The first time you set up a Mac or new user account, you’re asked to pick a profile picture for that account. Most of us set this image once and don’t think much about it, but that profile picture follows us around in OS X and is visible at each boot login menu, in the Fast User Switching menu, visible to other users with AirDrop, and plenty of other places in Mac OS X.
If you decide you want to change that user profile picture, perhaps to a more generic image, a mugshot, or a custom photo, you can do so at any time, and for any user account on the Mac. We’ll show you two ways to do this.
Changing a User Profile Picture in Mac OS X
- Open System Preferences from the Apple menu and then select “Users & Groups” from the panel list
- Select the user account to change from the left side (choose the current user to change your own), you must have admin privileges to change other users profile pictures
- Click the current profile picture to pull down a list of options, select any of the following:
- Defaults – the Apple included profile picture choices
- Recents – recently used profile photos (if you’ve changed it before, they will be listed here)
- iCloud – photos from iCloud will show up here, including pictures taken with the iPhone
- Faces – pictures identified as faces by iPhoto or Aperture
- Camera – opens the FaceTime Camera to take a new picture
- Choose an image, adjust if desired, then click “Done” to set as the new profile picture
- Close out of System Preferences
Using a Custom Image or Photo as the Profile Picture in Mac OS X
The first approach let’s you choose from either a variety of Apple bundled default options, iCloud pictures, and the FaceTime camera, but what if you have an image file you want to use as the profile picture instead? That’s also easy to change, you can do it with a simple drag and drop:
- Open the “Users & Groups” preference panel as usual
- Drag and drop an image file into the existing profile picture thumbnail
- Adjust as necessary and click “Done” to set the image as the profile picture
Dragging and dropping works best from a Finder window, like so:
You can use the little slider tool to both crop or zoom in and out on the picture, choosing “Done” sets the changed image as the profile picture for that Mac user.
Close out of System Preferences and go about your business, that’s all there is to it.
Remember that the profile picture is broadcasted to the world on AirDrop, so for users in public environments, you may want to aim for a boring and professional image.
This can also be a good trick to make a customized guest user account much more obvious, since by default the guest user it’s just a blank face image.