An icon needs to be 32 x 32 pixels, and so you need to resize the picture to this size. I us Serif Photoplus 6 for this which can be obtained from click here but I guess any software will do. I then export the resized picture as a .bmp and then change the file type to .ico (ignoring the warning about the file may become unstable – as it’s not the end of the world if it does!).
If you are using photographs at that size they are going to be pretty indistinguishable. I have had some success with, for example, cropping a portion of the photo out (say a head) and using that to make the icon. For example, I have pictures of my sons as icons on their folders.
I have also had some success making icons from some bits of clip art and if you are reasonably adept at using Paint you can actually create your own pictures to use as icons (I’m rubbish at that sort of thing so stick to pictures that somebody has drawn/taken!).
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