A lot of photographers will use editing software when it comes to portraits and nobody usually minds much, but the latest picture of the newly recovered Princess of Wales with her children has not quite gone to plan

The image, taken by Prince William, was released by Kensington Palace to mark Mothers Day and the Princess of Wales’s recent discharge from hospital for abdominal surgery.

It was widely published, but then questions about its authenticity started to be asked. No less than four top international photo agencies, including the Associated Press and Reuters, later withdrew the image, issuing a dramatic-sounding Kill Notice. ‘At closer inspection, it appears that the source has manipulated the image,’ a spokesperson for the Associated Press told the Telegraph. ‘The photo shows an inconsistency in the alignment of Princess Charlotte’s left hand.’

Princess of Wales editing controversy
The full image. Credit: Prince of Wales/AP

An off the cuff image

AP has examined the picture, and an area shows that Princess Charlotte’s sleeve isn’t quite in line with her hand – and there’s also a slight ghost outline of her cuff. This is consistent with the published photo being a composite of two frames which have been combined together using photo-editing software such as Photoshop, presumably for no other reason than to make sure everyone has a perfect smile at the same time.

This editing is entirely understandable in a portrait for social media, but clearly didn’t match up to the strict standards press agencies require for news photos.

Princess of Wales editing controversy
The Princess of Wales is a photographer herself and patron of the RPS

After Kensington Palace was accused of failing to respond to the fast-escalating story, the Princess of Wales later confirmed in a tweet that she’d edited the picture. ‘Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing,’ she said on X/Twitter. ‘I wanted to express my apologies for any confusion the family photograph we shared yesterday caused. I hope everyone celebrating had a very happy Mother’s Day. C.’

Decoding this, the message seems to be ‘I’m only an amateur and don’t do editing very often,’ but still, the image was presented as ‘official,’ hence the massive interest in the story. It will also doubtless feed a lot of unhinged conspiracy theories about the Princess’s actual health.

The Daily Mail, for instance, proclaimed ‘The Palace Can No Longer Be Trusted,’ which seems something of an over-reaction to some ham-fisted Photoshopping.

The Princess of Wales is a keen photographer and was named a patron of the Royal Photographic Society in 2019. In future, she might wish to check out AP’s in-depth guides to photo-editing here.

Further reading
Best subscription free editing software in 2024
The amazing inside stories of photographing the Queen