Kate may have used AI to edit family image, photo experts claim

The Princess of Wales's edited photos have resulted in unwanted scrutiny.

FILE - Britain's Kate, Princess of Wales smiles during her visit to Sebby's Corner in north London, Friday, Nov. 24, 2023. Princess Kate apologized Monday, March 11, 2024 for “confusion” caused by her editing of a family photo released by the palace — an image of the British royal and her children that was intended to calm concern and speculation about the princess's health, but had the opposite effect. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool, File )
The Princess of Wales, pictured last November, has apologised after editing an image of her family for Mother's Day. (AP Photo)

The Princess of Wales may have used AI to alter an image of her with her three children, photo experts have said.

Kate apologised on Monday "for any confusion" after she said she edited a Mother's Day photo of her and George, 10, Charlotte, eight, and Louis, five, taken by the Prince of Wales at their home in Windsor.

It was the first official image of Kate since her abdominal surgery in January, and was released with the aim of quelling unfounded speculation about her health - but instead it resulted in further unwanted scrutiny.

The UK's main press agency, PA Media, retracted the image, following the lead of four international photo agencies, over concerns it was manipulated.

In an unprecedented move, Kate used the Prince and Princess of Wales's feed on X, formerly Twitter, to apologise.

Watch: Kate apologises for edited photo confusion

She wrote: "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."

A keen photographer, Kate has been the patron of the Royal Photographic Society since June 2019.

Eagle-eyed observers on social media had spotted discrepancies with the photo almost immediately, drawing attention to the cuff on Charlotte's cardigan and part of Louis' jumper.

Two photography experts have told Yahoo News UK that the image may have been doctored using artificial intelligence (AI).

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Stephen Davies, known as The Photoshop Guy, a photographer and digital artist near Cardiff, Wales, said that Kate's right hand around Louis' waist could have been added using AI.

"It's very low-res compared to the rest of the image," he said. "I believe that looks like it's been inserted with AI because it's got all the signs of using artificial intelligence. It's not as sharp as the rest of the image and there's no texture in that part as well.

There appears to be discrepancies in the photo of the Princess of Wales and her children. (PA/Yahoo News UK)
There appears to be discrepancies in the photo of the Princess of Wales and her children. (PA/Yahoo News UK)

"If you look at the jumper there's lots of texture but if you look at the shadow area there's no texture there. I know that's not motion blur by the camera, it's just soft.

"I use AI all the time to manipulate things and that's a sign, you have to sharpen it a bit more afterwards to blend it back into the image. I don't know why but maybe her hand wasn't there and they wanted to put her hand in to balance it.

"To create a hand in that area from scratch would be near impossible but in AI you can do it with the click of a button."

Bruce Sigrist, a web designer at Phase Three Goods in Norwich, Norfolk, which offers Photoshop editing and photo restoration services, also believes Kate's picture could have been doctored using artificial intelligence.

"To be honest, that looks more AI than not," he told Yahoo News UK.

"There's a kind of patch replacement tool that you use in a lot of photo editing apps, where they'll take the surrounding pixels and just try and make an approximation of what that looked like where you're trying to edit."

He said this may have been done in error to patch the pattern of Charlotte's dress on to the sleeve of the cardigan.

"It could be a human error or an AI error," he said. "A lot of these tools have AI baked into the stuff that you edit manually. There's no tell-tale sign that this is brand new AI software, it's just par for the course when you edit photos.

Davies pointed to the zip on Kate's jacket, Charlotte's hand and a skirting board as examples of part of the image failing to align properly, indicating some form of editing.

He said there are signs that two or three photos were "merged together" for the final released image.

"I don't think they're trying to hide anything, I just think they wanted the perfect photo of everyone looking at the camera," he said.


Copyright in the photograph vests in The Prince and Princess of Wales.
Publications are asked to credit The Prince of Wales.  The photograph is being made available by way of license on condition that the photograph shall be solely for news editorial use only, no charge should be made for the supply, release, or publication of the photograph; there shall be no commercial use whatsoever of the photograph - including any use in merchandising, advertising or any other non-editorial use. The image must not be digitally enhanced, cropped, manipulated or modified in any manner or form.  The photograph shall not be used after 31st December 2024, without
prior permission from Kensington Palace.
 Any questions relating to the use of the photograph should be first referred to
Kensington Palace and before publication.

Undated handout photo issued by Kensington Palace of the Princess of Wales with her children, Prince Louis, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, taken in Windsor, earlier this week, by the Prince of Wales. The Princess of Wales shared a message on social media thanking the public for their continued support and wishing people a Happy Mother's Day.  Issue date: Sunday March 10, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story ROYAL Kate. Photo credit should read: Prince of Wales/Kensington Palace/PA Wire 

NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
The Princess of Wales with her children, from left to right, Louis, George and Charlotte. (Prince and Princess of Wales)

Sigrist suggested the discrepancies in the image are more likely down to imperfections with the editing app, rather than "something more clandestine".

He said: "If you take young people on a night out, I'm sure they're all doing this, they take loads of photos and they press whatever setting will deliver the best result, will gloss people up, remove imperfections, add smiles. I'm sure if you poured through most people's social media feeds you would start to see these kinds of things."

Davies said: "In this day and age, 95% of all images are edited before they go online - if not more, it could be 99% - phones and cameras are even editing the photos as they are being taken. It's becoming second nature now with photography."

Geoff Harris, deputy editor of Amateur Photographer magazine, said: "An area shows that Princess Charlotte’s sleeve isn’t quite in line with her hand – and there’s also a slight ghost outline of her cuff.

"This is consistent with the published photo being a composite of two frames which have been combined together using photo-editing software such as Photoshop, presumably for no other reason than to make sure everyone has a perfect smile at the same time.

"This editing is entirely understandable in a portrait for social media, but clearly didn’t match up to the strict standards press agencies require for news photos."

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