Privacy: A Cheat Sheet for Boudoir Pros, Everyday Joes and Anyone Who Wants to Keep a Secret

No matter what you shoot, we’re pretty sure that all photographers need a little privacy every now and then. So whether you’re looking for a safe photo-home for an exclusive (reclusive) client or just for your mom, look no further than SmugMug. We’ve got a number of safeguards that can be mixed and matched to create the perfect bouquet of privacy.

Your Options, in a Nutshell

1) Unlisted Galleries. Often called “private” galleries by some, these galleries aren’t visible on your website to anyone but logged-in you. The only way fans can see one is if you give them a direct link.

2) Gallery Passwords. Provide a password and nobody can open it until they enter it right. You won’t be asked for it when you’re logged in to your account, because we know it’s you. Unsure? Look for the teeny yellow lock icon next to the gallery’s name.

3) Hello World! and Hello Smuggers! These toggles ensure that your stuff does or does not show up in web searches.  “World” = Google, Bing, etc.  “Smuggers” = SmugMug search. Set this site-wide from your Account Settings, or on a gallery-by-gallery basis via Gallery Settings.

Then, Take It Further With…

4) Hide Photo. Like unlisted galleries, but for individual photos. You can check the box under any image or video in your gallery to hide it, and only you, the gallery owner, will ever know it’s there.

5) Hide Owner. This gallery setting makes your URL generic. It doesn’t mean that your gallery isn’t visible, but it does remove your customizations and your nickname from the link so that viewers can’t trace it back to you. If you want, you can add a gallery password and/or make your gallery unlisted, too, when you use this feature.

6) Sharegroups. Share multiple unlisted galleries with one link using Sharegroups! These are amazingly useful for guiding friends, clients and family to specific galleries from your latest shoot, without having to worry about them being seen by the public eye. And better yet, they won’t get lost. You can put passwords on the galleries in your Sharegroups, if you wish, but you can also set a master password to let your viewers unlock them all at once.

7) Events. These are Sharegroups on steroids, available only on Business-level SmugMug accounts. You create Events with additional flashy features (slideshows, user registration, etc) and add galleries, give special people (e.g. clients) their own unique viewing link, and the ability to tag their favorite photos. Together, it makes browsing and buying photos a breeze.

8) Site-Wide Passwords. Not for the faint of heart! Lock your whole site from the top down. Anybody visiting links to your galleries will have to enter the correct password before they can see a thing. Even your homepage.

The Privacy Ripple Effect

  • Lockdown doesn’t mean your images can’t be shared. Anyone who can view the gallery can still click Share or post a link to Facebook. Please think about whether or not you want your friends’ friends passing your links (and potentially viewing passwords) around. Feeling queasy? You can hide the Share button from your viewers by toggling Easy Sharing to “No” in your Gallery Settings.
  • Keywords and searchability take a hit. This is a no-brainer to some, but we still sometimes get asked by photographers why their fans can’t find hidden photos via their site’s search box. In short: Only you as the logged-in site owner can search for (and find) images in unlisted and passworded galleries.
  • Photos can’t be collected from unlisted and passworded galleries, unless it’s by you. As the logged-in owner you’ll always be able to collect your own photos, but guests won’t see the orange Collect button if the gallery is protected in any way. If the photo is collected from an unlisted gallery then your visitors won’t see a link back to the original. Photos collected from public, passworded galleries will be visible, but fans will need to enter the viewing password when they follow the link to see more.
  • Feature a photo to make your locked gallery’s thumbnail pretty. We won’t display any part of the gallery when your gallery is protected with a password, and this includes thumbnails of the images within. But you can always swap the generic thumbnail for any image in that gallery — just use the gallery Tools button > This Photo > Feature.

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I'm a freelance documentary photographer who loves travel, rangefinders, medium format film photography, and everything in-between.

20 thoughts on “Privacy: A Cheat Sheet for Boudoir Pros, Everyday Joes and Anyone Who Wants to Keep a Secret”

  1. It seems like this is just a review of the existing security features? I was hoping maybe some changes had been made that would improve category security as I know many users have requested. My biggest issue with site continues to be with backwards navigation by clients to listed galleries. For example: I send a client a sharegroup with only galleries I have selected for them to view with password, and yet they are still able to click on the root directory and see categories/galleries not meant for their eyes – this is a major security/confidentiality concern and I don’t see anything being done to address it. It has been suggested that I should go through and unlist every gallery which would be not only be an arduous task with hundreds of galleries posted, but it just feels like an unnecessary labor for your users when you could simply prevent sharegroups from viewing anything except the galleries that were sent to them. Please let me know if there are any plans for a hotfix, it feels like I’ve been asking for years…



  2. I agree wholeheartedly with all of Lucas’ points. Please take this seriously, SmugMug.

  3. yea! i agree with Lucas.

    i have all of my galleries unlisted. but i post pictures on my blogs. one of my friends sent me a picture, a screen shot… of one of my pictures located in one of my unlisted galleries. i was friggin pissed! I called and asked him ” how did you find that picture?? i pay money every month so that my pictures are private?” he told me that he had bookmarked a page and was able to navigate backwards to see all of my galleries. man that pissed me off so much. made me so angry. i thought private/unlisted meant well… PRIVATE. what a bunch of bs. money down the drain.

    so basically i have been paying for security , false security. whenever i post pictures or videos on blogs people should not be able to navigate back into my galleries and see all the pictures and videos in the galleries. they should only be allowed to see the pictures on the blogs. WRONG. if you post anything on the internet people can navigate back into your galleries.

    why does it piss me off when people go into my galleries and view all of my pictures?

    well, im a land owner, i ride my motorcycle on my land. i take pictures and video while i ride. i upload those pictures into a gallery. THEN people SOMEHOW get into my damn gallery, which i had made unlisted (and now is password protected). From there they can figure out from my pictures where my land is located. at that point , i have to fight off hundreds of friggin four-wheeler riders and dirt bike riders that come onto my land (trespassing) and basically destroy it, beer cans, rutted roads, broken locks and torn down gates.

    fix this problem of people being able to navigate back into your paying customer’s unlisted galleries.

    we should be able to post a picture/video in a blog and not have to worry about people navigating back into our galleries and snooping around.

    fix it. this is bullsh** we pay you for this.

  4. i just spoke with one of the smugmug chat guys. very helpful. thanks. everyone, you need to 1. hide owner 2. make your galleries unlisted 3.password protect your galleries.

    1. Hi Swamp, I’m so glad you got this worked out quickly. Let us know if you ever have unexpected issues like this again, as we’re happy to take a closer look and be sure that everything’s working perfectly, as you expect.

  5. LIke Swamp, my unlisted gallery was breached 11 times the day I posted a picture on our neighborhood website from my unlisted and password protected SmugMug gallery which somehow allowed them to back up into my SmugMug gallery from that posted photo and click through my photos. I’m a newer amateur photographer and my photos are mostly all learners shots so there wasn’t anything embarrassing or confidential or valuable, but still…

    1. Hi Rick, it looks like our Heroes were able to clarify something in Swamp’s workflow that may have caused the confusion. If you haven’t already done so could you please write to our Support Heroes, too, describing what’s happening and include a link to the problem gallery? We’re always thrilled to take a look and make some recommendations or shed some light on the situation:

  6. While we’re on the subject, there is another issue with sharegroups that really needs to be addressed – the method for selecting shared galleries and how utterly counter-intuitive it is. For users with hundreds of galleries, finding the ones that you would like to share from a massive collection with no ability to organize/alphabetize those galleries can be like finding a needle in a haystack. At the time of writing this, I have been trying to find one particular gallery to add to a client sharegroup for over an hour and I simply cannot find it in this mess. There should really be an option to, at the very least, alphabetize the grouping of galleries for sharegroups, finding and selecting them in a random scattering is getting very very frustrating and it’s holding up the job now.

    1. Hi Lucas, we feel you and we really do hope for improvements in the gallery navigation area, soon. Thank you for your feedback!

  7. I agree with Lucas regarding gallery selection for a sharegroup and would like to add my frustration with sorting of galleries within share groups. Once I actually find that new gallery to add to an existing sharegroup, the sort order of galleries is rearranged to some default set by smugmug. I always have to reset the sort order to my original preference.

  8. As a newbie to SmugMug I find this comprehensive listing of (existing) security features very helpful

  9. I have people capturing the entire page, cropping it down to the photo, and then with Photoshop, removing the watermark layer. Adobe should be sued for making copyright enfringement software.

  10. I can’t seem to contact in any other way, so I guess I have to go through this comment. I keep telling them I want to unsubscribe to this thread, but keep sending me replies. WordPress, will you PLEASE unsubsribe me? Thank you.

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