Hello, Milky Way Photographer readers! Today’s Tuesday Tip of the Week is brought to us by MWP Staff Writer Stanley Harper. Enjoy!

When I think of product catch lines, the one that caught my ear when I was little was, “American Express Traveler’s Checks, don’t leave home without them.” When it comes to photography, “Memory cards, don’t leave home without them.”

Sage Advice from Karl Malden: “Don’t Leave Home Without Your Memory Card.”


I am usually pretty good about having cards with me. Years ago, after the first time I left home without them, I made a rule that my memory card case stays in my camera bag. Yeah, well, it is a pretty good rule – most of the time.

Last week, I took my camera out on the road for the first time in eons. I was going to get to spend time with it outside for the first time in months.

As I made my way through the mountains and the morning light, I spied a quaint little scene with some haze, a valley, and some mountains. I decided to pull off to the side of the road to grab a few shots. They would not be award-winning shots by any means, but I would at least have one high quality shot to share on social media.

I grabbed my camera, lined up my shot and pushed the shutter.


Pushed the shutter again.

Again, nothing.

I checked all the knobs and dials. Everything was on the money. I then opened up the hatch to the memory card slots. It was at that moment I had a sad face. I had forgotten to put a card or two in the camera and had thought I had left the memory card pouch in my other bag.

memory card
I felt like quoting Col. Kurtz when I opened up the memory card slot and realized I had left the house without a memory card.


So how can we combat this tragic misstep in the world of photography? Here are some tips that we can use:

  • Leave a memory card in your camera at all times – when you take one card out, put an empty one in immediately. Any card. Just put a card in it.
  • If your camera has dual slots, keep a card in it at all times. You can always use that card to shoot on if needed.
  • Keep your extra memory cards (you have extra, right?) in your camera bag. Use a card-holder to keep them organized.
  • Stash another card in another part of your camera bag.
  • Of course, check the camera before you leave the house.
  • Collect all the cards lying around (in the car, in your coat, on your desk.) Copy them to your computer, format them in your camera, and put them into your card-holder and put that in your camera bag.
  • Set your camera NOT to shoot if there is no card in it. If you’ve somehow made it into the field with no card in your camera, your camera will immediately tell you when you try to take a shot with no card in it.

Do you have a tip or trick when it comes to making sure you have memory cards out on location? Feel free to leave them in the comment section below. By the way, if you have not been watching, it is that time of the month that we should be out chasing the Milky Way.

Southern Monterrey County has some picturesque mountains and the clouds are always presenting some great photo ops. Too bad I left my memory cards at home and had to settle for this cell phone shot.


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Stanley Harper


  1. Unless I am going on a multi week trip, I never carry extra cards. Of course, both my cameras have 2 slots. Both have a 128gb and a256gb card. I’ve never run out. Even on a long trip, I download each night but leave the images on the card as backup.
    I have a rule I try to follow religiously. A card never sits on a table or in a bag or holder. It is either in the camera or the SD slot of my laptop. Period. When I’m done downloading I put the card back in the camera.
    It works for me.

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