Hide private photos in a Google Photos locked folder

Sometimes you have photos that you would rather keep hidden. Use the Google Photos app on your phone to create a folder locked with your fingerprint, face or PIN that only you can access.

For various reasons, you might have photos in Google Photos that you don’t want anyone else to see. Your phone is locked of course, but when showing your photos to friends, you might hand them your phone so they can get a better look. They might be tempted to to have a quick look at what else you have.

You might lend your phone to someone so they can make a call when their battery has died, or you might leave it on the table unlocked while you visit the bathroom. Also, you might not want to upload certain photos to Google’s servers.

The Google Photos app has a Locked Folder feature and it is a useful place to hide photos you don’t want anyone to see, even if you lend them your phone. Photos in the Locked Folder are not uploaded to your Google Photos, they are not backed up, they are not synced, they are not found in albums, they are not shown in searches, and they are not accessible by other apps that have access to Google Photos.

They are hidden everywhere and can only be seen on your phone by unlocking the Locked Folder using a fingerprint, face or PIN. Here’s how it works using the Google Photos app on an Android phone. Make sure it is updated to the latest version.

Find photos in Google Photos

Google Photos app on an Android phone
Google Photos app

Open the Google Photos app and select the Photos tab at the bottom of the screen if it is not already selected. Browse your photo collection and find some photos you want to hide from view.

Select photos to hide

Press and hold on one of the photos until the selection icons appear in the top left corner of the thumbnails. Tap additional photos that you want to hide. If you just want to test this feature for now, select any photos you like. You can always unhide them afterwards.

Select photos in the Google Photos app on an Android phone
Select photos in Google Photos

Swipe left over the toolbar at the bottom of the screen until you see Move to Locked Folder and then press it. If you have never used this feature before, you might see an introductory screen.

Moving photos to a locked folder in Google Photos on a phone
Move your private photos to the Locked Folder

This message appears on the screen informing you what will happen and you must confirm the move by pressing the Move button. Afterwards, you can continue browsing your photos and if you want to, select more photos and move them to the Locked Folder.

View hidden photos in the Locked Folder

Google Photos Library screen on an Android phone
Google Photos Library

The Locked Folder does not appear in the Library, Favorites or Archive. To view them, go to the Library by pressing the icon in the toolbar at the bottom of the screen and then press Utilities at the top.

Google Photos utilities
Locker Folder is in Google Photos utilities

On the Utilities screen, press Locked Folder at the bottom.

You are presented with unlock options like Fingerprint, Face or PIN. It depends on your phone of course, and a budget phone may only have PIN unlocking.

Unlock Google Photos Locked Folder
Unlock Google Photos Locked Folder

(Screenshots are blocked, so I took a photo with another phone – you can see me in the reflection!)

View and manage hidden photos

The Locked Folder opens and you can see your hidden photos (just some test photos in my case), in a view similar to browsing your regular photos. Tap a photo to view it full screen.

Google Photos Locked Folder
View photos in Google Photos Locked Folder

Long press a photo to select it and then select others, or press the tick icon to select them all. You then have the option to delete the selected photos or move them back where they came from in the Google Photos feed.

Photos are stored in the app, not online, not on any other devices, so if you delete the app or reset the phone, the photos are deleted. Also, if you lose the phone or break it, the photos in the Locked Folder are gone. Bear this in mind.

Shoot straight to the Locked Folder

When I take a photo on my Samsung phone, it is saved on the phone in the Gallery app. Google Photos detects the new photo and unloads it to my online photos library. I can then move it to the Locked Folder in the Google photos app on the phone. I would then have to delete it from the phone’s Gallery app and, of course, it has already been in my Google Photos library, so Google has seen it.

This is obviously far from perfect when you want to keep photos private. For this reason, it is possible to take photos and have them stored directly in the Locked Folder without them being stored elsewhere first, without being uploaded to your Google Photos library, and without being stored elsewhere on the phone.

Perfect! But there is a snag. You must have a Google Pixel phone.

On a Pixel 3 and later:

  1. Open the Camera app on your Pixel phone
  2. Tap Photo Gallery in the top right corner
  3. Select Locked Folder

On a Pixel 7 and 7 Pro:

  • Press and hold on the circle showing the last photo taken on the right of the shutter button
  • In the menu that appears, select Locked Folder

When Locked Folder is on, any photos you take are stored in the Locked Folder instead of the regular photo library, so they are never stored anywhere else but a secure and private place.

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