How Princess Kate’s ‘damning’ photo fail became a royal headache

Kate, William seen together for first time in months

Source: Sky News

Designed to quell speculation about the health of the Princess of Wales, a photograph of Kate and her three children has instead backfired.

Taken by William, the Prince of Wales – released to mark Britain’s Mother’s Day – royal watchers immediately noticed anomalies in the image, and within hours it was “killed” by the Associated Press and other news agencies, confirming it appeared to have been manipulated in violation of news agency photo guidelines.

Within 24 hours, Kate, 42, owned the mistake and admitted she was an amateur photographer, apologising for any “confusion” over her editing skills.

The edited photo poured fuel on conspiracy theories circulating since Kate, one of the most senior working royals, disappeared after planned abdominal surgery in January, followed by William pulling out of a memorial service for his godfather, King Constantine of Greece.

Computer technology experts, photographers and online sleuths who love a good meme have taken over what is trending as “photogate”, with some speculating Kate’s face was a photo of her from a 2016 Vogue cover shoot.

Dr TJ Thomson, senior lecturer in visual communication and digital media at RMIT University in Melbourne, scrutinised the photograph, and conducted his own “eyeball” experiment.

Thomson, who said he has used photo editing tools for decades, reckons there’s a “90 per cent possibility or so it’s a match”.

“Overlaying the June 2016 British Vogue cover over the later-retracted image distributed by the Associated Press and also posted by the royals on Instagram does highlight obvious similarities between the two images,” he told The New Daily.

“The positioning of the smile, the teeth, and the chin is almost exactly the same.

“There is different lighting in both images and Kate’s eyes seem to be open slightly wider in the Instagram image but uncanny parallels exist between the two images.”

Thomson said digital forensic tools would be needed to verify these claims: “When we muck around in Photoshop and other editing apps, it disrupts those patterns invisible to our eyes but it lets the computer pick up on those edits.”

UK digital specialist was among the first to investigate the photo.

Why the substitute?

London public relations and crisis communications expert Mark Borkowski told People magazine that in trying to share a new image with the public, the palace made things worse.

“Now some people are asking if it is all generated by AI or is it a Photoshop of a photo taken,” he said.

“It’s not something you’d want the royal brand to be aligned with.

“The difficulty now is because there is so little information about what’s happening to Kate, if they were going to project things are all normal in this way – with a photo that is now deemed to be fake – it is pretty damning about the floundering and the poor decision making that’s going on.”

After Kate’s apology was shared on social media, she was seen with William in a car leaving Windsor Castle on March 11 (local time) as proof of life.

But why would Kensington Palace approve the release of an altered family portrait, which may (or may not) have an earlier substituted image of Kate’s face?

Now, British politicians and royal watchers are asking for transparency.

Britain’s Security Minister Tom Tugendhat said it was “important what we put out is honest, and that we record situations accurately” while a former UK Parliamentary candidate asked for the speculation to stop.

“I’m sure that whatever was altered can’t be that bad. Can it?” asked Jim Ferguson.

“I do find it hard to believe that with a myriad of people with the technical ability within royal circles to properly edit and oversee a Photoshopped pic that this occurred.

“It’s odd to say the least. Release the original if there is nothing to hide and put a stop to the speculation.”

‘Put the phone down William’

Meanwhile, it was only a matter of time before the photo controversy sparked memes across the internet.

From Anatomy of a Fall‘s star dog, Messi, and his fake paws used as a funny prop at the 96th Academy Awards, to Woody’s famous Toy Story scene waving Buzz Lightyear’s arm to reassure his fellow toys Buzz is still alive.

Kate’s apology post has so far received 357,000 comments, including one fan offering William his own Photoshop tutorials for £50 ($97) to how to use Google’s Pixel 8 Best Take photo editing feature.

Or, go old school and bring in an official royal photographer and pool the pic.

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