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March 11, 2024

Kate apologises after five news agencies withdraw manipulated family photo

Kate has since apologised for editing the image.

By Charlotte Tobitt

Five international news agencies have removed a photo issued by Kensington Palace of Kate, Princess of Wales, and her children over accusations it had been “manipulated”.

Kate has since apologised, saying in a statement: “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. C.”

The handout image, which was also shared by Kensington Palace on social media, has been widely used by news media.

Associated Press (AP), Agence France Press (AFP), Getty and Reuters all killed the image late on Sunday. They were followed by major UK agency PA Media on Monday morning.

Kensington Palace published the photo on Sunday morning to mark Mother’s Day and said it had been taken by Prince William earlier in the week.

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It came days after a paparazzi photo of Kate, who has not been seen in public since December and who had abdominal surgery in January, was published by celebrity news website TMZ but not used by UK publishers apparently out of respect for her privacy.

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The new photo of Kate and children George, Charlotte and Louis was closely scrutinised on social media on Sunday with people noticing inconsistencies that suggested the photo may have been altered in Photoshop or using another editorial tool.

Clause 1 (accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, by which most of the UK’s biggest news organisations are regulated, states that publishers “must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images”.

UK news agency PA Media said on Sunday it had not withdrawn the picture but was seeking urgent clarification from Kensington Palace about the concerns raised about manipulation. But on Monday morning it took down the image after receiving no response.

It said: “Like other news agencies, PA Media issued the handout image provided by Kensington Palace of the Princess of Wales and her children in good faith yesterday.

“We became aware of concerns about the image and we carried a report about it last night, and made clear that we were seeking urgent clarification about the image from Kensington Palace. In the absence of that clarification, we are killing the image from our picture service.”

Reuters said it had withdrawn the picture “following a post-publication review” and it was “reviewing the matter”.

It reported that its picture editors “said part of the sleeve of Kate’s daughter’s cardigan did not line up properly, suggesting that the image had been altered”.

It added that the Reuters Handbook of Journalism says Photoshop should only be used “in very limited matters”. “We use only a tiny part of its potential capability to format our pictures, crop and size them and balance the tone and color,” it says.

AP said the image was “pulled from circulation” because it “appeared to have been manipulated”.

It added: “While there was no suggestion the image was fake, AP pulled the photograph from circulation because it did not meet its photo standards.”

AP said its “editorial standards state that images must be accurate. AP does not use altered or digitally manipulated images.

“AP’s news values and principles explain that minor photo editing, including cropping and toning and color adjustments, are acceptable when necessary for clear and accurate reproduction and should maintain the authentic nature of the photograph.

“Changes in density, contrast, color and saturation levels that substantially alter the original scene are not acceptable. Backgrounds should not be digitally blurred or eliminated by burning down or by aggressive toning. The removal of ‘red eye’ from photographs is not permissible.”

Its “kill notification” told clients: “At closer inspection it appears that the source has manipulated the image.”

AFP’s own notice said: “Due to an editorial issue this photo… has been withdrawn from AFP systems and may no longer be used in any manner. Please immediately remove it from all your online services…”

Royal sources told PA that Kate made “minor adjustments” to the photo and that she and the Prince of Wales had wanted to offer an informal picture of the family together for Mother’s Day. Kensington Palace has said it will not issue the original unedited photo.

This is the original image as posted on Instagram:

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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