When it comes to PR strategies, that’s smart. Take the photos yourself and you can take them whenever you want, however you want and only post them when it’s convenient for you. You don’t have to put up with a stranger walking into your house, or argue with your kids if they’re not playing ball and they’re all sitting down for the shot (I seem to remember a little florist at the Sussexes’ wedding who was looking somewhere off-camera in each of the professional photos). But above all, if you want to give yourself the task of taking photos that will be shared around the world for years to come, you have to be a relatively skilled photographer. So is she?
Catherine’s skill is her ability to capture a natural expression on her subjects’ faces, says Telegraph photographer Clara Molden, who photographed the Cambridges’ wedding in 2011. Take the photo of Princess Charlotte on her first day of nursery , for example, looking typically confident in an elegant red coat on the steps. The composition might be a little off, to an expert’s eye. “I would have preferred to put it slightly below the rail, so I would have gone up a bit higher,” says Molden. “But what’s lovely is her face and the way she holds her foot in a funny little way. She just looks incredibly sweet, and to me, that expression is worth more than a perfect composition.
A photo of her husband and stepfather in Sandringham Park at Christmas is equally effective. Technically it may not be the brightest image, says Telegraph photographer Geoff Pugh, who has photographed the Royal Family for many years, “but the emotion it contains and how much it is off guard is just lovely. When do you see Prince Charles really natural like that? Nobody’s gonna get that if he’s not a family member. They didn’t prepare. It’s not chin, it’s just a beautiful candid moment. And those woolen mittens…”
Perhaps that’s the beauty of asking the Duchess of Cambridge to take the family’s portraits rather than a professional – they’ll always be more relaxed with someone they know and trust. Take the photo released in 2020 on Prince William’s birthday, taken in the grounds of Anmer Hall in Norfolk during lockdown. Children hang it randomly on a swing; it’s not the cleanest shot, but it’s undeniably joyous. “It’s about a mood,” says Molden. “She gets that because she keeps it private within her family, and I think that’s really smart. That picture of them all on the swing: they’re looking at her like they love her. And I think that is worth a lot in a photograph.
“In a group shot, it’s really hard to get no one to have funny eyes,” Pugh says. “You can take 20 shots and take one and then someone’s expression or smile is going to get skewed, so she did a good job there. This is a short telephoto lens that just does blur the background slightly, but you can still see where they are. They’re smiling for their mom, no one had to say cheese to them. It’s just ‘time for a pic and it’s left’.