Guide To Keeping Your Private Photos Private

Guide To Keeping Your Private Photos Private

If there is one thing we learned this weekend concerning Jennifer Lawrence and others, it’s that even the most seemingly safe photos are not safe at all. We happen to be amongst two eras. One where cameras are more frequent than ever, and one where privacy is disappearing rapidly. Here are some tips to keep those two things separate.

While the most obvious protection method from these faults is to not take incriminating photos of yourself to share with others. However, we’ve all been in love (or even just lust), and as a result, had our minds clouded with delusions of grandeur. So while certainly that is the best method of avoidance, we’re all entitled to our privacy, and here are some tips to keep your private photos off the internet, and into the hands of those you lust love.

Turn off Cloud Services

Perhaps the most obvious tip here is to turn off cloud services on your smart phone or tablet device. What cloud services are, are essentially servers that store your data, allowing you to obtain your data even if you don’t have access to your phone. While the intentions are genuine (great if you have your phone stolen, for example), the backlash of a hack could ruin your reputation forever. Here is how to turn off cloud services on your phone --


To turn off iCloud on an iOS device is pretty simple. Just go into Settings and look for iCloud. From there, you can turn off your Photostream, which will disable the the function that saves your images remotely. However, I imagine with this latest leak, additional encryption will be implemented to help keep your stored data safe.


Android's Cloud based system works largely the same. Working through Google’s own Picasa, the cloud based system can be disable by going to your Photos app system. From there, you can go into settings, and disable the Autobackup options. Keep in mind however, you will still need to go through the photos already synced onto the system and delete them.


If you have Dropbox installed on your phone, you may have Dropbox backing up your images without your knowledge. Disabling this feature is easy, and can be done through the settings dialog of the app itself. Again, it’s important to know that you need to go through and delete previous entries individually.

While disabling cloud services can protect you from an attack to their services, you’re still not completely safe. It’s also important to acknowledge that your phone can get lost or stolen, putting your private images in the hands of strangers. To counteract that, let's develop a better password for your phone.

Password Protecting

While I cannot give you specific passwords to insure your safety, there are a few tips to help you better safeguard your phone. When it comes to number based passwords, its important to not choose anything chronological in design. 1234 is among the most common mobile passwords, and would make your phone very easy to crack. I suggest a random selection of numbers, such as 5834. It also goes without saying, to change and update this password often.

If you’re using a pattern based password, there are a few tips to keep yourself safe. The majority of pattern based patterns, form a continuing line without intersection. Circles, check marks and other patterns are common. So to help counteract this, have your lines and patterns cross. It helps make the passwords a bit harder to crack, and lets be honest, look cooler too. Also, pattern based passwords are almost always in a clockwise motion, so switch it up.

Remote Wipe Services

Unfortunately, there is no way that we can completely prevent others from stealing our phones and gaining access to our image libraries. However, there are ways we can do emergency deletion of specific images and folders if our phone was to get into the wrong hands. Apps like Prey for iOS and Android allow you to delete images and data from your phone at the comfort of your computer. While this would turn the entire event into a racing game, it can be yet another way to help keep your private life private.


There are apps designed to help protect others from exploitation, apps such as Snapchat. And while Snapchat isn’t perfect, it does apply preventive measures to help keep your private moments safe. While nothing can stop others from screen capturing the image (though you do get a notification to destroy your ego), providing viewing times for only 1 or 2 seconds can help deter such techniques.

The Golden Rule Of Nudes

Okay, so we've warmed up to this necessary but uncomfortable conversation (I feel like I'm talking about the birds and the bees over here). Let's now talk about the golden rule of sending scandalous photos on the internet. Never allow yourself to be identified. It's a little silly that I need to remind others of this, but it is a very necessary step within the realm of privacy. If you have tattoos or birthmarks, cover them up. If you have unique scars, find an angle that hides them. And under no circumstances, do you ever show your face in these photos. Keeping your face and identifiable marks out of the equation is the only way you'll be able to maintain your privacy and deniability if the photos were to leak.

Just Don’t Do It

I’m saying this as a bit of a tongue-in-cheek moment. While a random guy on the internet telling you to not probably isn’t going to deter you, I can provide another alternative to the mess. Instax. We’re among the “Polaroid resurgence” and it’s a great opportunity to share images, without having your images on the internet for the world to see. While this isn’t a perfect method, as images can be photographed digitally, or scanned in, it does help keep them off the internet on some regards.


While this weekends event has left many feel sympathetic or outraged, we must take what we've learned from this event and find preventive measure to deter the same fate happening to us. Hopefully I've provided some tips here that will keep you happily in lust love, while keeping you off the internet.

Zach Sutton's picture

Zach Sutton is an award-winning and internationally published commercial and headshot photographer based out of Los Angeles, CA. His work highlights environmental portraiture, blending landscapes and scenes with portrait photography. Zach writes for various publications on the topic of photography and retouching.

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I don't think anything is going to deter people from taking these types of photos. I worked in a photo lab in college, these images were plentiful (even among celebrities). Though looking back... I usually did try to sell those folks a digital camera when they came in to pick up film lol.

It's worth mentioning also that many carriers have their own cloud back up system too outside of the typical device back ups. My photos don't get backed up there, but contacts do. I've been trying to get rid of a specific phone number for months and it keeps coming back from the cloud.

I personally think the bigger problem is that people a.) feel like celebrities are public property b.) the shaming of women who take nude selfies. People will always take these pictures and creepers will always find a way to get them.

I agree 100%. It's the same mentality that leads people to question what a woman was wearing when she says she was raped (to a lesser extent, of course). Who cares if she took nude photos? That doesn't make it ok to post it all over the internet.

It isn't even creepers the every day person should be worried about. There are a lot of revenge porn sites out there. You take a few photos of someone while you're with them, things go sour, and suddenly they are all over the internet.

i personally feel sorry for those who are not celebrities and everyday their photo is stolen and put online, and no fbi, cia, or whatever, tracks the criminal, as they are tracking now, and sure must exist thousands of women and men that this happen, and if you resort to the police they only say, "you should have been more cautious with your photos" the same can be said to these celebrities, they sign multiple contracts to safeguard themselfs for magazines and stuff about being naked, and after that they get an iphone and subject themselfs to taking photos naked, and leaving in their with cloud services on. at least by a camera, and keep in an external hard drive

Article is missing a few details- snapchat has had some issues in the past with security regarding photos still being left in a phone's system.

And it's worthwhile to mention there are plenty of "photo vault" apps out there which also encrypt photos, are password protected and in some apps, can self destruct on failed access attempts. Don't think that your photos are secure just because you changed your phone's password.

I never suggest that Snapchat is a perfect alternative, (Infact, I say the opposite) but it certainly has more security measures than sending a photo outright.

Sorry Zach... but I'm going to lay into this post just like I have on other uninformed posts from people that have no right, experience or even research abilities to realize what they've wrote is WRONG.

1) first is the incomplete suggestion to turn off cloud services, without telling them to be sure to back up their phone to their computer FIRST. Then turn off cloud services... and then be sure to back up often. Because anything can go wrong with any phone, meaning... it may just stop working some day. In that unfortunate case, you're only as good as your last backup. Whatever hasn't been backed very well could be lost forever, including memories like photos and videos, as well as important docs or data. All of it. Unrecoverable and gone since your last backup.

2) now about that computer backup, it's also a huge potential for theft and hacks, including keyboard loggers, trojans, drive-by code injections, Java, Flash and Reader exploits, etc. How many people do you know that use or turn on "private surfing" or "incognito" mode when logging into web mail... and have a perfectly up-to-date system? And do they all have non-admin accounts with lock screens for secure password entry after they've been away for say a couple minutes. I doubt it.

3) Email accounts: most people use the same account for important business as well as forum log-ins like this one, Pinterest, etc. How many people have an incognito email account to log into Dropbox, Facebook, AppleID, Google Places, Paypal, Ebay, Amazon, etc.? Yes I mean a separate, unused account for nothing other than for that service, all with a different fictitious name that only YOU know and with a different password for each one. And if there are "security questions", how many of you answered truthfully? Those weren't a test, nor do you get graded like an exam, so why do most people answer a security question which can be looked up on the net in multitudes of places... or a friend might easily know?

4) do most people realize, that even if they do ALL of the above, anyone and everyone... including your current flame that has any pictures they've taken, or have info about you (emails)... is also a security risk if they ALSO don't heed the warnings above? Because fact is, they may not be your friend or SO for ever.... besides being an access point AKA target to get to your private stash.

FYI: a large number of the actresses pictures/videos were stolen from other phones and accounts (Dropbox was another common cloud invasion) other than their own i.e. those from boyfriends, girlfriends, friends-of-friends. Those were also targeted attacks by a rather large underground group doing this for a few years now.

What I'm getting at, is you simply stating "turn off all cloud services" is NOT going to protect anyone fully against digital theft oR potential loss. And if you do turn off all services, you still need to do everything from a computer I mentioned above, PLUS manage all of the local and off-site backups yourself. You know, the same backups every photographer is required to make and does religiously: no less than 2 on-site backups and 1 off-site (like a safe deposit box). You guys are all doing that, right?

Disclaimer: I'm a tech assistant for a number of small to mid-size businesses, many of them photographers and print houses, as well as countless friends and friends-of-friends for almost 30 years. It's my job to keep things as secure as possible and to make sure if something goes wrong, we're back up to speed with a minimum of loss and as fast as possible. This also includes locking out former employees, girlfriends, boyfriends, best friends, partners and family members... more times than I can count... as well as keeping an eye out for the big bad bogey-man 'hackers".

Apology: this post is longer than your article, and I'm sorry for that. However I think it's a bit more complete than the one you just wrote and may save someone's butt some day.

Humor(?): And that's what it's all about isn't it? Saving and privately securing your "butt"?

On that topical thought for the day... Happy Shooting... just please leave me out of the cross-hairs :)

THANK YOU! I really couldn't have said any of this better myself.

On a related note, have you seen this article? It is kinda mind blowing

Hi Tam - yes... I had read that very article early European CET time, and just about every other report, post and news item in my rather large RSS feed. My financial well-being depends on being well informed on this matter.

As with many of the earlier blog posts and news articles, just about everyone was solely blaming Apple or trying to "slut-shame" the actresses involved. Both of which I deeply deplore! Especially the misogynistic remarks aimed at the actresses (when a number of the photos had been obtained from their boyfriends phones!)... but also against those solely pointing the finger at Apple... and then all cloud services as being insecure, bad, so everyone should stop using them immediately. Nothing could be further from the truth or be considered good advice to leave out there without qualifying it.

If you or anyone else is still interested (this still is the TL;DR ADS internet here), here's a far more eloquent retort by Dan Kaminsky against the sad "mob mentality" to lynch Apple and Cloud providers vs. the reality of someone ever losing every keepsake on there smart phone.

Think you said it best with, "Just don't do it". Sadly, we can't even say its just the younger generation that grew up with the internet.

1. Have strong passwords and keep track of them with 1password
2. Get BitTorrent sync to make your own private dropbox type system.

100% agree.... because I use and strongly recommend both as well :)

Snapchat is bullsh*t because there are apps even on appstore, such as snaphack that let's you save photos without others even knowing it. Also you can view the pics and videos as many times as you want because the app stores them. So i wouldn't trust snapchat in any way.

I state in the article that Snapchat isn't perfect by any means (and honestly, nothing is). However, SnapChat is better than sending a photo outright. Far more people use snapchat than the snaphack app that you reference. Regardless, the article states pretty clearly that if you're taking a naked photo of yourself, you're putting yourself at risk. Period.

I think that with apps like your photos won't be safe. Breaking through security is easy unless you really take care of that.