Dodgy press pics: Brand lessons from furore over Royal pic


They say a picture can paint a thousand words, but in our image-laden, digital world, the message can get lost or even damage your brand, as a single picture of the Princess of Wales with her three children proved this weekend.

The handling of the image and questions around its authenticity have shone a negative light on the Royal brand.

Royals image tainted?

In case you missed this – Kensington Palace issued a lovely family pic of Kate Middleton with her lovely three children in order to serve the double purpose of celebrating Mother’s Day and providing an opportunity to show the Princess of Wales looking healthy and happy, following her recent operation, and subsequent speculation about her absence.

However, within hours of the image being published, some eagle-eyed fans noticed something not quite right with young Princess Charlotte’s left hand in the photo, as it appeared to be rather disconcertingly separated from her arm.

Closer inspection revealed yet more issues with other parts of the image, including an issue with Kate’s jacket zip, irregularities with Charlotte’s skirt and her hair line.

Questions over whether Kensington Palace had manipulated the image began to fly and four of the world’s leading news and photo agencies  Associated Press, Getty Images, Reuters, and AFP, pulled the image after closer scrutiny showed that it didn’t meet their strict publication guidelines.

The image was still on the Kensington Palace X feed (below), at the time of writing.

The Associated Press said: “The Associated Press initially published the photo, which was issued by Kensington Palace.

“The AP later retracted the image because at closer inspection, it appears that the source had manipulated the image in a way that did not meet AP’s photo standards.

“The photo shows an inconsistency in the alignment of Princess Charlotte’s left hand.”

French national agency AFP, wrote: “It has come to light that the Handout issued by Kensington Palace today of Kate and the kids had been altered, therefore it was withdrawn from AFP systems.’

Getty Images said: “Earlier today our picture desk identified a problematic image provided to Getty Images by Kensington Palace.

“We can confirm the image in question was removed from our site in accordance with our editorial policy.”

Reuters simply wrote: “We are removing this image following a post publication review.”

What brands and agencies can learn from this is that images are more important than ever these days.

They are arguably as important than the words that PR agencies put so much effort into crafting for a company press release, because the image must carry the weight of the ‘click’ nature of the digital world on its shoulders.

Basically, if your picture isn’t interesting enough, it will likely see fewer people clicking it to get to the story you’re trying to tell.

The crowded digital and social media worlds we all inhabit are vying for our attention constantly, so weak or questionable images will either leave your brand in the shadows, or worse, as is the case for the Royal PR team right now, battling a negative reaction for all the wrong reasons.

Visual questions: Highlighted are just some of the issues people have found with Royal picture.

At Mediashotz, we put great stock in trying to make sure the brilliant agencies we work with understand the additional value they can bring to clients in understanding what makes a good image for a PR story.

Photos of logos and images with headlines plastered over them should be avoided, but clever brandshots, product photos and in action images can yield great results.

Imagine putting all your efforts into a perfectly crafted press release only to decide that the lead image that will ‘sell’ the story just isn’t as important as all the words.

It is not something that can be dealt with as an afterthought, and there is huge risk in leaving the choice of how a brand should be visually represented to an editor or reporter.

The Kensington Palace press team are now under growing pressure to explain the alleged editing errors.

It may be a simple case of the creator, which some suggest was the Princess of Wales, just trying to tidy up an otherwise innocuous photo.

However, in the absence of any official comment on the image and its altered nature, speculation over it and, by extension the health of the princess and the condition of the Royal Family, remains rife.


Following publication of this article, in which we suggested that perhaps this was simply an innocent, if clumsy, ‘tidy up’ by the creator, on Monday, the Princess of Wales posted an apology to the family’s X page.

“Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing”, the Princess wrote.

“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”