I work in tech and have been writing software reviews and offering IT training and support for decades. I’ve taken an in-depth look at Stellar Photo Recovery to let you know how likely it is to recover your lost data.
Stellar Photo Recovery is easy to use and designed for photographers. In industry tests, it was able to recover lost media files in a range of data loss scenarios but failed in some cases.
In this Stellar Photo Recovery review, I’ll explore the types of data the application can restore, how long this is likely to take, and weigh up your chance of success.
Let’s get started.
Stellar Photo Recovery Overview
Stellar Photo Recovery recovers deleted photos, videos, and audio files from Windows and Mac computers.
Three plans are offered. The more expensive plans don’t just recover lost files, but also repair corrupted photos and videos.
- Stellar Photo Recovery Standard: $49.99/year (currently $39.99) recovers photos, video, and audio from any storage media and popular cameras
- Stellar Photo Recovery Professional: $59.99/year (currently $49.99) adds repair of corrupt photos including thumbnail extraction
- Stellar Photo Recovery Premium: $149.99/year (currently $69.99) adds repair of corrupt videos in multiple formats
There isn’t a free version of the app, but a free trial will show you if your files can be recovered before you need to pay. Two-year licenses are also available.
In this review, we focus on the Mac version of the Standard plan.
Data recovery can never be guaranteed. Stellar Photo Recovery is an easy-to-use application that offers a reasonable chance of getting your lost photos, videos, and audio files back. Fortunately, the free trial will show you which lost files are located before you need to pay for the software. Unfortunately, after paying, some users found the recovered files were not usable.
How is it possible to recover deleted photos? Deleting a file doesn’t remove its data from your drive, but simply marks it as available space. In time, it’s likely that the data will be overwritten by new files, so don’t wait too long before attempting recovery.
Methods of data recovery offered:
- A quick scan of the directory structure for deleted files
- A deep scan of a partition for lost files and file fragments no longer listed in the directory structure
- Scan an entire drive where no valid file system is found
- Recovers photos from a Time Machine backup (Mac)
If the app can’t find any recoverable data with a quick scan it automatically switches to a deep scan.
Supported storage media: Any type of hard disk drive, solid-state drive, USB drive, SD card, and more. It supports the latest CFast, CompactFlash, microSDHC/XC cards, and the latest DSLR, Mirrorless, and video cameras. Large storage devices 6 TB and larger are supported.
Disclaimer: It is difficult to recover data from solid-state drives (SSDs). The TRIM technology that increases their efficiency also makes it impossible to recover your files once the trash has been emptied.
Supported file types:
- Images: JPEG, PNG, TIFF, BMP, PSD, EPS, GIF, RAW (CR2, ERF, RAF, K25, NEF, ORF, SR2), and more
- Motion: MP4, MOV, MXF, AVI, ASF, WMV, MKV, 3GP, and more
- Audio: MP3, AT3, SND, AU, WAV, RPS, OGG, and more
Advanced users can add additional file types by editing an existing file type or adding new file headers.
Stellar Photo Recovery offers a number of additional features:
- Pause and resume
- Saving scans for recovery at a later time
- Sorting and searching the files located to narrow down the results to a more manageable number
- Previewing located files
- Disk imaging
- SMART monitoring for early warning of failing hard drives
- Repair corrupted photos (Professional and Premium plans)
- Repair corrupted videos (Premium plan)
The setup and installation of Stellar Photo Recovery are straightforward, and the app has a simple and user-friendly interface. With the Mac version, you will be asked to enable the Stellar Data Recovery extension the first time you attempt to recover photos from your startup drive.
Recovering lost photos doesn’t require special knowledge or skills, and is achieved in three simple steps:
- Select what to recover—all multimedia files, photos, audio, or videos
- Select the location to scan—choose the drive used to contain the media you want to restore
- Preview the files that were found and select the ones you want to recover
Scanning for lost files can be time-consuming. How fast is Stellar Photo Recovery? That depends on the type, size, and health of the storage media you are scanning, as well as the type of computer interface you connect it to.
One reviewer tested the Windows version by scanning an 8 GB Class-10 memory card formatted with FAT32. When connected to his PC via a USB 2.0 card reader, a scan took about 9 minutes. Scanning a 16 GB USB thumb drive took less than 5 minutes when plugged into a USB 3.0 port. 
How much longer does it take to scan a large hard drive or solid-state drive? The same reviewer scanned his PC’s internal 500 GB SSD for all types of media files. It took 55 minutes, which is faster than I expected. Scanning a spinning hard drive would take hours.
Another reviewer had a similar experience. He scanned a 4 GB SD card using the Windows version and it took 10 minutes. He added that it took an additional 6 minutes to actually recover the files. 
Data recovery can never be guaranteed. How successful is Stellar Photo Recovery?
The reviewer I mentioned above ran the Windows version of the software through a number of recovery tests. 
- He formatted an 8 GB memory card that contained 427 RAW photos. The app found 850 files in total, the 427 that were on the card before it was formatted plus some that had been deleted the previous year. While the files were recovered, unfortunately, he discovered that none of them were usable.
- He copied some JPEG and RAW images and a couple of videos to a folder on a 16 GB thumb drive then deleted them. The files were located and recovered, and all but one were usable.
- He deleted some media files on his internal 500 GB SSD then scanned it. He looked through the files that were found and located every recently-deleted file. Unfortunately, he was unable to successfully recover any of them. He tried again with a similar test and was unsuccessful again. Data recovery from an SSD is difficult.
Another reviewer had more success when recovering photos from a formatted drive. He used an SD card and completely filled it with JPEG images. He formatted it, then immediately scanned the card. Stellar Photo Recovery successfully restored every image. 
Stellar Photo Recovery—like just about every other data recovery tool I tested—can reliably recover files that have been recently deleted, even if they are no longer found in the recycle bin or trash. Unfortunately, in some cases, it may have trouble with more difficult tasks, such as recovering media files from a formatted drive. Any recovery application will have difficulty recovering lost files from an SSD.
The Stellar Self Help & Support page  provides a searchable knowledge base and FAQ. Support can be contacted via an online ticketing system.
Is Stellar Photo Recovery safe?
Yes. Scanning for lost data will not harm or delete any of your existing files. Scans by Microsoft Security Essentials on Windows and Malwarebytes Anti-Malware on Mac reported no malware. The app doesn’t attempt to install unwanted third-party software
Is Stellar Photo Recovery free?
No. The free trial version will show you the lost media files that can be located, but you need to purchase a license to recover them.
If Stellar Photo Recovery isn’t right for you, here are some alternatives I recommend.
Stellar Data Recovery is a more general data recovery tool from the same company. While photographers may gravitate towards products geared to their industry, this application is able to recover a wider range of data types and may offer a greater chance of success. It’s available on both Windows and Mac.
Data Recovery is another general-purpose recovery app. It offers an easy-to-use wizard that will scan your drive quickly for lost files. It’s available for both Windows and Mac.
R-Studio is an advanced tool suitable for data recovery professionals. It’s not as easy to use as Stellar Photo Recovery but will give advanced users the best chance of rescuing their lost photos (and other types of data). It’s available for both Windows and Mac.
I recommend Stellar Photo Recovery—with caveats—to photographers and other media junkies who have lost important information. It’s easy to use and the free trial will show you whether your files can be located before you need to pay for the software. Unfortunately, while recovery is often successful, some reviewers have found the recovered files were not usable.
Instead, you may like to try the company’s general-purpose data recovery tool, Stellar Data Recovery, or an alternative like EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard. They are no harder to use, will also rescue your non-media files, and may offer a better chance of success.
If you’re an advanced computer user—or know one you trust—consider R-Studio. It’s certainly more difficult to use, but also offers more scope. In industry tests, it consistently recovers more data than its competitors in a wide range of data loss scenarios.