The King of Photoshop fails? The PR of retracting Kate Middleton’s photo

royal family portrait Kate Middleton

Robin Sefiani: “Was it an overreaction by global photo agencies or are some institutions (The Royals) held to higher account?”

The Princess of Wales has allegedly taken responsibility for the photo at the centre of a global publicity storm after Associated Press pulled the image from distribution, claiming it had been “manipulated by the source”.

Almost 24 hours after the image was published on the Prince and Princess of Wales’ official Instagram account, a statement was posted to the same account’s Stories from “C”: “Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing. I wanted to express my apologies for any confusion the family photograph we shared yesterday caused.”

The statement came after a global furore erupted over the image, the first official image since the Princess of Wales was reported to be going to the hospital for abdominal surgery. 

The Associated Press, AFP, Getty Images and Reuters all pulled the image from their systems on Monday, after an AP spokesperson said, “at closer inspection it appears that the source has manipulated the image”.

PR and communications specialist and president of ANZ and reputation counsel at Sefiani Communications, Robyn Sefiani, said: “If indeed the photo has been manipulated to present a picture of health when the reality may not be entirely true, the public’s trust in future Royal communiques will have been significantly eroded.”

Upon the clarifying statement taking being released, Sefiani added: “As the English bard Shakespeare would have said: Much Ado About Nothing.

“But was it an overreaction by global photo agencies or are some institutions (The Royals) held to higher account?”

Despite the explanation of her recovering from surgery, the internet did as the internet tends to do and came up with a series of increasingly more off-the-walls conspiracies to explain her absence. Her break from public life has been explained away by everything from divorcing Prince William to growing out a bad haircut – or being lost in the Glasgow Willy Wonka experience.


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Released for Mother’s Day in the UK, the official image of Kate and her three children, George, Charlotte, and Louis, was captioned thanking supporters for their “kind wishes and continued support over the last two months,” however it was not the caption that caught people’s attention.

Allegations of doctoring were first made by Associated Press, which put out a Kill Notice for the image, with a spokesperson telling the Telegraph, “At closer inspection, it appears that the source has manipulated the image.”

Amongst other issues in the image, the agency called out “an inconsistency in the alignment of Princess Charlotte’s left hand.”

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The alleged evidence of image manipulation

Other photo agencies including Agence France-Presse, Reuters, and Getty Images followed suit in putting out Kill Notices to stop the further distribution of the image – however, at the time of writing, it still remains up on the family’s Instagram account.

With questions about Kate Middleton’s whereabouts intensifying with every passing day, it’s a rare PR misstep for the Royal Family.

Digging past the headlines, founder of PR and communications agency, Keep Left, Caroline Catterall, wrote that it would be “fascinating to see this unfold.” 

“Given the rumours around Kate, this terrible image and the media issuing a ‘Kill Notice’ (awful wording) is going to give the tabloids exactly what they want. Drama.”

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