How to calculate image storage space

Written by jason artman
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If you are considering purchasing a digital camera, a memory card will be a required accessory. Most digital cameras have a small amount of internal storage space, but this generally only provides room for a dozen photos or less. When selecting a memory card, people often wonder how much capacity is enough. While "get the biggest card there is" might seem like an obvious answer, this may not be an option, especially after the cost of the camera is considered. Calculate the image storage space that you require by considering the number of megapixels supported by your camera, and how many photos you want to be able to take before transferring them to your computer.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Consider whether you will be using the RAW or JPG formats to save your photographs. JPG images are compressed, which reduces their size considerably, while the much larger RAW images have higher quality.

  2. 2

    Decide which memory card format your camera will support. Although images will require the same amount of storage space regardless of the type of memory card, CompactFlash and Memory Stick cards tend to cost more than Secure Digital cards, which may have an effect on the amount of storage space that you can afford to purchase.

  3. 3

    Decide how many megapixels you will use for shooting your photos. Most digital cameras shoot photos in a maximum of 10 to 12 megapixels, although you are not obligated to take pictures using the maximum resolution available. The more megapixels that are used per image, the more storage space is required.

  4. 4

    Calculate how many photos you will be able to store per GB of memory card space, using an online megapixel calculator as a guide. For example, 1 GB of space can hold approximately 446 10-megapixel images shot in the JPG format or 67 RAW images. Use these image storage space calculations as a guideline to purchase the memory card that best suits your needs.

Tips and warnings

  • If you are willing to wait an extra one to two seconds for a photo to be saved before you can shoot another, consider purchasing a slower memory card (one not marketed as "high performance" or "extreme"). The fastest memory cards cost significantly more per GB of storage space than lower-performance cards; by purchasing a lower-performance card, you can get a significantly higher-capacity card while saving money.

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