How Many Photos Can Memory Cards Hold?

Memory cards are every photographer’s necessity. They’re the key to storing all the hard work you capture.
However, every photographer worries about running out of storage space mid-work. That begs the question: How many pictures can memory cards hold? And what’s the key to choosing the right memory card?

Quick Info About Memory Cards

Memory cards are storage devices similar to flash drives. Not only are they present in cameras, but in mobile phones as well.
They’re a great addition to phones because they can extend your phone's built-in storage.
Memory cards come in different kinds and sizes. The most frequently used sizes in memory cards are 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, and the most common types are:
  • Secure Digital.
  • CompactFlash.
  • MicroSD.

Secure Digital (SD cards)

SD cards are becoming everyone’s pick recently because of their small size and compatibility with different devices.
They’re compatible with both cameras and most laptops, which makes transferring pictures to laptops smoother for the post-production process.

CompactFlash (CF Cards)

CF cards aren’t widespread with users nowadays, as their size is the biggest among other cards, and they’re not compatible with many devices. They’re not compatible with most cameras as well.

MicroSD

As mentioned in their name, MicroSD cards are the smaller version of SD cards. They’re commonly used in smaller devices like phones and small cameras.
Now to answer the question: How to determine how many pictures these memory cards can handle?

How to Estimate the Photo Capacity of Memory Cards?

The answer to that question lies in the factors that affect the picture’s size. Estimating the memory card capacity will depend on the photographs taken and their settings.
Each setting chosen will have a role in changing the picture size. Some of the settings to take into consideration are:
  • Shutter Speed
  • ISO
  • Aperture.
  • Resolution
  • Format

Shutter Speed, ISO, and Aperture.

The chosen settings for Shutter Speed, ISO, and Aperture will affect the picture’s size.
For example, a picture with a slow shutter speed is typically larger than one taken with a fast shutter speed. And a photo with a high ISO level takes more space than a normally exposed picture.
This means that the subjects of the photoshoot have to be kept in mind to choose the right-sized memory card. Is it a wedding in daylight? Is it a long exposure photo shoot of the stars?
Answering these questions will help determine if the settings that will be chosen during the photoshoot will produce large-sized pictures.

Resolution and Pixel Count

Resolution is the most significant factor that will affect the picture size. The more the pixel count in pictures, the higher the quality and the larger the size.
So while it’s great to choose a high resolution for pictures, the memory card’s current storage space has to be kept into consideration to avoid running out of storage while working.

Format and Shooting Mode

The shooting mode and format chosen will affect the picture’s size significantly. The two most commonly used shooting modes formats are JPEG and RAW.
JPEG pictures are more compressed and smaller in size than RAW pictures. However, the compression in the images doesn’t really allow for much creativity in the post-production process.
On the other hand, RAW pictures allow you to tinker with the colors and white balance of the image more, as well as adjust the exposure freely.
So, even though RAW pictures take a significantly larger space than JPEG pictures, they allow more freedom and creativity in the post-production process.
Pictures shot in JPEG format range between 7 MB to 10 MB, while RAW images range between 20 MB to 40 MB.

How Many Photos Can Memory Cards Hold?

Let’s take a look at how many photos memory cards can handle.

16 GB Memory Card Capacity

Keeping the previous numbers in mind, If the shooting mode is set on JPEG, a 16 GB Memory card should be able to hold around 1,638 photos.
However, if the shooting mode was set on RAW, a 16 GB Memory card would be able to hold about 400 to 810 Raw pictures.

32 GB Memory Card Capacity

A 32 GB memory card will handle about 3,277 JPEG pictures. While in the case of RAW, it can take around 819 to 1638 pictures.

64 GB Memory Card Capacity

In the case of 64 GB memory cards, they’ll be able to take about 6,552 pictures in JPEG format.
And if the shots are in RAW, they’ll take around 1,638 to 3,277 pictures in RAW format.

128 GB Memory Card Capacity

Starting from 128 GB memory cards and upwards, there will rarely be any worry about storage space running out mid-work.
A 128 GB memory card can handle as many as 13,104 pictures in JPEG format. It also takes a very decent amount of RAW photos.
With a range between 3,277 and 6,553 RAW pictures, the photographer won’t have to compromise with the quality settings to save space.

265 GB Memory Card Capacity

265 GB memory cards can handle about 26,208 pictures in JPEG and around 6,554 to 13,107 RAW images.
Of course, this space is more than enough for most shoots and projects, but the space can sometimes lead to a problem.
The photographer might finish a project and proceed to the next photoshoot thinking that there's still enough space.
While that might be the case, it’ll still be ideal to empty the card after every project to avoid any storage problems. It’s a better precaution just in case the next photoshoot is a big one.

Conclusion

There’s no solid number that each memory card can hold. But it can be estimated by keeping in mind the subject that will be photographed, the settings that will be used, and the format chosen for the pictures.
Once these factors are clear, every photographer will be able to find out the right-sized memory card for their work.