How To: The Most Important Photos App Feature You Should Be Using on Your iPhone or iPad

The Most Important Photos App Feature You Should Be Using on Your iPhone or iPad

Your iPhone has a powerful feature that can keep your secrets hidden from other people, and you'll never have to worry about sharing or showing someone something embarrassing or incriminating ever again.

No matter who you are, you likely use your iPhone's Photos app a lot since anything you take a picture or video of using the stock Camera app — and many other camera apps — lands there. And the chances that you have an image or video you don't want anyone to ever see are high.

It could be evidence to implicate you in cheating or lying, pictures of your feces to show your doctor, unedited or sexualized selfies, screenshots of login credentials or tax documents, spy pics, saved nude sexts, or practically anything else.

Since it's easy to accidentally include one of your for-you-only photos or videos when sharing an album with iCloud friends, texting a group of images, AirPlaying a slideshow, or viewing your Photos widget on the Home/Lock Screen, Apple has included a tool to help protect you from it ever happening: the Hidden album. It's been around since iOS 10, received an incredible upgrade with iOS 14, and became even more secure on iOS 16. Apple's iOS 17 update doesn't add anything new to the feature, but it doesn't need to because it's good as-is now.

While there are helpful Photos features like the new cutout tool, bulk image editing, Live Text in videos, Visual Look Up, and geotag editing, the Hidden album remains one of the most important because it maintains privacy and security for your most private moments. Hell, you could even hide all of the content in Photos if you want.

Hiding Pictures and Videos on Your iPhone

To hide any picture or video in the Photos app on your iPhone or iPad, open it up, tap the ellipsis (•••) icon in the top area, choose "Hide," and then select "Hide Photo" or "Hide Video" from the actions that appear.

You can also hide multiple photos and videos at the same time. From a grid view in the Library, Albums (Favorites, Recents, Live Photos, Screenshots, etc.), or Search tab, choose "Select" at the top, pick all the content you want to hide, tap the ellipsis (•••) icon in the bottom area, choose "Hide," and then select "Hide [#] Photos," "Hide [#] Videos," or "Hide [#] Items" from the actions that appear.

Locating the Hidden Album on Your iPhone

You can find your Hidden album on your iPhone at the bottom of the Albums tab when images and videos are hidden. On an iPad, it'll be in the "Utilities" group in the sidebar. By default, you can see the album, which will tell you how many photos and/or videos are in the folder.

Locking the Hidden Album on Your iPhone

Since anyone with access to your iPhone or iPad can find and browse your Hidden album, Apple included a new feature starting with iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 to lock the folder behind biometric authentication. With it enabled, nobody can break into your Hidden album unless they can crack your passcode.

To enable biometric authentication protection, go to Settings –> Photos, then toggle on the "Use Face ID" or "Use Touch ID" switch. Turning this switch on also locks all your Recently Deleted images and videos behind biometrics. The switch cannot be disabled without biometrics or a passcode, so someone borrowing your iPhone or iPad can't go there and turn it off quickly to take a peek at your protected media.

Find your Hidden album at the bottom of the Albums tab on iPhone or in the sidebar on iPad to try it out. When locked, it will no longer show how many photos and/or videos you have in the album. Tap it, then use your face or fingerprint to bypass the lock and view your secret content.

If biometrics aren't working for you at that moment, or if someone else has your iPhone or iPad and is trying to access your private media, Face ID or Touch ID will fail. Tapping "Try Face ID Again" or "Try Touch ID Again" gives another shot, but then it'll default to "Enter Passcode."

If you are using a four-digit or six-digit passcode, it's not impossible to crack it and get in. So if someone manages to unlock your iPhone or iPad with a cracked passcode, they'll also be able to unlock your hidden photos and videos. Consider using a longer passcode or an alphanumeric one to beef up security.

Hiding the Hidden Album on Your iPhone

If you want to go the extra mile to keep your private photos and videos out of sight, you can hide your Hidden album, available since iOS 14 and iPadOS 14. Go to Settings –> Photos, then turn off the "Show Hidden Album" switch. This won't delete any of your hidden content; it will only hide the folder from plain sight. Any time you want to view your secret media again, return to this menu and turn the switch back on first.

Unfortunately, anyone with access to your unlocked iPhone or iPad can find and enable the Show Hidden Album switch, so it's vital to also use the switch that enables biometrics. That way, unhiding the album won't do anyone much good unless that anyone is you.

Viewing Your Hidden Album on Other Devices

It's important to note that anything you hide in your Hidden album will also be hidden on all your other Apple devices, as long as they have iCloud Photos enabled. Go to Settings –> General –> iCloud Photos on an iPhone or iPad to ensure it's enabled. On a Mac, go to Photos –> Settings in the menu bar, choose the "iCloud" tab, and ensure iCloud Photos is checked.

Use the same process above to view photos and videos on your iPad. On a Mac, you'll find the Hidden album under Photos in the sidebar or via View –> Photos –> Hidden in the menu bar. If you don't see the album, go to View –> Show Hidden Photo Album in the menu bar to unhide it.

The biometric authentication switch does not sync with your other iCloud devices, so you'll have to manually enable protection on each device. For iPad, use the same steps above. On a Mac, go to Photos –> Settings in the menu bar, then ensure the "Use Touch ID or password" or "Use password" box is checked.

Just updated your iPhone? You'll find new features for Podcasts, News, Books, and TV, as well as important security improvements and fresh wallpapers. Find out what's new and changed on your iPhone with the iOS 17.5 update.

Cover photo and screenshots by Justin Meyers/Gadget Hacks

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