Thursday, April 21, 2016

User Photo in Exchange, Lync and Active Directory

There are several posts out there about how to upload users’ photos into Active Directory (AD) so they can be used by Exchange or Lync, but very few on how this works or how to export them if we need to.

In AD we can use images no greater than 96×96 pixels in resolution and 100KB or smaller in size. This looks ok in the Lync and Outlook client, but results in a blurred photo when Lync, for example, attempts to upscale the image for use in a conference.

In Lync 2013 (and Skype for Business Server 2015) photos can be stored in the user's mailbox (when using Exchange 2013), allowing for photo sizes up to 648x648 pixels. In addition to that, Exchange automatically resizes these photos for use in different products as needed:
  • 64x64 pixels (96 dpi, 24 bit depth, approx. 2KB), the size used for the AD thumbnailPhoto attribute. If we upload a photo to Exchange, Exchange will automatically create a 64x64 pixel version of that photo and update the user's thumbnailPhoto attribute. However, if we manually update the thumbnailPhoto attribute in AD the photo in the user's mailbox will not automatically be updated. This photo is only used by Lync 2010 or legacy clients, so we are ok;
  • 240x240 pixels if the original picture is larger than 240, otherwise 96 (96dpi, 24 bit depth, approx. 8KB), for use in Outlook, OWA, Skype for Business Web App, and Skype for Business;
  • 648x648 pixels for use in Skype for Business and Skype for Business Web App.

Importing Photos
To use high resolution photos, we have to use the Set-UserPhoto Exchange cmdlet:
Set-UserPhoto “Nuno Mota” -PictureData ([System.IO.File]::ReadAllBytes(“D:\Photos\nuno.jpg”)) –Confirm:$False

As already mentioned, the Set-UserPhoto cmdlet does two things: it stores a copy of a high resolution image in the user’s Exchange mailbox, and stores a copy of the photo as a 64×64 image in the thumbnailPhoto AD attribute.

Exporting Photos
To check someone’s photo, we can use Exchange Web Services and the following URL (updating the user’s email and maybe image size):
If we want to export a user’s photo from AD, we can PowerShell and the following commands:
$photo = (Get-ADUser nuno -Properties thumbnailphoto).thumbnailphoto

We can now save this photo into a JPEG file and or import it directly to a different user for example (useful if the user gets a new account):
Set-Content “D:\Photos\nuno.jpg” -Encoding byte
Set-ADUser mota -Replace @{thumbnailphoto = $photo}

However, if we are using Exchange 2013, we should use Exchange cmdlets to manage users’ photos. This way we can export the 648x648 pixels photo from the user’s mailbox instead of the small one from AD:
(Get-UserPhoto nuno).PictureData | Set-Content “D:\Photos\nuno.jpg” -Encoding byte

If you want to use high resolution photos in Lync as well, you might want to ensure you update your Lync Client policy with a MaxPhotoSizeKB of at least 100 instead of just 30.

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