How to add, edit, manage or remove Active Directory photographs

Windows Server 2008 or earlier versions have no tools allowing admins to update and manage Active Directory users’ images. Uploading photos to Active Directory lets you display them in Lync or in Outlook 2010/2013 internal emails, GALs, contact cards and meeting requests. This blog post will describe a totally free and lightning fast application that allows for quick and easy Active Directory photo administration, including uploading or exporting Active Directory photos and bulk photo actions in Active Directory.

There are two known ways of updating Active Directory pictures, which require using either Exchange Management Console (EMS) or IDirectoryObject and IADsUser interfaces to upload an image to a user object in Active Directory. The latter requires creating a Visual C++ application, so lets forget about it. The EMS procedure is less complicated but equally cumbersome because it uses Import-RecipientDataProperty cmdlet commands and does not allow bulk uploads or imports. It also requires you to meticulously prepare all image files to meet Active Directory photo requirements prior to uploading them.

There are some third-party tools already available that simplify the entire process, at least by adding a user’s interface, but they are mostly paid. Fortunately, we have a tool called CodeTwo Active Directory Photos which does the job and does it absolutely for free. It also supports bulk photo actions in Active Directory so it’s a tidbit for anyone struggling with AD management. Watch the video below to see how this freeware works.

How to upload a photo to Active Directory to display it in Outlook and Lync?

Uploading a user’s or employee’s photograph to Active Directory is very easy and can be done in four simple steps:

1. Install the free application CodeTwo Active Directory Photos on your Windows Server or on any other machine with access to Active Directory (and with permissions to modify AD contents) and launch it (Fig. 1).

CodeTwo Active Directory Photos user's interface
Fig. 1. CodeTwo Active Directory Photos user’s interface.

2. Select an Active Directory container your user is located in, find this user in the list and click on the Choose photo option and choose a user’s photo from your disk.

3. In the resulting dialog box, you can resize your image or keep the original dimensions. No matter if the image meets AD requirements or not (e.g. it is bigger than 100kb), it will be automatically processed by the program and added to thumbNailPhoto attribute of a user when you accept it (Fig. 2). So there is no need to worry about that but can you use this for additional tweaks or if you don’t like the way the picture gets displayed.

Uploading user's picture to Active Directory
Fig. 2. Uploading user’s picture to Active Directory.

4. Clicking OK will upload the photograph and it will display in Outlook and Lync from that moment on.

How to import users’ images to Active Directory? Bulk photo actions in Active Directory.

Importing multiple users’ pictures at once to Active Directory is also very easy.

1. In CodeTwo Active Directory Photos, click the Import button on the top menu. The import window will appear letting you select the location folder of your photos and the pattern of file names that will automatically match photos with proper users (Fig. 3).

Selecting folder with images to import them to Active Directory
Fig. 3. Selecting folder with images to import them to Active Directory.

2. Browse your disk to locate the folder with employees’ images. Make sure the pictures are saved according to the defined pattern. If you have chosen a pattern as shown in Fig. 3, your images should be saved like in the image below (Fig. 4). Keep in mind they can be of any format – not only JPG.

Images prepared to be uploaded to Active Directory
Fig. 4. Images prepared to be uploaded to Active Directory.

3. Clicking Next will match images to users so that you’d be able to see if you have planned everything correctly. Pictures without a match will be displayed on the right-hand side in the resulting window (Fig. 5).

Matching files prior to sending images to Active Directory
Fig. 5. Matching files prior to sending images to Active Directory.

4. When you click Next, all matching files will be added to AD. Make sure the unmatched files are later properly saved to correspond with Active Directory placeholders of given users and uploaded to AD too.

Once the pictures are sent to Active Directory, you can enjoy Lync and Outlook 2010/2013 Active Directory photographs (Fig. 6, Fig. 7).

An Active Directory user's picture displayed in Outlook 2010 internal email
Fig. 6. An Active Directory user’s picture displayed in Outlook 2010 internal email.

Active Directory photos displayed in contact cards in Outlook 2010
Fig. 7. Active Directory photos displayed in contact cards in Outlook 2010.

You can also add Active Directory pictures to email signatures in external emails. To do this, you’d have to combine CodeTwo Active Directory Photos with CodeTwo Exchange Rules PRO. Learn more about adding Active Directory photos to outbound Exchange emails.

Suggested reading

Learn more about CodeTwo Active Directory Photos
The Exchange Team Blog: GAL Photos in Exchange 2010 and Outlook 2010

21 thoughts on “How to add, edit, manage or remove Active Directory photographs

    • Hello Bashar,
      The AD attributes you can use to auto-match photos are: Common Name, Company, Country, Department, Description, Display name, E-mail, First name, Initials, Last Name, Title. The most common naming pattern is {First name}_{Last name}

  1. The tool works great and photos display in Outlook 2010. The photos do not display in Outlook 2016, any tips to make that happen? It’s been over 24 hours since I loaded the photos.


    • Hi Richard,

      Does the issue occur for the same user accessing Outlook 2010 and 2016 or different users?

      Also, are you aware of any differences in advanced settings between the two Outlooks (like cashed mode, email account priority, etc.) or differences between the users (e.g. OU location, photo format)?

      Best regards,

  2. AD running onsite,
    Single Forest running at 2003 level.
    We’ve migrated to Office 365.
    Exchange server 2007 is still intact for not but not actually powered on.

    I’ve done one test with a user who already had uploaded their own photo in 365 so I tried to overwrite, it did not seem to work.

    I’ve uploaded a 2nd one on a test user. Never had a thumbnail photo.

    Is this possible – to upload photo from local AD domain (we’re using Azure AD Sync to get users to 365)?

    How long does it take to upload assuming I trigger a fill Azure AD Sync?


  3. Can you tell us the approximate size increase in a given User Object once a photo is uploaded and added to the object? I am concerned about disk space if we are to roll this out to a large number of users.

  4. Hi,
    Does anyone know if the company has the right to use your photo in email? I thought the provided to them for ID and to be attached to your file only.
    I tried removing it by disabling the feature from the options but its still visible to others. Can a user disable it?


    • Hi Sahar,

      No, end-users cannot manage Active Directory photos. To have your photo removed you have to send a request to your admin.

      Best regards,

  5. Hi,

    I tried to change a picture using code two and the new picture doesn’t reflect in the outlook. Been uploaded the new picture for two days now, but outlook still display the old picture. Any help would be very much appreciated.

  6. We are using Exchange 2013 and Outlook 2013. I do not see photos appearing in Outlook immediately after importing photos into Active Directory. I have checked the properties of the thumbnailPhoto and the “Replicate this attribute to the GC” is checked. What am I missing?

    Thanks in advance for the great tool!

    • Hello Rose,

      It may take some time before the photos replicate between servers and to users’ clients. Have you checked 1h after uploading?

      Also, where in Outlook are you checking?

      I look forward to hearing from you,

  7. Hi,

    I’m trying to delegate updating user pictures out to the receptionist. I have given write access to the thumbnailPhoto attribute, but the app still complains the user needs to have administrator access to upload a photo.

    what other permissions do I need to add?

    • Hi Josh,

      To use CodeTwo Active Directory Photos the user needs to have domain admin permissions.

      I’ve added the idea to enable using the software with limited permissions to the feature request list. We will research the topic to see if we can implement it.

      Best regards,

  8. Hi
    I tried your Little program and uploaded some photos. After some testing I removed them again but now not all photos have been removed. On some users there are still photos visible in the adressbook in Outlook Web Access although in the program they are no longer visible. Can you help me?

  9. Hello Mujizac,

    That’s great to hear! In the near future we will be starting work on a new freeware application, but at this point we are still open to ideas. Similarly to CodeTwo Active Directory Photos it should be an alternative to PowerShell scripting – any suggestions are welcome!

  10. Nice! I came looking for your exchange migration product, but this little program is handy. I’ve done this via exchange shell before, but it is much to cumbersome. I’m excited to try your tool.

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