How to Recover Deleted Photos from Nikon Camera

The greater the image, the greater the loss — so when photos are accidentally deleted, corrupted, or just plain lost from your Nikon camera, what then? Often, deleted files that can’t be accessed by your camera or your computer leave pieces behind. Those pieces can be picked up and put back together.

Nikon photo recovery

While you can send the SD card to a data recovery company, that process often costs hundreds or even thousands. But there is a DIY option — with the right digital photo recovery software, you can put your own photos back together without the big expense.

In this article, you’ll learn how to recover deleted photos from any Nikon digital camera, step by step.

What Happens When Hit The Delete Button?

Whether you delete the pictures via your Nikon camera, the delete function doesn’t really get rid of the files immediately. What happens is that the data included in those files are now marked as available to be written over — meaning it just tells your camera (memory card) to write new photos or videos to space whenever necessary.

Formatting a camera card in your camera is similar, it does not erase the data right away unless you continue using the same camera to take more photographs. The newly generated data can overwrite the old one. Once your lost photos are overwritten, it’s safe to say they are gone for good.

Why Deleted Pictures Are Still Recoverable?

As we explained above, although you no longer have access to your images from the camera, the data contained in those images are still intact there.

If you haven’t taken any new photos (or saved new data to the memory card), it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll be able to recover the lost data.

The good news is that the overwriting activity can take quite some time to occur if you use a high-capacity memory card. However, it’s extremely hard to tell whether overwriting has occurred or not.

Stop using your Nikon for any further photo shooting!

It’s best to remove the SD card from your camera, set it aside, and make sure it’s not going to have any physical damage.

Nikon Photo Recovery Software

To go the DIY route, you’ll need to download image recovery software. We like Stellar Photo Recovery because it’s able to recover JPEGs from any Nikon camera, as well as RAW files from Nikon DSLRs, including NEF and NRW. Also because the program is compatible with both PCs and Macs.

You can download the free trial version to see what the software is able to put together before you commit to a purchase. You’ll also need the SD card (or whatever device the image was lost from) as well as a way to connect it to the computer with a card reader or USB cord.

Guide to Recovering Deleted Photos from Nikon Camera

Very Important: as soon as you realize you lost an image, stop using your Nikon to take pictures or videos. Adding more files to the memory card can overwrite those pieces that were left behind, reducing the chances of a successful recovery. If you need to keep shooting, swap out the memory card for a different one.

Step 1: Plug the SD card or device that the image was lost into a computer. Then go ahead and get Stellar Photo Recovery and install the program to your PC or Mac, open the program to get started.

Step 2: On the next screen, you’ll see a list of all the different media storage options on your computer, including your Nikon memory card that you plugged in earlier.

Select the card (or if you lost the image from your own hard drive or a USB drive, select that device). Then, hit “Scan” in the lower right corner.

Step 3: The scanning process can take some time, especially if you scan a larger hard drive and not a small SD card — so you may want to take a break and come back to your computer in a few minutes.

Step 4: Once the scan is complete, you’ll see a window listing all the files that the software could recover. The files are arranged by file type, so use the sidebar on the left to click the file type you are looking for — JPEG, NEF, or MP4, for example.

Step 5: Select any files you would like to keep, then click “Recover” and choose a location to save the files.

If you haven’t purchased the software yet, you’ll need to upgrade from the trial in order to actually recover those images on the list, but you don’t need to spend anything if the photos you are looking for don’t appear in that first scan.

Step 6: Once you order from the software’s official site, you’ll get a confirmation number to put inside the pop-up window that appears after clicking Recover. Open the folder where you choose to save your files and enjoy your missing photos!

Pro Tips

  • Always back up your photos using either an external hard drive or cloud storage — or both for even more protection.
  • If you have a camera with dual SD card slots like the Nikon D7200, you can choose to save the same files to both slots, so you have a backup even before those images get to your computer.

Final Words

Lost photos are every photographer’s worst nightmare — while the gear is expensive to replace, those images often can’t be replicated. Photos can often be recovered, however, with software. From accidental deletions to corrupted files, Nikon photo recovery isn’t impossible with solid recovery software.

Have you managed to retrieve your lost images? Did this Nikon photo recovery guide help? Let us know in the comment below.

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  • Waff


    Is it possible to recover photos from the camera if they’re not stored in the memory card? I mean on the camera’s own storage. I’ve been trying with all softwares and no result !

    • Avatar photo

      Hi Waff,

      If the internal storage of your camera can be recognized by your computer as a disk (like a normal storage device), then chances are that you are able to recover some photos. However, it depends on whether the photos you deleted are overwritten or not. Also, don’t forget to contact Nikon support for help.

      Good luck!