For photographers, SD cards are like gold. After all, you’d have nowhere to store your photos without them. While SD cards come in standard sizes, it’s sometimes difficult to estimate how many photos you’ll be able to fit onto a single SD card. 

If you’re wondering how many pictures can 16GB hold, you’re in the right place. Today, we’ll cover everything you need to know about storage and how different factors affect the number of photos you’ll be able to store on a single 16GB SD card. 

Factors That Influence Photo Size

There’s no golden rule for how many photos you can fit on a 16GB card, as there are many factors that influence a photo’s size. Once you understand these factors, you’ll have a much better idea of how many pictures can fit on a storage card. 

Pixel Dimensions and Image Resolution

Many photographers wrongfully attribute the image resolution to its file size, but this isn’t the case. 

Image resolution pertains to print quality, and it’s a measurement of the number of pixels that appear in each inch of the image. Adjusting the image resolution won’t do anything to make the file size larger or smaller. Still, most photographers confuse image resolution with pixel dimensions, which is a characteristic that profoundly affects file size. 

Pixel dimensions are the overall dimensions of a photo, and images with smaller pixel dimensions result in smaller file sizes. But, larger pixel dimensions will produce sharper and clearer pictures, so you’ll need to find a balance between image quality and file size. 

Image Compression

Compression is a significant factor that will affect how many images you can hold on a memory card. Most cameras allow you to choose between file formats when shooting photos, and you’ll be able to fit far more compressed pictures onto a memory card than uncompressed images.

man sitting at cafe with newspaper

JPEG File Size

JPEG is the most popular compressed file format, and it offers many advantages. 

The JPEG file format has been around for decades, and virtually every image processing program accepts JPEGs. The format is also compatible with every printer, so it’s easier to print images when they’re in JPEG format. 

Perhaps most importantly, JPEGs can be compressed to 5% of their original size, which makes them ideal if you’re looking to maximize the number of photos you can store on a single card. 

Unfortunately, there are some disadvantages when shooting in a compressed format like JPEG. 

JPEG isn’t a lossless compression, so certain aspects of the image are lost and can never be recovered when it’s compressed. For this reason, JPEG files will never be able to compare to uncompressed images from a quality perspective, which may be very important to photographers. 

Another significant issue is that JPEG only supports 8-bit images. This wasn’t an issue in the past, but today’s digital cameras can support up to 16-bit images. If you’re shooting in JPEG format with a camera that supports 16-bit images, all of that extra information ends up getting tossed aside, and the resulting image quality is reduced. 

RAW File Size

Shooting images in the RAW file format is the preferred method for most photographers, as it provides them the best image quality and the greatest level of control for when they edit their photos. 

But shooting in uncompressed RAW format has disadvantages as well.  The first concern is size. RAW files contain much more information than JPEGs do, and therefore they’re much more massive. You won’t be able to fit nearly as many RAW images onto a memory card as you could with a JPEG. 

The other issue is that most hardware devices aren’t compatible with the RAW format, so it’s not easy to print or export your pictures as it would be if you were using JPEG or another popular compressed format. 

Videos

Digital cameras are also capable of shooting HD video in addition to taking photos. Videos are major space-hogs, so if you have several videos stored on your SD card, you’ll have much less room on the card for photos.

back of camera

Other Miscellaneous Files

Any other files that may be stored on your memory cards, such as firmware, other image formats, or leftover junk from other times you’ve used the memory card, will also put a damper on how many images you can store in a 16GB memory card. 

If you’re concerned with maximizing space, you should pop your card into a card reader and see if there are any files hogging space that you could delete. 

How Do We Determine How Many Pictures a 16GB Memory Card Can Hold? 

With so many variables at play, it’s impossible to definitively say how many photos a 16GB memory card can hold. The file size and file format both play a major role when it comes to capacity. Depending on those factors, you’ll be able to fit somewhere between 200 and 12,000 images onto a 16GB memory card. Typically, a 16GB sd card can hold around 2861 JPEG photos in 16 megapixels. On the contrary, a 16GB sd card can only hold 533 JPEG photos with 24 megapixels.

The best way to get a good idea of how many images you’ll be able to fit on a card is to randomly check the properties of a few of the photos on your camera and look at the files’ size. 

The image file size is measured in megabytes (MB), and there are 1,000MB in each gigabyte. So, 16GB in megabytes would be 16,000MB. Divide 16,000 by the average size of an image file on your camera, and you’ll have a reasonable estimate of how many photos you can get fit on the camera. 

Optimal SD Memory Card Size

SD cards are cheaper than ever before, so it’s usually in your best interest to buy larger memory cards, which provide you with more flexibility to store files. If cost isn’t a significant concern for you, buy the largest memory cards your camera will support. 

memory card

How Much Will 16GB Cost? 

Fortunately, memory cards are cheaper than ever. What was once a significant expenditure for photographers is now an afterthought, and the average 16GB card costs between $3-12 depending on the brand.

Ways to Use Your Photo Capacity

Even a relatively small 16GB memory card provides lots of storage. Here are some ideas on what you can use all that storage space for. 

  • Extended Time Lapse – Extended time-lapses are a great way to document sunrise and sunset or the tide’s rise and fall. A lengthy time-lapse (think 8 hours or more) will generate thousands of photos. 
  • Extended Trip – Going away on vacation? Most photographers shoot thousands of photos when they’re away on vacation, making it an ideal way to occupy space on your SD card.

Videos – Photographers are no strangers to shooting video footage, and it’s common to end up with several gigs of video footage on each card.