. "We produce Ultra cards, which are for everyday usage, but if you use mirrorless or DSLR cameras, you'd go for our Extreme or Extreme PRO cards," he says. "These are higher-performance cards that allow burst-mode photography, high resolutions and uncompressed video recording. We also have different cards for the UHS-I and UHS-II standard used by the Canon EOS R System cameras, for example. So we cover pretty much everything up to a 1TB capacity on SD card."

Compact Flash cards have been used in professional cameras for more than 20 years, but Ruben points out that their speed tops out at about 165MBps, which is relatively slow by today's standards. "There are new formats in a similar form," he says, "such as the Extreme PRO CFast 2.0 memory cards, and we introduced the first CFexpress card together with Canon. This is the latest format and allows write speeds of up to 1,400MBps, which means you can record 4K video uncompressed in RAW format, or even 8K depending on the camera." CFexpress cards can be used with the Canon EOS R5 and EOS-1D X Mark III as well as the EOS C500 Mark II and EOS C300 Mark III cine cameras.

Beyond image storage in-camera, there's often a need for on-site image backup and transportation. Dust-proof and drop-resistant portable Solid State Drives (SSDs) are a more rugged option than flash drives, and provide up to around 2TB of safe and portable storage.

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But some photographers go further, seeing cloud services such as as a modern solution for image storage, transfer and backup. "Now is the moment," says Mike Burnhill, Canon Europe Professional Imaging Product Specialist. "With 5G networks, connecting your phone and transmitting images has never been easier, because you've got the data speed. It's been discussed for decades but the speed was never really there, so it took ages to send images. Now with the wide adoption of 5G phone networks globally, storing images in the cloud direct from the camera can be a reality."

A snow-dusted Canon camera is held in front of an orange-clad torso.

For many pro photographers, especially those working for large agencies or news desks, transferring images to a secure server while still on location is all part of the job. FTP support on pro Canon cameras such as the EOS 5D Mark IV, EOS-1D X Mark III and EOS R5, in tandem with built-in Wi-Fi capability, makes it simple to send pictures directly from your camera to a wide range of systems. © Richard Walch

Transfer images securely, wherever you are

  • File Transfer Protocol (FTP)
  • Canon Wireless File Transmitters
  • Cloud services including
In many areas, such as sports and news photography, rapid image transfer is a key requirement. For photographers who need to submit their images to an editor or picture desk as quickly as possible, this is an integral part of their workflow.

"File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is one of the oldest mechanisms for transmitting images and is still the backbone of many large agencies, allowing large files to be sent easily to a controlled server," says Mike. "It's super robust, super slick and works globally. At major sporting events, the photographers will be using FTP to transmit their images."

Unsurprisingly, Canon's professional range of cameras, including the EOS-1D X Mark III, EOS 5D Mark IV, EOS R5 and EOS R6, offer this functionality in conjunction with Wi-Fi capability. It means photographers on location can connect their cameras to a venue's Wi-Fi network or to their mobile phones and transmit images using the phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot.

For sports photographers operating in busy stadiums, accessories such as the Canon Wireless File Transmitters WFT-E9B (compatible with the EOS-1D X Mark III) and WFT-R10B (compatible with the EOS R5) provide expanded transmission speed and range. In addition, a firmware update across Canon's professional lineup has also added enhanced FTP functionality to both the EOS R5 and EOS-1D X Mark III.

"The firmware update improves the cameras' FTP operation with a status display indicating how long it will take to send the images," Mike explains. "This allows photographers to make informed decisions. If it's going to take too long, they can do it later. If it's going to take 30 seconds, they can do it now."

Wakesurfer Andy Schmahl rides a wave, illuminated by the glow of an orange flare he is holding.

Wakesurfing with flares: testing the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

Low light, fast action and lots of water… Extreme sports photographer Richard Walch takes the EOS-1D X Mark III on its toughest challenge yet.

Richard agrees: "If my signal isn't strong enough, I drive to somewhere with a better connection, and then it's uploaded in 20 minutes and I've just saved myself one and a half hours."

A Canon camera sits on a desk, a hand tapping its touchscreen to upload images, next to a smartphone showing a selection of photographs.

Canon's cloud service provides a seamless solution for image transfer and storage, allowing photographers to upload images directly from a supported camera using built-in Wi-Fi. Once uploaded, images can be forwarded automatically to both physical storage devices, such as a computer, and cloud-based destinations. "It's a direct link between camera and cloud service," says Richard. "It's the first step into the future."

A Canon EOS R5 camera with a WFT-R10B Wireless File Transmitter attached to the base.

The Canon Wireless File Transmitter WFT-R10B not only boosts the EOS R5's Wi-Fi capabilities, it also acts as a grip for the camera, providing enhanced handling and stability particularly when shooting vertically.

With a Wi-Fi-capable Canon camera, you can take advantage of the media transfer and storage options offered by Canon's cloud service, When the camera is connected to the internet via Wi-Fi, it can transfer your images seamlessly and automatically to the cloud, where it will store all your media, including CR3 raw images and 4K movies, for 30 days, giving you plenty of time to download to your computer back in the studio or transfer to your favourite services. Social media sized images are created for you and stored in your personal library, and you can move your most important media into long-term storage with 10GB of space available.

Excitingly, can automatically forward your media to computers, mobile devices and third-party cloud services or applications such as Google Photos, Adobe® Creative Cloud*, Flickr and YouTube, depending on your accounts and settings. In this way the service ensures that both image transfer and storage happen securely and effortlessly, wherever a shoot takes place.

" is not intended as a cloud storage solution itself but rather as a gateway that provides a service to automatically route your images into your preferred cloud storage systems," Mike explains. "It's an invisible back-end solution to make your workflow seamless from camera to cloud storage to desktop."

A SanDisk Extreme PRO CFexpress card leaning on a card reader next to a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III, with a telephoto lens and laptop computer in the background.

For peace of mind, photo recovery software comes with your memory card – SanDisk offers RescuePRO® Deluxe with all its Extreme PRO cards, which can often recover accidentally deleted files.

A SanDisk Extreme PRO Portable SSD and a SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD.

The SanDisk Extreme PRO Portable SSD performs at up to 2,000MBps while the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD offers 1,050MBps read speed in a shock-resistant form compact enough to slip into even the smallest of kitbags. Both SSDs offer up to 4TB capacity.

Photo recovery for when disaster strikes

  • Prevent disaster using Solid State Drives
  • Data recovery packages
"If you're a professional photographer, performing backups and handling data in the best possible way are absolutely crucial," says Ruben. "Your project and your income depend on it."

Ruben notes, however, that recorded media, including storage cards, rarely fail, and suggests that misplaced media and accidental deletion are more commonplace. He points out that prevention is better than cure. "Pay attention to backups," he advises. "SSDs are perfect for offloading content when coming off a shoot, ideally twice so you have two backups."

Even if the unthinkable should happen, all may not be lost. There are several software packages available to help with photo recovery, such as RescuePRO® Deluxe, provided with SanDisk Extreme PRO cards. "It's data recovery software that gives you a fair chance of recovering lost files," says Ruben. "If you deleted images or videos by mistake using your camera or a card reader, the chances are pretty high of recovering them." That's because data is not erased as soon as you delete it; as long as you don't panic and don't save anything new to the card, which could overwrite the data you want, there's a chance it can be recovered, although of course there's no guarantee that any or all of the lost data will be retrieved.

Richard agrees. "Working mainly on location, I'm more afraid of losing cards than cards becoming corrupted," he says. His advice is to think through your workflow and devote time to safeguarding your images and backing up media. A sound image storage routine can avoid any need for photo recovery later.

"Take it seriously," Richard concludes. "Invest time in your own workflow and make use of up-to-date technologies. Then, the chances of something going wrong are reduced to almost zero."

Mark Alexander

*Adobe and Creative Cloud are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Adobe in the United States and/or other countries.

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