How to add, change or remove photos in Active Directory

[Update]: This post was updated on March 6, 2020.

Uploading photos to Active Directory lets you display them in SharePoint, Skype for Business and Lync or in Outlook 2010, 2013, 2016 internal emails, GALs and contacts. In this blog post I will discuss a free tool from CodeTwo that allows you to easily bulk upload, export and remove Active Directory photographs without using PowerShell.

How to add user photos in Active Directory

There are two known ways of updating Active Directory images. They require using either the 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 let’s forget about that. The EMS procedure is less complicated but equally cumbersome because it uses Import-RecipientDataProperty cmdlets and doesn’t allow for bulk uploads or imports. It also requires you to prepare all image files to meet Active Directory photo requirements prior to uploading them.

So, to make uploading easier, we created a free tool called CodeTwo Active Directory Photos. It supports bulk photo actions in Active Directory like adding, editing and removing images from AD for multiple or individual users.

How to bulk upload user photos to Active Directory without PowerShell?

Uploading employees’ photographs to Active Directory using CodeTwo’s free tool is very easy and can be done in just a few steps:

  1. Download and install CodeTwo Active Directory Photos (it’s free) on your Windows Server or on any other computer with access to Active Directory (and with permissions to modify AD contents). Launch it. Here you can check the supported platforms and system requirements.
  2. Select an Active Directory container on the left. You will see a list of available users in the selected AD container in the Users and Contacts section. If a user already has a photo, it will be displayed next to the user’s name.
    CodeTwo Active Directory Photos - dashboard.
  3. To upload photos for all users in the chosen container, select them in the Users and Contacts section (you can use the Ctrl+A key combination to select all contacts or hold Ctrl and select individual users by clicking on them).
    Upload AD photos for selected users.
  4. Once you have selected the users, click the Import button on the toolbar to upload their photos.
    Import button
  5. In the Import photos window, specify the path to the folder containing user photos you want to upload, set the file name pattern and click Automatch to upload the photos.

    Note: The program can automatically match photos to users based on the file name pattern and Active Directory fields like First name, Last name, Title, etc. To use this feature, make sure that the image file names follow the file naming pattern you set up in the program.
    Choose file name pattern to auto match users with their AD photos
  6. In the Match photos window, you can see users who already have their photos uploaded and those who need manual matching. To manually upload photos of selected users, click the upload icon next to the avatar.
    Upload individual user photo
  7. When you select a photo, the Edit photo window will open. You can use it to make some adjustments like resizing or rotating the image.

    Note: If you are not sure if your images meet the AD requirements (for example, they are bigger than 100kb), don’t worry. The program will properly process them anyway.
    Edit AD photo
  8. Click OK to upload the photograph. If you have more users without a matching photo, click Next to proceed the next image.

Once the images are sent to Active Directory, you will see them synchronized to Outlook 2010/2013/2016 emails:

 contacts and GALs:

Lync, Skype for Business and SharePoint:

If you would like to change any of the photos, simply upload another one for selected or all users. If you want to remove the photos of selected users, use the Remove button or the trash bin icon next to the picture.

Active Directory photos in email signatures

You can also add Active Directory pictures to email signatures in external emails. To do this, you have to use CodeTwo Active Directory Photos with our solution for email signature management – CodeTwo Exchange Rules or CodeTwo Exchange Rules Pro.

See also:

Tools for Microsoft 365

23 thoughts on “How to add, change or remove photos in Active Directory

  1. I just installed and when I open my users folder the app only shows 1 user!?

    There are 88 users in there. Anything I’m doing wrong?

    • Hi Richard,
      Just to be sure, check all AD containers listed in the program, make sure your connection with the server works well and finally, check if you have Read personal information and Write personal information permissions set.

    • 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}

  2. 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,

  3. 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?


  4. 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.

  5. 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,

  6. 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.

  7. 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,

  8. 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,

  9. 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?

  10. 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!

  11. 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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