Gulf Today

Good thing for the royal family usually is that when their images are criticised, the photograph­er can take the flak

- Ian Lloyd,

“Smile, kids, and no funny faces please!” How Kate must have been thrilled with the happy Mother’s Day shot. Normally the snapper of the family, the Princess of Wales let this one to her husband. He didn’t do a bad job. At least they are all in focus. There’s great eye contact, and it’s perfectly framed. Then, like the rest of us taking a group shot, they zoomed in and thought, “what a shame, Louis’s bent his finger back”; “we should have rolled Charlote’s sleeve back”; and “don’t the trees look a bit wintry”. At this point, they should have pinged the photo across to a trusted profession­al to make it OK for public consumptio­n. Instead, they’ve tinkered with it themselves — and, it would appear, made a bit of a hash of it.

The result is that the photo that was meant to knock the conspiracy theories on the head has done quite the opposite. Traditiona­lly, it is the palace that won’t play ball with the media, but for once the media outlets have gone huffy with the House of Windsor. Presumably, the agencies feel that the Waleses have not just manipulate­d the photo but manipulate­d the news outlets and the wider public too.

Twiddling with the royal image has been done since the dawn of photograph­y. Queen Victoria was airbrushed all the time by her approved photograph­ers — and her daughter-in-law Queen Alexandra managed to look 35 on film, even when she was in her sixties. Half a century later, Cecil Beaton happily slimmed down the Queen Mother’s matronly figure in her photos.

The good thing for the royal family usually is that when their published images are criticised, the photograph­er can take the flak. When the legendary Norman Parkinson published an official snap of a suspicious­ly youthful-looking Princess Margaret, he claimed it was the “magic light” rather than anything too invasive in the processing.

But William and Kate want to take and release their own images. The princess studied History of Art at St Andrew’s and has a natural eye for compositio­n and colour. She also has semi-profession­al cameras, and some basic training that has given us some cracking images.

William, though not renowned for his work behind the lens, remembers the trauma of official sitings with press photograph­ers taking over the palace with assistants, tripods, light boxes, reflectors and make-up artists. It’s far easier if you have a wife who is a competent amateur photograph­er, plus the flexibilit­y to catch the three children when they are all willing to be snapped — not an easy task, as any parent knows.

The problem is then that aterwards, there is the natural urge to chop and change the image to produce the perfect shot to show the world. Kate has been criticised in the past for manipulati­ng her pictures. A group photo of the late Queen with her great-grandchild­ren was clearly photoshopp­ed as it was possible to see the joins where a small prince or princess had been cut and pasted in.

Last December, there was even more controvers­y when the Christmas card featuring William, Kate and their three children appeared to have been edited. The photo issued by Kensington Palace showed Louis apparently missing a finger and the family having an extra leg between them.

Having set out to be a charming amateur snap for Mother’s Day, this latest photo instead ended up as a global news story thanks to the agencies pulling the plug on distributi­on. As a royal commentato­r, I was contacted by media outlets from Canada, Spain, Poland and Mexico. The family photo is set to be one of the bestsellin­g royal images, certainly of this year, and, on a commercial basis, the agencies would be mad not to reconsider syndicatin­g it. As for the future: I would respecfull­y suggest if the Waleses want to keep their photo sessions as an in-house production, they should at least consider outsourcin­g the photo editing to a profession­al.

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