Where Profile Photos come from in Office 365

Published on: November 14, 2017

At Hyperfish, we're known for our focus on profile information in Office 365 and beyond. The most common question I get is "where do profile photos come from that show up in Office 365?".

Much like everything in Office 365, its not that easy to explain because the service has been an amalgamtion of server products joined together and cloud-first new services bolted on. I've written posts before on where profile information comes from. But I want to specifically explain profile photos.

Where they come from?

There are four main stores for profile photos in Office 365 for each user:

  • the Azure Active Directory User object;
  • the Exchange mailbox;
  • the SharePoint User Profile; and
  • the Yammer Profile.

For hybrid organizations you can also add the Active Directory User object to this list also.

Where they appear


Profile photos appear in many services in Office 365 both in the browser, desktop, and mobile clients. The ones you will see the most are in Outlook and Skype for Business. These are the two most popular services in Office 365.

But don't forget, these also show in Microsoft Teams, Word/Excel/PowerPoint review comments, SharePoint/OneDrive created and modified by authors, Yammer and much more!

Here is a useful table to show this:

Store Clients that use it:
Azure Active Directory  
Exchange mailbox Outlook, People Cards (Outlook, SharePoint, OneDrive),  Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams
SharePoint User Profiles Delve, SharePoint, OneDrive
Yammer profile Yammer

You may have noticed recently that uploading your photo from your Delve profile, Skype for Business, or Microsoft Teams clients is a lot quicker to reflect across all these products. It used to take 72 hours to synchronize between these stores. A recent change means the People cards now grab the photo from Exchange mailbox rather than the SharePoint user profiles.

Initials are replacing silhouettes for blank photos

A recent change rolling out in all clients is a move from the former silhouette when a profile photo is missing  to showing their initials. From a functional perspective, its more useful to have a little variety when your fellow employees don't have their photos uploaded for sure.

Office 365 profile photo blank showing initials of user


Why profile photos are important

I wrote an article last month to talk about why profile photos are important.  Here are the key points the blog hits on:

  • to better remember interactions 
  • to find colleagues quicker
  • to understand "who is who" in a meeting
  • to recognize and connect with colleagues no matter where they work
  • to improve your digital brand in your organization
  • to embrace the cultural diversity of the organization

 So what are you waiting for...sign up for Hyperfish Lite for free today and let us help you automate the collection of profile photos from your users!


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