Uploading High Resolution User Profile Pictures in Office 365

April 10, 2015 4 By bernierh

In Office 365, you can upload profile pictures for each user’s contact card. The contact card will appear in Outlook, SharePoint, Lync, Word, Excel, PowerPoint… well, in any Office product that displays contact cards 🙂

Sample Contact Card in Outlook 2013

Sample Contact Card in Outlook 2013

While this isn’t a new concept to Office 2013, and this feature is available in On Premise installations, these articles focus on Office 365.

There are two ways to achieve this:

You’ll find all sorts of confusing information online regarding the dimensions, file size and format restrictions. I found that either of the two methods described in this article will work with almost any file sizes and dimensions.

There are, however, some best practices.

Choose Square Photos

Choose a square image as the source (i.e.: same width and height), otherwise the picture will be cropped when you upload and you may end up with portions of people’s faces being cropped out.

Example of a great picture, wrong shape… (Photo Credit: rubenshito)

Will be automatically cropped to:

Auto-cropped result.

Go for the Max

Lync 2010 supported the ability to view contact photos which were stored as part of the thumbnailPhoto attribute in Active Directory, meaning that pictures could only be 48×48 pixels.

However, Lync 2013 can now store photos in user’s Exchange 2013 mailbox, meaning that it supports images of up to 648×648 pixels.

When you upload a photo to Exchange 2013, it automatically creates 3 versions of the photo:

SizeUsed By
48×48Active Directory thumbnailPhoto attribute
96×96Outlook 2013 Web App
Outlook 2013
Lync Web App
Lync 2013
SharePoint
648×648Lync 2013
Lync Web App

If you only upload a smaller image (e.g.: 48×48), it’ll be scaled to 96×96 and 648×648, resulting in photos that look fuzzy. However, if you upload photos that are already 648×648. The system will automatically generate 48×48 and 96×96 thumbnails for you.

OriginalAuto-Scaled
imageimage image
imageimage image

(Photo Credit: rubenshito)

Note that if you upload a photo to the thumbnailPhoto in Active Directory, the photo will not be updated in Exchange. If you are lazy like me, you probably want to update photos only once.

My recommendation (and Microsoft’s) is to use 648×648 pixels, 24-bit JPG images.