How to See Private Instagram Photos without an Account

Posting your pictures online is fun. You can have your friends see what you are up to all the time. But you don’t want all of your pictures to go everywhere. So you decide to adjust some settings and only have your friends see your pictures.

So far so good, but some might not realise you are not ready yet. Especially when using Instagram. Because Instagram pictures are easily made public, even if your settings are set to ‘private’.
If you set your Instagram settings to ‘private’, you are telling Instagram that only your followers, the people you approved to follow you, can see the pictures. As Instagram puts it in their Privacy & Safety Center:

“You can make your posts private in the Instagram app so only approved followers can see them.”


“Once you make your posts private, people will have to send you a follow request if they want to see your posts, your followers list or your following list.”

The setting is quite simple, you have to do it on your phone (Instagram is a mobile app first and foremost). Quick and easy and now you’re safe.privacy-settings

Well, not really…

You can see Private Instagram Photos without an account!

It turns out that even though you put your account on private, many people can still see your photos. Especially if you connect your Instagram to other social networks.

Just starting off on Instagram? Check out our Beginner’s Walkthrough

How to view private Instagram profiles without following

So, how to view private Instagram profiles without following?

I noticed this when I saw a tweet from someone with an Instagram picture in it. Clicking on the link brought me directly to the picture. Which was nice. I then thought, ‘let’s see what other pictures this person shared’. So I clicked on that person’s Instagram account and found that it was set on private. I couldn’t see any other pictures unless I requested to follow him.

Twitter-timeline-showing-instagramUnless I went back to Twitter. Where that person had shared many more pictures using Instagram. Every link he shared I could click on and see the image. And even though this person shared it on Twitter himself, I doubt that he realises that the privacy settings he set up on Instagram don’t really make sense this way.

I tested this myself to see what happened if I would set my Instagram account to ‘private’ and then share the image through Twitter. It first got a response from Barry who had no idea what I was testing, but the most interesting part for me was whether or not others could now see my picture. And it turns out they could. The link itself is public if you share it. The link you see in the tweet was clickable and went straight to my Instagram picture, for any of my 10.6K followers on Twitter to see.

When looking at my tweet using a mobile app the picture even showed up in the stream, you don’t even have to click through, even though it is supposed not to show.

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It’s not a hack!

What we see here is not a hack, it’s a privacy matter that you have to think about yourself. Instagram actually ‘warns’ for this to happen in their privacy settings:

“If someone with a private profile shares a photo or video to a social network (like Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and so on) using Instagram, the image will be visible on that network and the permalink will be active. In other words, the photo will be publicly accessible by anyone who has access to its direct link/URL.”

So connected accounts can show the image, as can a direct link.

What Marketing are you using on Instagram ? Check what you can do.

Now what?

So what you might say, you just have to be careful. Indeed, that’s it, you ‘just’ have to be careful. But to be honest, I doubt many people will actually take the time to read all the text in the Instagram Privacy Center, let alone even go there. And especially where Instagram is being used a lot by young people this should have been communicated somewhat better I think.

But there are precautions you can take:

  • Don’t share on external social networks if you don’t want it to be public. Yes, that is an ‘easy’ thing to say, but it starts with the realization of what you are sharing. And where you are sharing.
  • Disconnect any accounts you are not using frequently.
  • Check your privacy settings on the connected accounts: if you have your Instagram connected to Facebook, make sure your sharing settings on Facebook are not set to ‘public’ but to for example ‘friends’. You can do this by finding the Instagram app in your applications settings where you can set the visibility per app.
  • Just connect with people you know: others can take your photo link and share it, once they are your friends. You want to make sure only your friends are the ones who can see so that if someone does share without your consent, you know who to talk to.
  • Turn off the ‘Add to Photomap’ function for the images you don’t want publicly shared. It’s a nice feature that shows where your pictures were taken, but the map is viewable from your profile, so you might want to think twice.
  • Delete old photos that you don’t need to have public anymore. Just to be safe, go through your Instagram feed and delete any photo which you feel might not be fit able for public viewing. Just to be on the safe side.
  • Block ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends. Relationship over? Be careful with the haters. They might just take your pictures and show them elsewhere if things go bust. And if they spot a picture of you with your new loved one, who knows what they will do…

But most importantly: realise what you are doing. If you share pictures online, even settings might not prevent the images from being shared. Your images online are not as private as you might think they are.

Know about what is changing in marketing!

Keep up with the latest digital marketing developments, views and how-tos through State of Digital’s digest newsletters. Be the first to hear about events, white papers, e-books, webinars, training and more!

Want to know more about Instagram?


Bas van den Beld

About Bas van den Beld

Bas van den Beld is an award winning Digital Marketing consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the founder of State of Digital and helps companies develop solid marketing strategies.

21 thoughts on “How to See Private Instagram Photos without an Account

  1. most importantly: realize what you are doing.I know what you’re doing, I will protect myself.Brand clothing

  2. I have never been an avid user of Instagram but its good to know the implications of setting the share settings at “private”. The precautionary measures suggested in this post are the best part.

    It is better to share what cannot violate your privacy!

    I have shared this comment in where this post was found and “kingged” for its value to Internet marketers.

    Sunday – contributor

  3. There is a website that allows you to view private profiles instagram .

    works perfectly

  4. Oppps! I did not now that private photos in Instagram also gets shared to the other social networks you connected your account to. Thank goodness I do not post private photos. That said, we should really be careful about what photos we post online.

  5. They are indeed not as private as you think. It’s very simple ti see a private profile by using

    You only have to enter the profile you want and that’s it. You can even save the pictures and videos of the profile owner.

    1. If it is free then why do you have to sign up for an offer where you have to buy something from a silver, gold, and platinum offers that cost more than viewing the profile.

  6. there is no such animal as online tool that will allow you to breach the standard privacy Instagram settings. This site is extremely simply to use and use natural only working methods to do this.

  7. You do not at all need to post to another social site, there are many sites like this one that allow viewing of private profile data. All one needs is a user name to search and bingo. Some of these sites will ask you to log into facebook or another site before you can proceed with view said private profile, and for some of those site are merely trying to steal your login data… Not sure if any privacy exists there at all for they too are a social sharing site.

  8. I want former students to see pictures of historical places I visit, but do NOT want them to make comments on those pictures. That’s where things get out of hand.
    Solution 1: Keep it private, and nobody sees it, or Solution 2: Open it up and constantly have to remove undesirable posts. Most of my students are great kids, but some of them can easily (willingly) mess it up for everybody.

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