How to hide photos on your Android phone or tablet

While modern smartphones are pretty secure as long as they’re locked with a passcode or biometrics like a fingerprint, by default these features only protect the front door. If someone takes your phone while it’s unlocked, there’s usually no way to stop them from digging into everything from your contacts and emails to your photos.

This can be especially challenging when it comes to photos, since those are the things we like to highlight the most on our phones. We’ve probably all had those moments when we want to show a friend or co-worker a funny cat meme, so we hand over our phone and trust that they won’t swipe right and see the photo of the hairy mole we sent to our doctor that morning.

While avoiding letting others touch your phone is one solution, the good news is that there’s an even better way to ensure that your really personal photos stay private. Luckily, both Google and Samsung know this, so they’ve provided a way to bury images even deeper in their Photos apps to make sure you’re the only one who can see them.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

How to hide photos on Android phone

Most modern Android phones now come with Google Photos pre-installed, and for those that don’t, it’s a quick and easy download from the Play Store. It’s one of the best photo apps for your Android phone, especially since you can take advantage of the Google cloud storage you’re probably already paying for to handle your Gmail messages and Google Drive files.

Two years ago, Google added a locked folder feature to Google Photos to keep your most personal photos hidden and out of sight, stored only on your local device. This has recently been extended to securely sync this locked folder with Google Photos on the web and even Google Photos on Apple devices. This is still a work in progress as of this writing, so it may not be available in your account yet. If this is the case, please note that until it appears, the photos in your locked folder will be moved from Google Photos to the cloud and stored only on your device; it will be deleted if you uninstall Google Photos and will not automatically move if you switch to a new device.

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Before we continue, it’s worth noting that your locked folder shares the same authentication method as your device’s main lock screen, so it won’t help you hide photos from anyone who can unlock your device — the same passcode or fingerprints can unlock a locked folder just as easily as they can unlock your phone.

Step 1: Install the Google Photos app from the Play Store if it’s not already on your device.

Step 2: Open the Google Photos app.

Step 3: Choose Library from the lower right corner.

Step 4: Choose Utilities from the options at the top.

Query a locked folder in Google Photos on Pixel 6.
Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 5: Choose Get started under “Setting a locked folder” if the banner appears. Otherwise, scroll down and select Locked folder.

Step 6: Choose Set button.

Step 7: Follow the instructions to authenticate with your fingerprint or passcode.

Step 8: If your locked folder is empty, you will see a screen that says “Nothing here yet”. Choose Moving items button to select items from your main photo library and move them to your locked folder.

Moving photos to a locked folder on Google Pixel 6.
Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 9: If you already have photos in your locked folder, you will see them displayed here. You can select the add photos button in the top right corner of the screen to add additional photos to your locked folder. Alternatively, you can also move photos to a locked folder by selecting them from the main gallery and selecting Move to locked folder from the options menu that appears.

Step 10: If you want to back up photos in your locked folder, you can turn it on by selecting your profile pictures in the top right corner of the Google Photos app and selecting Photo settings > Backup > Back up the locked folder. Note that Google only started rolling out this feature on August 29, 2023, so it may not be available to everyone yet.

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Step 11: To access the photos in your locked folder in the future, just open the Google Photos app, select Library > Utilities > Locked folder and authenticate using a fingerprint or password.

Note that to protect your privacy and security, Android will not allow you to take screenshots inside a locked folder. Any screenshots you try to take with the locked folder open will produce a blank black image. This is expected behavior.

Screens on Galaxy A54 and Galaxy S23 Ultra.Galaxy S23 Ultra (right) and Galaxy A54 (left) Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

How to hide photos on a Samsung phone

Although you can install Google Photos on a Samsung smartphone just as easily as on any other Android device, many Samsung folks prefer to use Samsung’s Gallery app, which is understandable as it’s a great choice for those carrying the Galaxy S23 Ultra or Galaxy Z Flip 5 s their unique camera features.

Fortunately, Samsung fans also have a way to hide their personal photos in the Samsung Gallery app, using Samsung’s Secure Folder feature.

Step 1: First, you’ll need to enable Secure Folder if you haven’t already. This can be found under settings > Biometrics and security > Secure folder. You will need to sign in with your Samsung account and select your preferred lock method to protect your Secure Folder.

Step 2: Next, launch the Samsung Gallery app on your phone.

Setting up Secure Folder to hide photos on a Samsung phone.

Step 3: Choose Images from the menu bar at the bottom to view all your photos or Albums if you want to select photos from a specific album. You can also choose to move the entire album to your secure folder.

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Step 4: When viewing the photos you want to hide, select the three-dot button in the upper right corner and select Edit from the pop-up menu that appears. Alternatively, you can also enter edit mode by pressing and holding on the first photo, video or album you want to hide.

Setting up Secure Folder to hide photos on a Samsung phone.

Step 5: Select the photos or videos you want to move to your secure folder. You can also select an entire album from the Albums view.

Step 6: Choose More button at the bottom.

Setting up Secure Folder to hide photos on a Samsung phone.

Step 7: Choose Move to a secure folder and enter your PIN or authenticate with your fingerprint when prompted.

Please note that because the Secure Folder is a separate, encrypted storage area, moving your items to the Secure Folder may take some time. You can check how it’s progressing by swiping down from the top of the screen to check your notifications.

Step 8: When the move is complete, the selected items should disappear from your main Samsung Gallery app. To see them, you’ll need to open the Secure Folder app on your phone and open the Samsung Gallery from there.

Note that items in your secure folder are not backed up or synced to any cloud service. Although Samsung previously allowed users to back up Secure Folder content to Samsung Cloud, this was discontinued in early 2021. Secure Folder can be transferred to a new Samsung phone using Smart Switch if you’re running One UI 5 or later, but we’d highly recommend making a separate backup backup your photos to another private location before moving them to your secure folder, as data stored in this area may not be recoverable if something happens to your phone.

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