Duchess Kate’s photography is one of the royal family’s ‘superpowers’

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As we all know, the Duchess of Cambridge is a keen amateur photographer. One of her few pre-royal “jobs” involved something with photography for her parents’ company Party Pieces, although we’re obviously never going to see the receipts on that. When she became a mom, Kate began photographing her children and releasing those photos on their birthday or to mark certain occasions. It’s fine – she’s no Annie Leibovitz, but she enjoys photographing her kids and it’s cute that Kate has made it into such a thing and that she photographs her children’s birthdays. But apparently, Kate’s photography can now be designated as a “superpower.” OMG. To be fair, the woman who said this was speaking in more broad terms about the power of photography for the royals.

Kate Middleton’s family photographs have warmed the hearts of millions during the coronavirus pandemic. Yet the images of Prince George, 6, Princess Charlotte, 5, and little brother, Prince Louis, 2, spending quality family time together during isolation at Kate and Prince William’s Anmer Hall country home in Norfolk are far more than simple family snaps. Instead, they form an integral part of what royal historian Lucy Worsley calls the royal family’s “very own superpower.”

“For 200 years the British monarchy has used photography,” she adds in a new BBC documentary Lucy Worsley’s Royal Photo Album, which airs on PBS on August 16. “From creating a new sovereign to affairs of the heart, majestic moments to everyday life, when monarchy wants to send a message it uses a photograph.”

Worsley highlights this by profiling the way that key royals, including Prince Harry, Princess Diana, Princess Margaret and Queen Elizabeth, have used photographs to send a message to the world. It is all part of the royal family’s “soft power,” she says.

“You would think that the weapons of a king and queen were perhaps their armies or centuries of tradition but what they have is the power of the media,” Worsley tells PEOPLE. “The visual is almost more important than words because they don’t have that many opportunities to speak. So, they have become very adept at using photo opportunities: dressing, body language, who they are photographed with — all that sort of thing — to express their influence. Because they don’t have power, but they do have influence.”

“It makes them relatable and therefore builds affection,” says Worsley. “They work in exactly the same way as a soap opera does. These are people whose lives sort of mirror your own. They progress. They have births, deaths and marriages. You get to know them over time. You feel like they are your friends — sort of!” She adds, “People talk about it (the royal family) as a high brand institution, but it so isn’t. It’s really, really adapted. They use Instagram and what have you, but they reference the past. They make decisions that appear consistent with the past.”

It is for this reason that Worsley says, “The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge now dominate my Instagram feed!”

[From People]

There was also an aside about Prince Albert and how he loved photography and knew the photos of his family would help the monarchy. Which is true – it’s from the Victoria-and-Albert era that the “royal family as a normal, middle class family” branding really began. I would also say that more than any other 20th century royal figure, Princess Diana understood the (soft and hard) power of imagery and photography. She knew how things would photograph and she learned how to use that to her advantage, time and time again. That’s something I always thought that the Duchess of Sussex would get too, but the Sussexit happened and God knows. As for Kate and whether or not her photography qualifies as a superpower… I think she mostly photographs her kids because she doesn’t want to invite professional photographers around constantly. She wants to keep the kids’ childhoods more lowkey.

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Photos courtesy of Kensington Palace.

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83 Responses to “Duchess Kate’s photography is one of the royal family’s ‘superpowers’”

  1. ABritGuest says:

    Love that photo of Louis

  2. mess says:

    Before I even read the article, just had to say that I actually snorted reading the headline. In her shoes I’d be way beyond embarrassed at these embiggening efforts. Yeesh!

  3. Becks1 says:

    I think they release so many of Kate’s photographs of the kids because its something that costs little on her end (she’s prob taking lots of pics anyway like most parents do) but gets her huge amounts of praise and good PR.

    • Nic919 says:

      Lainey made pretty pointed comments yesterday about how the Cambridges are using their kids for PR, especially with things like letting their copyrighted photos be used in a free handout in the DM, which is not exactly a classy paper. I was a bit surprised at the pointed nature of the comments.
      Worsley is making a more general comment about how the royals use photos of their family as PR. Kate didn’t invent this but the kids are being seen much more than in the past.

      • Harla says:

        I find it very interesting that just a few years ago William was warning paps that they could be shot trying to get photos of George and now the DM is using Kate’s photos in their handouts. The DM must have some mountains of dirt on the Cambridges in order to get them to play ball like this.

      • Tessa says:

        Diana and Charles did not trot out William and Harry like this. There were selected photo ops and one where they let the cameras into HIghgrove to see the house and photograph young William and Harry. Now The Cambridge have the children out in the media a lot and this is almost on the level of stage parents trying to get the kids in show business.

      • Becks1 says:

        I don’t read Lainey really, but interesting she’s calling out the Cambs for using their kids for PR, because they totally are.

      • February Pisces says:

        I just read it and all of laineys points were completely spot on. I saw some Cambridge stans of twitter going mad, but everything she said was pretty factual. They did give trash tabloid the daily mail permission to use their photos for their pull out. I don’t really know how Cambridge stans can defend that, all they can say is that ‘they are sharing their kids with the public’. But when harry and Meghan show archie, they are doing it for attention. Alternatively when harry and Meghan keep archie private, they demand to see him, but when the Cambridge’s did the same when George was a baby, they loved how private and down to earth they are. The Cambridge’s are literally no different to any other celebrities, yet they pride themselves on being classy and ‘above’ cheap publicity.

    • Dee says:

      Why let a photographer take pics of the kids, when you can take them yourself and keep all the money they bring in?

  4. Ali says:

    If only Kate’s photography could keep her patronage open.

    Is seems another one is closing.

    • BayTampaBay says:

      Which one?

      • Carol says:

        if it’s the story I read earlier, it is actually Sophie’s patronage but I assume all of them are going to have a big financial problem in the near future. It’s a children’s hospice house, of which I believe there are 11? Because of the lockdown their usual fundraising revenue streams have been closed, namely the London Marathon and High Street retail shops that have been cancelled or closed.

      • Nic919 says:

        Are hospices not funded by the government in the UK? I guess I don’t understand how a children’s hospice would be so linked to external funding considering their services.

      • fifee says:

        Nic919, hospices receive roughly a third of their funding from the Government, with childrens hospices receiving less.

        I would say just about all if not all UK hospices have external funding through shops & various fund raising charities.

      • Nic919 says:

        Thanks fifee. I was surprised because I assumed palliative care was fully funded as it is in Ontario.

    • 10KTurtle says:

      Well, Worsley failed to specify that it’s the superpower equivalent of being Hawkeye in the Avengers.

  5. Digital Unicorn says:

    She’s an amateur photographer, nothing wrong with that and some of her shots are not bad but she is not a pro – I know several pro’s and they laugh at her being called a pro as as they are not. Nothing wrong with having a pastime you enjoy and she does seem to enjoy it but lets stop making her out to be the next big thing in photography.

    I remember during the Waiting years there was a story about how she went round all the galleries in London trying to get them to put on an exhibition of her photography work – they all turned her down as her work was not up to the standards required.

    • Noki says:

      I would love to read her job description for when she briefly worked, and if she was even skilled enough to fulfil her duties.

      • Chrissy says:

        Making tea doesn’t require a lot of skill. But then you never know with Kate “can you taste it by smelling it?” Cambridge.

      • Sara says:

        Taking photos of your parents’ paper plates and plastic cups isn’t working.

    • Sofia says:

      Agreed. She’s good for a hobbyist and that’s fine. Not everyone can be great at everything including things they are passionate about/have a hobby in it. Nothing wrong with being average/above average/not amazing.

    • Nic919 says:

      That’s the thing. The tabloids always need to pretend she’s special. She’s ok as a photographer, and marrying william didn’t suddenly raise her skills to that of Ansel Adams. The sycophancy is nauseating.

    • damejudi says:

      The pix of her kids are usually good b/c the kids themselves are cute. I didn’t love Charlotte’s most recent birthday portrait-it was a little dark for my taste.

      • Anance says:

        That’s exactly the point – highly photogenic children. It makes you think what Mario Testino or Annie Liebowitz could do with them.

        Is it me or does Prince George seem to be a less happy child? Of course, it could be — “Mom, no more photos, no poses, thanks for being a fan.”

    • Tessa says:

      THe Pro in the Royal Family was Princess Margaret’s Husband Antony Armstrong Jones. Yet his contributions are ignored. If you check Google images his iconic photographs can be seen. Kate does not belong in the same league to say the least.

    • Carol says:

      And literally nothing in the article indicated that she was a pro. It literally said that her family photos have warmed hearts or something or other during the pandemic then goes on for the next four paragraphs about how the royal family has always used photography.

      I get that Oatmeal isn’t that popular around these parts, but this story isn’t about her at all.

  6. MissM says:

    It is a power since she can let the Daily Fail use them, thus keeping them happy.

  7. Calibration says:

    Same pics as all parents who have a decent camera take. Ffs.

    • Mellie says:

      Anyone with a digital camera/iPhone and portrait mode can nearly do the same….Jesus Christ….c’mon!

  8. Noki says:

    This is anotherone of those teying to make fetch happen situations. They are trying to make her seem passionate about something,so she takes pictures of her kids like anyone else does ,why doesnt she take pictures of her patronages and the work they do to increasesome interest.

    • Harla says:

      That would be an excellent idea, Kate taking photos at her different patronages to increase interest! This is one thing that really bugs me about the Cambridges and how they “work” their role, there are so many creative ways for them to support their charities but they just lack any kind imagination and drive to step out of the box.

    • Molly says:

      Kate’s photographs of Holocaust survivors was a wonderful idea.

      She just doesn’t want to do more than the occasional good thing and endless promotion of her garden.

  9. Ginger says:

    Out of all the royals, I think Harry is pretty great at photography. The pictures on their Instagram for Earth Day were incredible.

    • Molly says:

      Harry is good. I saw a drawing of William’s from when he was still at school that was also quite good. I’m surprised we’ve never heard more about that.

  10. heygingersnaps says:

    They are really scraping the barrel trying to embiggen her.

    • Ginger says:

      They need Kate to be good at something.

    • Carol says:

      This article isn’t about her — her recent photographs are used as an intro to the actual content of the article which is Royals using photos to connect or something or other…does anyone read the article or just the opinion?

  11. February Pisces says:

    I do photography for my business and sometime I also use a professional photographer, and real photography is quite hard and complex. Taking pictures of your children is not. Literally all mothers take pictures of their children. I doubt she knows anything about lighting, composition, depth of field, aperture, shutter speeds etc…

    • Ms Petit says:

      I thought she had studied photography at St Andrews so I would hope she understands the basics of exposure, depth of field etc.

      I’m a professional commercial photographer and her photos remind me a lot of when I started as a mommy blogger a decade ago- great photos of my kids since I was around them all the time but not as polished as I would take them now. (And lets see how the photos look when the kids hit their teen years!)

      • February Pisces says:

        She studied art history at st Andrews. Real photography is something that definitely take time to master and a lot of practice.

    • Tessa says:

      She studied art history. Spin/Rumors were put about that she “studied” with Testino. That was proven false when Testino had to deny the rumors.

  12. Chrissy says:

    The embiggening is embarrassing. She’s so basic.

  13. Ruby_Woo says:

    When it was the Sussex’s 2 year anniversary, Lucy Worsely tweeted a really weird comment about how this was also the anniversary of Anne Bolyene’s execution and how she was surprised that Prince Harry would choose such a date for his wedding. It was such a weird and petty comment to make.

    As if Prince Harry would really care what happened about 400 years ago to decide on his wedding date; I could really picture him going through a dusty English history book trying to find a date where someone wasn’t executed, murdered or dead, and am also pretty sure that the date had nothing to do with him and was decided by the Palace.

    These people have so much time on their hands to think about things no one in their right mind would think, let say out loud with their chest.

    • Snazzy says:

      ok that’s just bonkers

    • Sofia says:

      There are only 365 days in the year and the monarchy is 1000 years old. If they had to pick a date where nothing relating to the monarchy happened at all then the Sussexes would probably have no dates to pick.

      • Prayer Warrior says:

        And so isn’t that exactly the point??? That there really “should” have been no wedding at all? Gross, however I angrily believe that could have been the hidden agenda of her comment……

    • Polly says:

      Dr Worseley is a historian and the curator of the Royal Palaces, which includes the Tower of London. Knowing stuff about Anne Boleyn is kind of her thing. It wasn’t an insult just an observation that some might consider it an unlucky date.

      • Digital Unicorn says:

        She has also done several documentaries on Anne Boleyn – she an AB stan. To be fair i am to – Anne was a woman ahead of her time.

      • Suz says:

        I want her job.

      • Redgrl says:

        @polly & DU – I came here to say the same thing – history geek joke, that’s all.

      • Bohemian Angel says:

        I don’t think she meant anything rude, as stated above she is an Historian, I’ve watched many of her documentaries and I wouldn’t say she comes over as the bitchy type.
        My teen daughter is a HUGE Tudor fan and wants to be a Historian, loves Anne Boleyn and has read many books on her but even she said the same when the date was released. We both laughed when they played Greensleeves as the guests were coming in, good play! 😂

      • TeamAwesome says:

        I love love love Lucy Worsley. The comment also came with her dressed as AB which makes more sense in context. Lucy spends WAY more time talking about Victoria and earlier than she does the current royals and Henry VIII’s wives are one of her specialties. I think it was a nerdy historian joke.

  14. Zen says:

    Charlotte looks like a mini Queen, she is all Windsor. But the two boys look very Middleton. George is already tall. I bet he ends up well over 6 feet and taller than his Dad.
    Lucy Worsley is a historian. She probably knows historic dates (I.e. Anne Bolyn’s execution) better than modern dates. I’ve seen quite a few of her TV shows about the past royals and just generally historic times. She is entertaining and fun. Alas for a presesenter, she can’t pronounce her “r”s. They come out as “w”.

    • Tessa says:

      I never saw a resemblance to the Queen. And in any case i’ts better that she does not look like the Queen. I see side by side photos of Kate and CHarlotte at the same age and that resemblance is uncanny. Charlotte is a Middleton IMO.

  15. Hollah says:

    As with all things Kate, her photos are pleasant and passable, but skilled photography does not have soft focus, blown highlights and cold white balances. The embiggening continues.

  16. Busyann says:

    Im not a photographer. Its never appealed to me and I just never really photographed anything really great. BUT how hard is it to point and click? The one thing I learned years ago is you have to constantly snap to get good shots. After I figured that out I started finding some real gems whenever I snapped photos, but my goodness, taking photos is not usually ground breaking stuff unless that is your job in some capacity. It’s just another example of how Kate brings so little to the table that any small, normal thing, is used to embiggen her.

    • Alisha says:

      @busyann – I have to defend photography in that it is much much more than just “point and click”. My sister is a legitimate professional photographer. I used to think it was the easiest thing in the world and did not realize how difficult it was until I helped her with a few of her shoots. Aside from all of the technical aspects like learning how to read light meters, learning about focal lengths and calculating your aperture and Fstop to your subject and constantly adjusting those settings for various conditions, learning about timers, staging, etc, you still have all of the post processing with your shots when the shoot is complete. It is certainly not easy.

      That said, you are right about Kate. And Kate will never be considered a “pro” since the industry definition is currently someone who derives most of their income from their photography. I also doubt she would ever take the time to learn about all of the technical ins and outs of her camera and lighting. She probably just snaps photos on the automatic setting and slaps a filter on the ones she likes. At most, she would be considered an “amateur enthusiast”. She would never make it in the real biz without serious dedication to learning the craft and then becoming exceptional at it and most importantly, becoming a master to the point where she develops her own style that people actually want to pay money for. Her shots are just okay, they are fine but there is nothing exceptional about them.

  17. Cosmo says:

    Superpower????? Thats her only power. Selling this kids out to the Daily Fail only proves that these two have been behind the abuse to Meghan and Harry.

  18. Hannah says:

    The title of this article and what Lucy Worsley is actually saying really have nothing to do with each other. I cannot stand William or Kate but no one is claiming Kate’s photography is a superpower and the documentary (which I’ve seen) barely mentions her. It does however say some very nice things about Harry.

    • Melissa says:

      Don’t let a little thing like the actual content of the article get in the way. The title did what it was supposed to do, draw criticism.

  19. Andrew’s Nemesis says:

    I used to rate Lucy Worsley as an historian. No more.

  20. Solange says:

    Interesting how a small child can have hands covered in paint but not a speck on their face or clothing 🤔

    • Brandy Alexander says:

      if you look at the original post with those pics, you will see he was eventually covered in paint. This seems like a weird criticism to me…

  21. Mika says:

    The bar for this woman is so low.

  22. Em says:

    The bar is on the ground.

  23. Coco says:

    But how come she gets all these amazing photos of Spider-Man for the paper, but is never able to tell her boss who Spider-Man is?

  24. Jumpingthesnark says:

    If this is BRFs “superpower” then they are in deep trouble. Anyone think the timing of this is interesting esp in relation to the story about Fergie shady “loans “?

  25. paddingtonjr says:

    It’s been 9 years, Kate is never going to be more than “Katie Keen” and the Duchess of Doolittle. Yeah, people want to see pictures of her kids because they are the FF of the monarchy and the kids are cute. People wanted to see pictures of Wills and Harry when they were young too. Many members of the Royal Family are into the arts; not to give Pedo Andy any compliments, but he was a good photographer in his younger days and published a decent book of his photographs back before Fergie. Charles and Philip are well-known amatuer painters. Aside from birthday pictures of her kids, which every parent since the advent of the personal camera has done, what have Kate’s subjects been?

  26. Ellie says:

    “…Princess Diana understood the (soft and hard) power of imagery and photography. ” I don’t understand that line; I’ve never heard hard power used in that way. Could anyone explain?

  27. Nibbi says:

    The Kate-washing tho.
    sooooo transparent and boring. God they have to work hard and she still seems vacuous and boring.

  28. ArtHistorian says:

    I don’t know this historian but she is right about how photography, especially family photography works in royal PR:

    “The visual is almost more important than words because they don’t have that many opportunities to speak. So, they have become very adept at using photo opportunities: dressing, body language, who they are photographed with — all that sort of thing — to express their influence. Because they don’t have power, but they do have influence.”

    “It makes them relatable and therefore builds affection,” says Worsley. “They work in exactly the same way as a soap opera does. These are people whose lives sort of mirror your own. They progress. They have births, deaths and marriages. You get to know them over time. You feel like they are your friends — sort of!”

    Kate releasing her own photographs of her children is nothing new or ground-breaking. She’s just doing the same as fx CP Mary of Denmark, which is very similar strategy to her (late) grandparents-in-law (King Frederik IX and Queen Ingrid) who released their own home-videos in a similar manner. The late Queen Ingrid was a PR natural who taught her daughter, Queen Margrethe II, much – and Margrethe in turn taught Mary.

    In fact, Queen Margrethe has often participated in Danish documentaries about fx the royal jewels, the royal estates, etc. She shows a lot of personality in these documentaries and people just love her. She’s clearly careful about what she participates in, but I’d say that today the televisual medium, used strategically, is an even greater PR tool than photography. All the members of the DRF has participated in carefully chosen documentaries and thus people get a sense of their personalities in a way that photographs cannot deliver – in documetaries you can get a sense of these people revealing bits of their authentic selves that carefully staged photos just cannot, especially since people are quite visually literate today.

    Photos, however, are better at leaving the royals as blank ciphers that people can project their own ideas and fantasies onto – and one can say that photos are perhaps a better tool for people who aren’t interesting, charming or knowledgeable, which few of the BRF seem to be. So that is perhaps one of the reasons why the BRF doesn’t use television as a tool (though it seems as though Kate and William are trying incorporate this into their PR strategy). Other reasons are probably the antiquated nature of QEII’s strategies and just plain old snobbery.

    Photography is an effective PR tool for royal families – though calling it a super power is a bit cringy. Personally, I wouldn’t have used such a phrase in a documentary. It is, as I said a bit cringy, and smells like a poor attempt to sound relevant to a younger generation.

  29. Awkward symphony says:

    Prince harry inherited his grandfather’s love and talent for photography. Before KeenKueen Kate’s photography stunts started he was sharing his personal takes on KP Instagram account. The cambridges (as they always do) hijacked it and now katiekeen loves to pretend she’s the only one doing it!🙄

  30. Anna says:

    As a former professional photographer (consultant now), let me assure you: her photography is amateur level indeed. No superpower there.

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