Published by Dan Cunning on Oct 2, 2015

Private Photo Albums


Everyone has a web-connected camera and sharing via text, email, and social media has never been easier. This age of communication presents a new set of pitfalls ranging from embarrassing to criminal. Sending photos may be easy but balancing privacy, ownership, simplicity, and convenience isn't:

  • Text messages and emails are mostly private but don't organize well, while most social media organizes better but isn't private
  • Facebook has privacy settings which are misused and changed so often they introduced and recommend a privacy check-up
  • Facebook (owner of Instagram and WhatsApp) claims a broad license on the photos you upload and only declares how it currently uses it
  • Snapchat charges $0.33 for a replay so pictures may be living somewhere long after they're sent

These tools and others like them are built to turn a profit through generating page views and gathering data for corporate and government partnerships. I'm not against companies turning profits, but in this case it conflicts with my desire for a simple, private, available-everywhere photo album.

My family doesn't share our photos on social media,
and I won't do so on their behalf.

The Solution

I built my own private photo album on Amazon Web Services. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, AWS is a business (not social) platform, so privacy is a major priority, and it would never claim a license on my data. My remaining goals were simplicity and convenience:

  • Display a wall of videos and photos with no wasted space
  • Provide my family access to it anytime/anywhere
  • Allow them to upload new videos and photos

The Implementation

The software is a combination of free libraries and AWS services coordinated by my application:

I encountered a few technical "challenges" along the way which I plan on writing about in more detail later:


Watching everyone in the photos change while scrolling down is a pleasant trip. I'm not sure if my whole family will use it, but I'll continue adding our photos and videos, so in 5/10/?? years we can look back. I may even start other albums for my extended family and close friends.

The project came together pretty quickly over the last couple weeks, but I already have some ideas for version 2:

  • Clean up the permissions interface
  • Improve touch's zoom user-experience
  • Integrate the uploading UX more intimately
  • Tag by people and events
  • Filter by tags into more specific albums
  • Auto-tag people via facial recognition