Contact Photos – Lync 2013

Historically, contact photos have been stored in one of two places; within the Active Directory ‘thumbnailphoto’ attribute for a given user object, or via a web server URL. The Active directory option is available to us again in Lync 2013, but as before it is only able to host images no greater than 96×96 pixels in resolution, and also has a 100KB size limit for said image. Naturally this looks fine in the Lync client contact list, but results in a blurred photo experience when Lync attempts to upscale the image for use in a conference for example. The second option of referencing a photo via a web server URL is still available in Lync 2013, but the ability to configure and manage this setting no longer exists in the new Lync client.

We now have a third option available to us with Lync 2013 – the ability to host our images in the mailboxes of an Exchange 2013 server. What’s more, these images do away with the aforementioned size constraints of AD and allow us to leverage Hi-Res photos with a resolution of 648×648. It’s important to note that this feature is not available in previous Exchange versions due to the lack of any Open Authentication standards on those editions. If you’re not using Exchange 2013 then your options are restricted to the AD and web server photo hosting solutions.

OK, now we’re familiar with our options, lets look at each of them in more detail.

Contact Photos via Active Directory (AD)

Any photo that you import into the ‘thumbnailphoto’ attribute of a user object in active directory will appear directly in Lync as that users contact photo. To view the attribute that we will be modifying, open up Active Directory Users & Computers and locate the user account that you wish to modify. You will need to turn on ‘Advanced Features’ from the view menu, and then look at the properties of the user account. Select the attribute editor tab and scroll all the way down to ‘thumbnailphoto’. The below images show a before import and after import state of the attribute – Note that you are not able to see the actual image from within AD.

The Microsoft method of importing photos into AD is to use the Exchange cmdlet ‘Import-RecipientDataProperty’ with the appropriate switches. The process is far from streamlined when it comes to importing many photos at once. Fortunately the ‘See a Need, Fill a Need’ philosophy has come into play, and there are more third party AD Photo Import tools than you can shake a stick at. A quick Google-whack will provide you with an appropriate tool for the purpose, such as Code Two Active Directory Photos or AD Bulk Image Editor to name a few, all of which offer friendly GUI’s. Be aware that a standard user (providing they have install rights for software) can also use these tools to change their own AD picture due to the inherent rights they have over their own attributes.

Once you’ve imported your Contact Photo into AD, the image will appear immediately in Lync (you will need to sign out and back into Lync). As an AD hosted photo, the image will be at 96×96 resolution, and Lync will attempt to scale this image up as required for conferences etc. The image to the left shows how image blur will occur the more Lync attempts to increase its resolution as required.

Keep the following points in mind if you choose to host your contact photos in AD:

1.) Your images should be 96×96 resolution
2.) An AD hosted photo will not be seen by external / federated contacts
3.) Each image can be no more than 100KB in size
4.) ‘Import-RecipientDataProperty’ has a 10KB limit despite ADs 100KB limit
5.) Large enterprises should consider the impact on the size of their AD database
6.) AD photos will not meet all the resolution requirements that Lync will leverage
7.) By default, any user has permission to change their own AD thumbnail attribute

Contact Photos via Web URL

Lync will allow you to publish images to a web server directory, and then configure a Lync account to reference that image URL as a contact photo for a user. In Lync 2010, the URL could be configured from within the Lync 2010 desktop client, this feature was initially removed from the Lync 2013 desktop client, but the underlying functionality is still present. In short – you could still use web URLs for contact photos, you just couldn’t configure them using the 2013 client. The below images show the difference between 2010 (left) and 2013 (right) ’My Picture’ options, and how the web address option has been removed. As a side note, the greyed out ’Edit or Remove Picture’ button only becomes active if you are using Exchange hosted photos, the final option we’ll look at shortly.

So, we have an issue if we want to leverage this in an environment that consists of 2013 clients, as the setting doesn’t exist in the client options menu. Granted, you can install a 2010 client solely to configure this setting and then uninstall it and the photo will stick for your 2013 client. In the same vein, if you had a contact photo configured via web URL on your 2010 client and then upgraded to 2013, you won’t lose the photo – you just won’t be able to see or change that URL anymore – far from practical. Further disappointment comes from the fact that there is no ‘out of the box’ way to deploy URL referenced contact photos en masse, so you would need to do this on an individual basis.

Fortunately the community has been hard at work (again), and there are a number of scripts available that will address both of the aforementioned short comings. xilxyu’s Add-CsPhoto is one such script that also allows you to reference a CSV file for working with a large number of users.

Keep the following points in mind if you choose to reference URL’s for contact photos:

1.) If you want external / federated contacts to see your photo you can use this method
2.) The size limit is dictated by the ‘MaxPhotoSizeKB’ attribute in the Lync Client policy
3.) The default value of the above attribute is 30KB
4.) You are not restricted in image resolution outside the ‘MaxPtohoSizeKB’ limit

We hope you enjoyed learning about contact photos in Lync 2013. To learn more about Directions’ Lync training offerings, Click Here or contact us at 855.575.8900.