Retrieve Active Directory User Photos in C#

Newer versions of Office (2010+) use Active Directory to retrieve and display user photos. It’s a useful feature that also adds visual interest. I can look quickly at the thumbnails at the bottom of an email or meeting request in Outlook to see who’s invited; this is much faster than reading through the semi-colon delimited list of email addresses.

I’m working on a TFS application that has some custom views. I thought it would be cool to display the user as a thumbnail instead of simply using their name. Doing this will add some pizzazz and, ultimately, result in a cleaner UI since vertical space is more abundant in my layout–it is less costly for me to show a 50×50 thumbnail than to display a 20×100 textbox.

So how do we do it? Like many tasks, the .NET Framework makes it relatively easy for us once we know what we’re doing. Here are the steps:

  1. Bind to a node in Active Directory Domain Services with the DirectoryEntry class
  2. Use the DirectorySearcher class to specify a search filter and find the desired user
  3. Extract the image bytes from the user properties
  4. Convert the bytes to a usable format

The method below accepts a username parameter, looks it up in AD, and binds the thumbnail to an Image. (Note that this is a WPF application, which is why I convert to the BitmapImage class. You may want to convert to a different type, like System.Drawing.Bitmap.)

private void GetUserPicture(string userName)
    var directoryEntry = new DirectoryEntry("LDAP://YourDomain");
    var directorySearcher = new DirectorySearcher(directoryEntry);
    directorySearcher.Filter = string.Format("(&(SAMAccountName={0}))", userName);
    var user = directorySearcher.FindOne();

    var bytes = user.Properties["thumbnailPhoto"][0] as byte[];

    using (var ms = new MemoryStream(bytes))
        var imageSource = new BitmapImage();
        imageSource.StreamSource = ms;

        uxPhoto.Source = imageSource;

Author: Adam Prescott

I'm enthusiastic and passionate about creating intuitive, great-looking software. I strive to find the simplest solutions to complex problems, and I embrace agile principles and test-driven development.

2 thoughts on “Retrieve Active Directory User Photos in C#”

  1. Hi- Thanks for sharing this. How would this work in an MVVM set up? Could you set ImageSource property of type BitMapImage on your viewModel and then bind to it?
    It doesn’t seem quite right to have a BitMapImage property type on the viewModel –


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