Tip: Get high res photos for contacts on your WP7 device

Have you experienced this problem? You get your new Windows Phone, you sync up your contacts and then you add a few to the Start screen, using those nifty dynamic squares. And then you notice it: the terrible, crappy resolution and blurriness. You think to yourself: "That's not how it looks on the commercial!"

Well, we think we figured it out. It's not Microsoft's fault and it's not a bug. We're going to bet you sync with our frienemy Google, right?

That's the culprit. Google. Don't believe me or think we're alone? See here and here for starters.

What happens is when you take a photo on your phone, add it to contacts and then it syncs back to Google's servers they then downsize the photo and resync it back to you. Awesome, eh?

What is the solution? There are two and we'll detail both after the break...

The Microsoft Live solution

Probably the easiest.  Assuming you've synced your Google contacts with your Live contacts (simply export as a .CSV and import into Live) you'll have linked accounts for all of your contacts one for Google, one for Windows Live.

  1. Find the contact with the terrible photo and hit "edit" (the Pencil icon) 
  2. Select "Edit Windows Live"
  3. Select "Add Photo"
  4. Add your high resolution photo; crop if necessary
  5. Save

That's it. Windows Phone 7 gives priority to the Windows Live contact photo over Google's. Now, on your pinned contact on the start screen, it should be the nice shiny high res one.

The downside is you have to do that for all your contacts with crappy photos. Sorry, there's no easy way around that. Blame Google for getting you in this mess.

The Google Solution (?)

We haven't tried this one ourselves but it should work.

  1. Log into your Google account
  2. Settings --> General (1st tab)
  3. Under "Contacts' pictures" select "Only show pictures that I've chosen for my contacts"
  4. Save, exit

Now if you edit a contact on your phone and add a high resolution photo, it should stay that way when you sync back and forth.

Overall, it's a pain to have to go through this but in our opinion, it's worth it. Those high res pinned contact photos look fantastic on Windows Phone 7, so why not take advantage of it, while also moving away from Google's lame low-res imagery? (Oh and the same poor quality image issue is present on Android devices too, so don't feel bad).

Hope that helps.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • Adding custom contact pics doesnt work on the Windows Live website, the pictures are automatically pulled from the contacts live account and if they dont have one you cant assign one manually. And the ones assigned on the phone dont sync to Windows Live either, so you will always have to do this manually anytime you change your phone. I dont sync with google and have this exact problem, stupid Microsoft as well.
  • Ah, that is bad. Thanks for the clarification.
  • i dont understand this article. Why is google the culprit? what if we dont use gmail? is it still the culprit? or does this article imply everyone uses gmail?
  • If you use Gmail (and sync contacts) and you have poor contact photos then Google is the culprit. If not, then your problem lies elsewhere, most likely the contact photos are just poor quality. Fact is, for many who use Gmail/contacts, it will downgrade the contact photo.
  • Erm, so the tip wasn't a tip because you hadn't actually done it and it's actually not possible through Windows Live??
  • ?? I've done exactly what I've said on my device--it works. Add high res photos to the linked Windows Live account and you'll have high res pics. The only thing you can't do is the reverse: add photos on the Live website and have them sync downwards.
  • If you use Exchange, you can do all of this using Outlook on your PC.
  • My phone pulls the contact photo from Facebook. So if the Facebook photos are crappy, then the end result on the phone is the same.
  • "So if the Facebook photos are crappy, then the end result on the phone is the same."
    Well, that's different. We're talking if the source photo is good, then it becomes crappy. If a photo starts crappy, you can't make it better. But are you also saying replacing it with a high rez Windows Live photo won't work?
  • @Daniel Rubino : Sorry for the confusion. I was merely stating that I chose to have the Facebook contact photos be the default. Most of them are great, but there are a couple that are 'meh'.
    I never added contact photos to my Windows Live contacts. I used Windows MyPhone under WinMo 6.1 to backup and organize my contacts and they mostly had contact photos that I chose/edited. I should have taken the time to sync my WinMo 6.1 phone with my Live account which would have synced the contacts and photos to Live then they would have been all there for my Samsung Focus. I was just too damned eager to start using my Focus.
  • Ill probably be using facebook for the contact photo as well.
  • WP7 defaults to the Facebook photo, even if linked contacts have photos. But you can change this.
  • This is only for G-mail users, so I'm cool. I use Live. :P
  • But what about the Facebook pictures. When my friend uploads his new profile picture, it saves to my phone but during call, it look blurred. What ia the solution for this?
  • Its a article of 4 years ago. People are still facing this problem in WP 8.1. Google settings are also chaged. Can you please update the procedure???