Prince Louis’ birthday photograph: Has Buckingham Palace really learnt their lesson with Photoshop?

To celebrate Prince Louis’ 6th birthday, the Prince and Princess of Wales released a new picture of him on Instagram. It is the first personal picture taken since the Princess was criticised for editing a Mother’s Day portrait.

Prince Louis Kate Middleton Photoshopping new picture Royal Family
© Max Mumby/Indigo / GETTY IMAGES
Prince Louis Kate Middleton Photoshopping new picture Royal Family

Before Mother’s Day 2024, pictures shared by the Royal Family used to be special treats. Especially, pictures of the youngest members of the Firm – Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.

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On 23 April 2024, Prince Louis turned 6 and the custom is that royal fans get a new picture of him in the morning. However, on that day, the Waleses opted to post later on in the day. They did, though, continue one tradition: the picture was taken by the Princess of Wales.

Immediately the picture made the rounds – on top of being posted on Instagram, it was sent to several publications. One piece of information became the highlight: royal sources confirmed that the picture is unedited.

The specification has made royal experts opine: is this proof that the Palace have learnt their lesson when it comes to photoshopping?

A positive impact

Following the release of the image, Express reached out to a PR expert, Renae Smith, who commented on the impact this image can have on the trust the public gives the Royal Family.

Specifically addressing the delay in posting the image, the expert explains:

My number one concern with avoiding the release would have been that it might be interpreted as a reservation, or an overreaction, potentially leading to speculation or a perceived withdrawal from public engagement.

Indeed, after the disastrous Mother’s Day post, one possible reaction from the Waleses could have been to withdraw and limit the pictures they share. However, this post does prove that this will not be the strategy.

The expert added,

William and Kate are seen as the sweet couple, who the public loves, with the wonderful children - and they openly receive the love of the public.

On top of this analysis, Smith also praised the Waleses and their choice to include an ‘added layer of transparency’. Here the PR expert addresses the fact that the picture has been marketed by the Palace as unedited.

On that particular topic the expert stated:

It’s important to keep in mind the long-term relationship with the public. Regular, transparent, and genuine communications can strengthen public trust and affection.
A consistent approach that doesn't shy away from addressing concerns directly, while continuing to share personal milestones, could reinforce their relatability and the public's connection to them.

However, she warns about how crucial it is to ‘monitor public reaction closely’ and ’be ready to ‘respond to any significant feedback or concerns.’

Did Buckingham Palace miss the point?

The lateness with which this new picture was posted made a lot of ink spill. As Express explain, the delay could be understood as a form of ‘hesitation’ after the whole Mother’s Day debacle.

However, as much as people were happy to see this new Prince Louis picture, this controversial context cannot seem to be forgotten. Royal watcher and TikTok content creator @matta_of_fact explains that, even if we wanted to forget about it ‘the Palace isn’t even letting us do it’.

She goes on:

When these photos are sent out to the press, they come with a little bit of a blurb or a briefing. In this case the briefing shared that the picture of Louis was taken by Kate in the past few days and the Palace specified that the picture was unedited.

The royal watcher carries on with their exposé by looking back at various images and points out the fact that editing a photo is ‘not a big deal’. However, there is a distinction to be made between editing and photoshopping.

@matta_of_fact continues:

It’s not a big deal for royals to edit their photos when they’re doing it in the way that a lot of family photographers do - which is maybe to make all your kids look the same direction…
The problem with this photo [the Mother’s Day image] was that it created an image that did not exist in reality or an image that we could not verify it actually happened in real life [...] that is when editing turns into photoshopping

For this royal expert, Buckingham Palace has not understood the backlash over the Mother’s Day controversy. Indeed, by not removing the little bump on the Prince’s chin or his stray hairs, and pointing out that they did not edit, they don’t seem to understand that there was a bigger issue at hand in March 2024.

As a reminder, at the time, several news and photos agencies labelled Kensington Palace as an untrustworthy source. One of those agencies was AFP. Phil Chetwynd, its global news director of Agence France-Presse, talked about the consequences of that photo:

Like with anything, when you’re let down by a source, the bar is raised and we’ve got major issues internally as to how we validate that photo.
We shouldn’t have done [it], it violated our guidelines, and therefore we sent out notes to all our team at the moment to be absolutely super more vigilant about the content coming across our desk, even from what we would call trusted sources

Just like the TikTok royal expert, Chetwynd explained that the line between editing and ‘distorting reality for the public’ is important and should not be crossed. He highlighted:

The big issue here is one of trust and the lack of trust of the general public in institutions generally and in the media.
So it’s extremely important that a photo does represent broadly the reality that it’s in, and therefore it is not in a sense telling some kind of lie or some kind of false truth around an event that happens.

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@Matta_of_fact on Tiktok

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