Princess Catherine apologises for altering family portrait


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Catherine, Princess of Wales has apologised for altering a Mother’s Day family portrait as international news agencies withdrew the photograph from circulation after discovering signs of digital manipulation.

The picture, which shows the Princess of Wales in a family setting with her three children, was the first to be released since she underwent abdominal surgery in January.

The photograph was issued by Kensington Palace after weeks of speculation over her recovery, which has been fuelled by a prolonged absence from the public eye.

The family portrait with the areas of digital manipulation highlighted
The family portrait with the areas of digital manipulation highlighted © Prince of Wales/Kensington Palace/AFP via Getty Images

But rather than quashing speculation the image has had the opposite effect, sparking a fresh round of gossip on social media. In the photo parts of Princess Charlotte’s sweater sleeve appeared to be missing, alongside other discrepancies.

“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. I hope everyone celebrating had a very happy Mother’s Day,” the Princess of Wales posted on X on Monday.

A number of the world’s largest picture agencies, including PA, Agence France-Presse, Getty, Reuters and Associated Press withdrew the image, issuing a so-called “kill” notice, telling their clients not to publish the picture.

News agencies have a commitment to ensure the accuracy of photos they release. Reuters said it withdrew the “handout” photo following a post-publication review. PA stated it had removed it “in the absence of clarification from Kensington Palace on the veracity of the image”.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press said “at closer inspection it appears that the source has manipulated the image”.

According to AP’s policy, “images must always be accurate” with no alteration or digital manipulation of the content of a photo or video except for certain “minor adjustments”.

These adjustments include cropping, elimination of dust on camera sensors and scratches on scanned negatives or scanned prints and normal toning and colour alterations.

PA’s ‘kill’ notice
PA’s ‘kill’ notice © Prince of Wales/Kensington Palace/PA Wire

However, changes to the density, contrast, colour and saturation levels of an image that substantially alter the original scene are not acceptable. Even the removal of “red eye” from photographs is not permissible.

The use of artificial intelligence tools commonly available on most smartphones has made such rules difficult to police, however, given the ease with which people can now make real-time alterations.

Speculation over the photo is an uncomfortable reminder of the fraught relationship that exists between the press and royal family, raising concerns over trust between the two.

Kensington Palace had announced that the Princess of Wales was undergoing abdominal surgery in January, without providing details other than that it was not cancer related.

The palace had also asked the press not to intrude on the princess’ privacy during her recovery, stating she would not be able to undertake public duties until after Easter.

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