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Kat and her kids the royal photoshop fiasco

This post is about the Royal Photoshop fiasco. I have no real interest in the Royal family; I live in California, have never been to England, and didn’t know who Kate was until I read deeper into this story. It caught my interest because it highlights Photoshop and photo editing.

The English press has been all over the story. Kate had not been in public for quite some time, and speculation was rampant: many of the stories were not complementary to Kate or the family. Then Kate revealed she had Cancer, which was highlighted in a short video, causing some to apologize for their remarks. It’s all a bigger store across the pond, as they say than here in the States.

Royal Photoshop Fiasco

The Mother’s Day photograph (Mother’s Day in England was March 10th this year) of Kate Middleton, the Princess of Whales, with her children has set off a firestorm of controversies over a royal Photoshop fiasco. Several areas of the photo were poorly edited, and expert photo editors pointed out several inconsistencies in the image.

News outlets took the photo down. Kate later apologized,  saying that as an amateur photographer, she uses Photoshop and may have hurried with some edits before letting the photograph into the public eye. Now, if this were anyone else’s photograph, I don’t think anyone would have noticed Kate’s minor editing errors. They make no noticeable difference to the final image.

As a Photoshop user for many years, I have made mistakes throughout the years but got away with it, so to speak, because most people do not look too closely at photo details as they did this one, and most of my customers are not photograph editors. Plus, the mistakes don’t take anything away from the original photograph.

So, in the Royal family photo above, the tile on the bottom left corner of the image is not quite right, or the wrist is a bit off, but that does not take away from the overall appeal of the photograph. But in this case, the world was watching. Interest in the Royals, specifically Kate, was high after her surgery, so people would look closely and spot those small details. People the world over have created this Royal Photoshop fiasco.

Image editing: yes for portraits and weddings, No for journalism. 

Photoshop is an amazing tool, and the things you can accomplish with it are quite astonishing. I learn new things almost every day. Over the last year, with the introduction of AI technology, I find myself saying “wow” more and more when it can remove things that I find distracting from an image. How does it know I want to remove that strand of hair and not that button along with it in that portrait?

I edit a lot of my images for my customers. It’s part of the business of portrait photography. My job is to make people look a little better than in real life. I like to say everyone needs a little polish. But in the news business, this is a big no-no.

Many news outlets that originally ran the story soon removed the photo from their sites because they discovered the royal photoshop attempt. . Manipulation, beyond lightening or darkening an image, is not allowed in professional journalism, and photographers who do it could lose their jobs.

In my realm of photography, portraits and, in the past, weddings, photographers would lose their jobs if they did not edit their images. My job is to make my subjects look like a more polished example of themselves. That was undoubtedly what Kate was trying to do when she did the royal Photoshop work on her photograph. She just went a little too far.

Just one more little edit.

Sometimes, with Photoshop, you end up going too far. Because you can do it, you do. Sometimes, the hardest part of editing is to say, “OK, I am done.” You see something else that can be improved and improve the photograph, so you keep working on it.

You may have read about the world of journalism and why they pulled the royal image from the sites because they discovered the manipulation. In that realm of photography, that is a big no-no. Manipulation is not allowed in good journalism, and photographers who do it could lose their jobs. In my view of photography, portraits, and, in the past, weddings, photographers would lose their jobs if they didn’t.

My job is to make my subjects look like a more polished example of themselves. That was undoubtedly what Kate was trying to do when she did the Photoshop work on her photograph. She just went a little too far.

Sometimes, with Photoshop, you end up going too far because you can, you do, so to speak. Sometimes, the hardest part of editing is to say, “OK, I’m done.” You see something else that can be improved and improve the photo, so you keep working on it.

Editing has always been done. 

When I was working on The Campus, the newspaper at the College of the Sequoias, back in the 1970s, we didn’t have that issue. That was the film era, and we could do some basic darkroom manipulations to make our photos a little better, but removing distractions, moving heads, and the almost unlimited things you can do with Photoshop would have been considered crazy talk then.

But some things could be done. I remember attending the Journalism Association of Community College’s yearly expo in Southern California. There was a seminar about the famous photojournalist W. Eugine Smith, one of my hero photographers. The seminar was about one of his most famous Life Magazine photo essays, “A Man of Mercy,”  about Albert Switzer; one of the photos had a hand and a saw handle in the foreground. The story was that Smith had spent a couple of days in the darkroom, adding that hand and saw handle into that photo to make it that photo tell a little better story. No one knew it had been done for years. Now, it would have taken just a few minutes with Photoshop. Crazy talk, I say, just crazy.

The royal photoshop attempt was, of course, not the first controversy about a famous photo. If we want to go back to the early ’60s and talk about image manipulation, we can refer to that photo of John F. Kennedy’s Assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. There is a photo of him, taken in his backyard by his wife, Marina, holding a newspaper and the rifle he used to shoot Kennedy with. At the time, conspiracy theorists speculated that it was faked, that somebody pasted Oswald’s head onto someone else’s body. At that time, it would have been nearly impossible to make that look anywhere near real. So, this Royal Photoshop Fiasco is nothing new.

So, are these little signs of image manipulation in the Royal’s photo worth all this hoopla? No. They mean nothing other than that she probably should not start a retouching business out of Windsor Castle to earn a little extra money.