Apple makes it relatively easy to hide photos stored on an iPhone and this feature can be very important when the phone may be used by someone other than the device owner.
While the lock screen provides a first layer of security, there are times when it’s more convenient to hand the phone to someone else to view a photo or web page and all it takes is a few taps and swipes to access an image that the user might not want to share publicly.
Beyond Apple’s built-in ability to hide photos, there are third-party solutions that are especially handy when using an older iPhone that doesn’t have the latest security features or when more advanced options are required. .
Hide Photos on iPhone Step by Step
For most iPhone owners, simply select one or more images in the Photos app to hide a photo, then tap the Share Sheet button at the bottom left of the screen and select the Hide option. This will immediately remove those photos from the normal library and any albums that previously contained them.
If the Hide option is not available, that means it can be enabled in the Settings app. The user should scroll down to the media section which contains options for music, TV, photos, etc., select Photos, and then enable hidden album which causes a new album to appear in the Photos app named “Hidden”.
How to View Hidden iPhone Album
Hidden photos can be viewed later by opening the Albums tab in the iPhone Photos app. The Hidden album is placed near the bottom, making it less likely to be seen accidentally.
Of course, an even better way to hide pictures is to hide the Hidden album as well. This can be done in the Settings app by changing the hidden album disabled in the Photos tab. Photos are not deleted or hidden when this switch is on. Instead, the hidden album itself is hidden until it is re-enabled in the Settings app.
How to Restore Hidden iPhone Photos
Hidden iPhone photos can also be restored to their original location. To do this, open the hidden album, select the photos you are interested in and select the Show in Share Sheet option.
The process is the same as when hiding photos, but choosing the Unhide option will cause all selected images to appear in the Photos library as they did before being hidden. Any albums that previously contained those photos will retain them again, so it’s kind of like undoing the hide operation.
Use iPhone Notes App to Hide and Lock Photos
It is also possible to hide photos in the iPhone Notes app and lock the note so that the pictures can only be unlocked with Face ID, Touch ID or a Notes-specific password. This is handy for saving photos that are not meant to be reused but rather to relive a private moment or to recall specific details that are sensitive.
To take advantage of this method, one or more photos must be selected and shared in the Notes app. If the Notes app does not appear in the horizontal scrolling list at the top, it can be added by swiping the list of apps to the far left and tapping the More button. A list of all possible apps is revealed and scrolling down will reveal the Notes app.
After tapping on the Notes app in the share sheet, a new window will open with options for the note. It can be a new or existing note and there is a text box to add words to the top of the note before the selected images appear.
After hitting the save button, the Notes app will open and this new note will appear at the top of the list with the first few words as the title.
Tap the new note, then the three dots in the top right to see options, including the ability to lock. After pressing the Lock button, Touch ID, Face ID or a passcode will be required to authorize the lock request. An unlocked icon will appear at the top right and you can touch it to lock the note.
The note is unlocked at first, but can be locked by pressing the lock button in the top right, which hides the note content. To unlock again, the user can tap the Show note button in the middle of the screen or the lock button on the top right and authenticate.
It should be noted that the locked note does not prevent these photos from being seen in the Photos app and the next step is to delete the photos there and then empty the recently deleted album. The photos will still be available in the Notes app when they are deleted from the Photos app.
How to Hide Everything in an iPhone Photo Album
Unfortunately, the iPhone doesn’t offer a way to hide an entire photo album. Instead, the user should open the album, press the Select button in the top right, and then the Select button in the top left.
This makes it easy to hide all content in an album with the standard Share Masking Sheet option.
If the empty photo album is kept, images can be restored to this album using the Show in Share Sheet option of the hidden album.
How to Lock iPhone Photos with Password
The hidden album feature of iPhone is inherently locked behind a password, Face ID or Touch ID unless the password option is disabled. To view the photos, the iPhone must be unlocked. For an extra layer of security to lock a photo with a password even after unlocking the iPhone, a third-party app is needed and several apps with lock capabilities can be found in the App Store.
Can videos be hidden on an iPhone?
Almost all of the masking options available for photos can also be used for videos. This means that videos can be selected and added to the hidden album or restored like images can. The only exception is when using the Notes app to lock photos. Notes containing videos cannot be locked in the Notes app. However, there are third-party solutions to lock videos.
New Ways to Lock Photos with iOS 16
With the iOS 16 update coming in Fall 2022, owners of iPhone 8 and newer will automatically lock hidden and recently deleted albums so Face ID, Touch ID, or a passcode is required to get there. Older models and an iPhone running iOS 15 or earlier will still need to rely on turning on the hidden album switch to hide photos, then turning it off again, to make it more difficult to access to hidden images. Of course, third-party apps are one way to achieve deeper lockdown.
Apps to hide and lock photos and videos on iPhone
There are several media hide and lock apps in the app store. Most require a subscription to enable full functionality, however, there is at least one ad-free app that offers the option of a one-time low-cost purchase. Photo Vault: Lock Secret Album is free for 20 photos and videos and makes it easy to hide them. It includes a convenient way to lock the app so that a passcode, Face ID or Touch ID is required to access the media stored there, even when the iPhone is already unlocked. For a few dollars, that 20-item limit is removed and some advanced features are enabled as well.
The Photo Vault app uses iCloud storage by default, but it can be configured to keep media on iPhone using the Settings app. iCloud seems secure, but keeping sensitive photos and videos offline is the safest way.
Media can be selected and sent to Photo Vault using the Share sheet in the Photos app. It’s worth noting that hiding apps tends to be slow when importing videos, so expect a wait.
On first use, the Photo Vault app will prompt the user for a password and in the app settings, Face ID or Touch ID can be chosen, if preferred. This provides a second layer of security even after unlocking the iPhone.
After sharing to Photo Vault and authentication, the app will reveal its contents, then the newly imported media can be deleted in the Photos app. It’s easy to share to Photo Library, Social Media, or other apps using the standard Share Sheet from the Photo Vault app.
Why You Might Want to Hide iPhone Photos
There are several reasons why user may want to hide photos on iPhone. Surprises could be ruined if a photo is seen before a present is unwrapped on a birthday. Since screenshots appear in the iPhone’s photo library, capturing sensitive data may reveal information that is supposed to be secret, whether for business or personal use. Medical photos, financial or legal documents, and more may need to be kept confidential. Family details and work details often need to be separated and moving either to a hidden section avoids any conflict if the iPhone is borrowed.
iPhone models that support hiding photos
Apple added the Hidden Album option in iOS 14 and the same capability exists in iOS 15. iPhone 6S and newer models can run these operating systems, which means Apple supports this feature on iOS 15. devices as old as those manufactured in 2015. The iPhone 6, which was manufactured in 2014, and older models have been discontinued and no longer receive system software updates. This means that for those who own such an iPhone, a third-party app is needed to hide photos.
There are many ways to hide photos on iPhone, as well as videos. It is even possible to lock them. Although each of the described methods is quite secure, the ultimate solution to prevent photos from being seen on an iPhone is to simply delete them from the device. Transferring photos to computer, secure cloud storage or flash drive and then deleting them from iPhone will prevent them from being seen or discovered accidentally.
Picture credits: Icon hidden by Google and licensed under CC BY 3.0.