I have been getting back to photography as a hobby after quite a few years off. Last time I dabbled digital photography was not a thing and photos were hosted in an albums on a shelf, not Flickr.

Family holidays are naturally one of common photo occasions for me (I have to be there and I have to not be busy with anything disconnected :), so camera it is).

Since passage of time had now also added next generation to the family (my nephews and nieces) and there seems to be quite a gradient of opinions around about posting family photos of kids online (from totally ok to completely not doing it) — I have been getting... nervous I guess about uploading family photos and making them public.

My family is (of course) aware that I am posting these photos online and hadn't had any issue with it whatsoever. However since I am the nerd in the family I strongly suspect they aren't really thinking much into it and probably won't — even if I try to push the issue for them to consider.

In a nutshell I feel trapped before not trusting myself with decisions (these are not my kids after all) and neither really trusting my relatives with decisions (for example my sister had just lost years of family photos to wiped hard drive and no backups, which sucked big time).

So I see following options:

  1. Continuing as I was — posting photos online, with thorough application of common sense to what is appropriate for public sharing.

  2. Trying to have "the talk" :) with kids' parents. One parent? Both parents? What if one of parents no longer in the picture? What if I just get "sure, whatever" responses that I have no confidence are well considered?

  3. Locking photos down, forcing family to have and use accounts to access. Which (selfishly I guess) cuts down on my enjoyment of taking those photos and doing things like showing them to friends and the world.

What do I go with for healthy balance of privacy implications and the photos getting locked up to the point I could as well stop taking them?

  • 2
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is about online privacy, not about photography.
    – mattdm
    Jul 1, 2015 at 0:21

7 Answers 7


If you're going to 'show them to the world' - you need to ask. That's common courtesy and, more importantly, you may not be ingrained in their lives enough to know if there's a serious reason to not want them up and public. (For example, I have a friend who went through a messy adoption and posting pictures of his kids on Facebook could complicate his life.)

You've got options for somewhere between 'super public' and 'requires an account'. Google+ (or Picasa albums as it was called), for example, allows you to set privacy settings that will allow public, private, with a shared account, or just if you have the link. Other services have similar options. This last setting (with the link) allows you to send the family the link, share it with your friends if they're ok with it, but not allow any joe-schmoo on the Internet to stumble across it.

  • +1 for bringing up the "shared only have the link" option ...
    – kmonsoor
    Mar 29, 2014 at 15:17
  • 1
    You can do the same "share with link" on Facebook and many others such as SmugMug and Dropbox too.
    – dpollitt
    Mar 30, 2014 at 18:05
  • @dpollit - Yup, I didn't think it was specific to Google - just pointing out its an option.
    – rfusca
    Mar 30, 2014 at 18:36
  • This was right on the mark, I talked this over explicitly on family holiday and one of my cousins asked to make photos of her and kids private because of some conditions of her government work. Even though she hadn't issue with it before — practice showed one should talk this over explicitly!
    – Rarst
    Apr 15, 2014 at 17:55
  • @Rarst - wonderful :) Glad it could help.
    – rfusca
    Apr 15, 2014 at 23:04

There isn't a right or wrong answer here unless your local jurisdiction has laws about it. As long as you are reasonable about what you put online, I don't expect there to be any problems as long as the parents aren't complaining about it. Use your judgement and share the photos you spend time and effort to produce.

That said, if they were friend's kids rather than family, I'd be far more inclined to ask specifically before hand. I think the fact they are family gives a little more leeway because you have a vested interest in the children as well. You don't have a vested interest in your friend's children though.


What I do on Flickr, which I think works reasonably well:

  • All photos featuring a child are "friends and family" (my children), "family only" (other children in my extended family) or completely private (other people's children). This means that if people do have accounts on Flickr, they get access to the appropriate photos without having to jump through any hoops.
  • Create an album for every child, and create a guest pass (link that allows access to the photos in that album) for that album. Give that link to the appropriate people so they always have access to the photos of their children. Practically, you'll probably have to remind them of the link every now and then.
  • Create an album for every event (birthday parties, Christmas gatherings, etc), create a guest pass for each of those and send that round to the people at the event.

When sending round any of the guest passes, I always include a "standard disclaimer" along the lines of "While these photos are accessible only via the link, if there's any photo you don't want on the web, let me know and I'll take it down." Nobody's yet asked me to take one down :-)

While this is all Flickr-specific, I think the general principles should apply no matter what photo sharing service you're using. Alternatively, if the photo sharing service you're using doesn't support this kind of granularity, find one that does.

  • Thank you for helpful details on flickr (which is what I use), guest pass feature is pretty buried.
    – Rarst
    Apr 15, 2014 at 17:56

I share via Google Drive or Dropbox with family. There are two options you should consider:

(1) Share via Link - This allows anyone with the link to view the photos, but the link is not "public" and, therefore, users without the link won't be able to see the photos and they won't show up in search engine results. I tend to use this option for photos of family events so that aunts, uncles, cousins, can share the link with others who didn't receive a "share" email from me.

(2) Private - more restrictive where only people who I've explicitly shared with can view the photos. This I tend to use for photos of my nephews to share with my brother and sister-in-law so I know exactly who has access to these photos.

See: https://support.google.com/drive/answer/2494822?hl=en

Dropbox has similar options for sharing: https://www.dropbox.com/help/20/en

Both Dropbox and Google Drive allow you to share with people who do not have an account while still remaining relatively secure.


There are a few things that are important to consider, though this is a very subjective nature. Personally, if I take photos at a family event in a family member's home or with a family member's children, I post photos sparingly and usually restricted to my family.

I think it's also important to consider not just who the photos are of, but also who your audience would be if you were to post it online. As many photos as I could take of my family's children opening presents or swinging, unless the photograph was technically very strong or powerful, it's not going to be a very interesting photo to people outside of the situation. As such, if I think I have a really great photo that is worth sharing, I simply ask the family member if they would mind me sharing that particular photo more widely. Usually they're okay with this.


As a child of the "Facebook era" I understand completely where you are coming from. When Facebook first came out, it was the ideal place to show everyone what you were doing. At the time, only college students could see it and no one was worried about anything "getting out there". Now, everything is a constant stream of public sharing and it's not safe with predators all over the internet.

There are several solutions out there, but one I recommend is an app called "Kipz" It's designed to "Tell the story of your Life" in a safe and private way. The cool thing about Kipz is that it's completely private. Every time you upload a photo, it can only be seen by you, unless of course you choose to share it with someone else. I'd check it out. I use it for family photos as well as whenever I go out with friends. I don't need the world to see everything I do and this app has helped me to find that balance.


I am doing the project to scan my family photos going back from yesteryear up to current day. This does include some young children. Just to cut to the chase -- the way I am sharing these digital photos is to copy them to a small USB drive (very inexpensive these days) and sending them in bubble mailers via the USPS. Couple of reasons I did not use an online service. I have these photos extensively identified with IPTC captions, titles, keywords and the like. This is the who, where, when information about the photo. Many online services strip away this metadata. Also not sure how to get a variety of family members on the same online service; whereas everyone has a USB port. Some family members are Mac people and some Windows. Downloading a group of files, say, a folder, can be cumbersome; I think Flickr downloads it as a zip file which then has to be unzipped. Of course, this is all for a rather fixed collection of photos which I should only have to do once or twice; as an ongoing method for new photos might be impractical. And, my method bypasses the concerns about privacy. Just wanted to share that.

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