How to Deal With Bad Photos on Facebook

By Harry Guinness on May 18th, 2017

Not everyone is model pretty and capable of posing perfectly on a split second’s notice. For most mere mortals, photographs can be a risky business. If you’re caught mid-word, after a few drinks or, God forbid, while you’re dancing, no amount of work in Photoshop can ever save the photo.

While most of the time these pictures are fairly harmless fun, if it’s a really bad photo (or perhaps you’re trying to curate a specific professional image) then you might need to do something about it. Here’s what to do if someone else posts a bad photo of you on Facebook.

Remove the Tag Yourself

The simplest and quickest way to deal with a bad photo is to remove the tag. Once you’re no longer tagged in the photo, it won’t appear on your profile. It will still be in your friend’s Photos but, unless someone goes looking for it, random people aren’t going to find it.

For most bad photos, this is enough. Cameras are so ever-present that it’s kind of expected that everyone will have a few dodgy photos floating around. Unless you’re going to spend all your time carefully managing your social media, one or two things will slip through. There are even bad photos of George Clooney out there.

Ask Your Friend to Take the Photo Down

If the photo is really bad and you want it removed from the internet, then the first step is to talk to your friend and ask them to remove it from their Facebook page. They took the photo, so they own it. You don’t have any rights to it. As long as they aren’t using it to promote Viagra or the Ku Klux Klan, they’re free to do pretty much whatever they want.

The thing is, most decent people won’t insist on exercising their copyright over a bad photo of a friend. Unless it’s a group shot that a dozen other people love, they’ve no real reason not to take it down if you ask. If it’s really bad, it might have seemed like a funny joke to them at the time they posted it but as soon as you say anything, they should realize that you’re not amused and take it down.

When you’re asking your friend to take it down remember to be polite. It’s their photo. They don’t have to do anything with it and they’re doing you a favor by removing it. If you go in aggressively and start insisting they delete it immediately, you could offend them and start an argument. That’s completely counterproductive.

Report the Photo to Facebook

So far, I’ve been working on the assumption that an actual friend has posted a bad photo of you on their Facebook page with no real malice. If this is the case, untagging yourself or asking your friend to delete the photo should be enough to sort the problem. If it’s not, then things are a little more tricky.

Facebook can only remove photos that violate their Terms of Service. The most relevant terms are:

“You will not bully, intimidate, or harass any user.”

“You will not post content that: is hate speech, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.”

It is going to be hard to argue that posting a single bad photo is bullying, intimidation, or harassment, especially if the photo is not edited in some way to make you look worse. If they add threatening language or hate speech to the post, you’ve got a chance, but not a big one. If the other person is just acting like an ass, they’re probably not doing anything wrong as far as Facebook is concerned.

If the photo they’ve posted is particularly aggressive, edited to make you look bad, or is part of a series of photos that they’re constantly posting then you’ve probably got a decent argument that you’re being harassed and Facebook might act.

In either case, it’s worth reporting the photo and hoping Facebook takes it down. If they keep posting bad photos, keep reporting them and Facebook will probably act.

The other option is just to block the other person. This will stop them seeing your profile and being able to tag you in photos. It won’t remove the original image, but it will at least make it more difficult for them to continue to harass you.

Finally, the police in most places have been very bad at prosecuting online harassment cases, however they are starting to get better. If the person is making real world threats, is continuing the harassment offline, or is otherwise going way beyond acceptable behavior, make a police report.


With smartphones everywhere, bad pictures are now very much a part of life. A lot of the fun of services like Snapchat is being able to send your friends photos knowing that, even if you look like Mr Potato Head, it won’t come back to haunt you.

When it comes to photos on Facebook, the biggest issue is tagging. If you’re not tagged in a photo, it won’t appear on your page. Yes, it might still be available if someone digs through your friend’s photos, but you’re probably in the clear. It’s worth turning on Timeline Review so you have to approve any tags before they appear on your Timeline.

Harry Guinness writes occasionally when he’s not busy skiing, sailing, partying, lifting weights, or otherwise dodging responsibility. His main areas of interest are himself, gin, and crazy people with interesting stories to tell. When people won’t pay him to write ill-thought-out opinion pieces, he covers photography, technology, and culture. You can follow him on Twitter.

  • Published 05/18/17
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