Learn more about how you can spruce up the contacts on your iPhone by associating a photo or image with each one.

A person holding an iPhone.
Image: Jenny Ueberberg/Unsplash

You maintain a list of contacts on your iPhone, and you’d like to see a photo of each contact with whom you speak by phone or communicate by text. You can accomplish this by adding a specific image to their entry in the Contacts app.

First, you need a photo of that person. You then add that photo to their Contacts entry, where you can adjust it and apply specific filters. The photo appears in the person’s Contacts entry and appears on the screen during a phone call, a text message or a FaceTime audio call. Here’s how this works.

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Adding a photo or image to an iPhone contact

First, you need a photo of a specific contact or contacts. You may already have one in your iPhone photo library. If not, you might be able to find one online or through social media. If you still come up empty, you can simply ask the person to send you a photo of them. However you obtain the photo, save it to your iPhone photo library.

Next, open the Contacts app on your iPhone. Tap the entry of a contact for whom you want to add a photo or other image. You’ll see a generic image with the person’s initials. That’s what you want to replace. Tap the Edit link, and then, tap Add Photo underneath the current generic image (Figure A).

Figure A

Choosing a contact on an iPhone.
Choose a contact, and select Add Photo.

Assuming you’ve obtained a photo of the person, tap the Photos icon (the second one from the left on the top row). Browse to the person’s photo in your library, and select it (Figure B).

Figure B

Selecting and adjusting a contact photo on iPhone.
Choose a photo, and make any necessary adjustments.

At the next screen, move the photo with one finger to position it within the circular frame. If necessary, use your two fingers to pinch the photo to shrink it to better fit within the circle. After you’ve adjusted the photo appropriately, tap Choose (Figure C).

Figure C

Scaling a contacts image on iPhone.
You can zoom in or out for a better angle.

At the next screen, you can apply different filters to the photo. One filter brightens the image. Another adds more red. Another adds more blue. A fourth one applies a black and white filter. After you’ve selected the filter you like, tap Done. At the next screen, tap Done again. Tap Done once more. The photo now appears in the entry for that contact (Figure D).

Figure D

Adding a filter to a contact image on iPhone.
Add a filter to your contact image.

A photo of a person isn’t always required. You probably have entries for businesses and organizations in your Contacts app. In that case, you may want to obtain a photo of a logo or a building or other image that represents the business and then add that to the organization’s entry (Figure E).

Figure E

Choosing an image for the Acme Inc contact on iPhone.
Choose an image you think represents the contact.

If you don’t have a photo or associated image

If you don’t have or can’t find a photo or associated image, there are other options. Select a contact, tap Edit and then, select Add Photo. If the contact is nearby, ask if they would allow a photo to be taken. If so, tap the camera icon to snap a picture (Figure F).

Figure F

Taking a photo of a statue to use as a contact image on iPhone.
Take a photo to use as a contact image.

If you still can’t get a photo or other image, tap the Smiley face icon and select from a wide range of emojis available through iOS. After choosing an emoji, tap the heading for Style to pick a background color. When finished, tap Done (Figure G).

Figure G

Side-by-side screens of an iPhone contact, a barner pole emoji, and the same contact with the emoji used as the contact photo.
Choose an emoji to apply.

Alternatively, tap the pencil icon to create an image by typing your own text of up to two letters. Tap the heading for Style, and pick a background color. Tap Done (Figure H).

Figure H

iPhone contact with the default image being the initials RM with a gray background being changed to MC with a red background
Create an image with initials and a preferred color.

There are still more options. Swipe down the screen to the Memoji section and select a Memoji that you’d like to add to this contact’s entry. Tap See More to view more Memoji. Swipe down further to the More section, and select one of the predefined emoji. Tap the Style heading to select a background color (Figure I).

Figure I

Choosing the dog memoji for an iPhone contact.
Choose a Memoji to apply.

You can always change the associated photo or image. Open the contact’s entry and tap Edit. Tap Edit underneath the existing image. Now choose a different photo, emoji or other image, and follow the same steps to add and apply the image (Figure J).

Figure J

Side-by-side screens of an iPhone contact, a distorted image of a man's face and the contact now with the distorted image as the contact photo.
Choose a new photo to apply.

After you’ve added the appropriate photos or images to as many of your contacts as you wish, now it’s time to see the photo in action. The next time you receive a phone call from that contact, you’ll see the person’s image on the calling screen. Receive a text from the person, and you’ll see the image on the messaging screen. Receive a FaceTime audio call from the contact, and their photo will fill up the screen (Figure K).

Figure K

Receive a text from the person, and you'll see the image on the messaging screen. Receive a FaceTime audio call from the contact, and their photo will fill up the screen
Receive a text from the person, and you’ll see the image on the messaging screen. Receive a FaceTime audio call from the contact, and their photo will fill up the screen.

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