“I waited a long time, an hour or two, to make that picture perfect. But I wasn’t totally satisfied. Then, when I’d finished the shoot, they were about to leave and they suddenly hugged in front of a radiator. I took my camera and that was the picture that ran everywhere — it was spontaneous emotion … you could see they were completely in love.” – Mario Testino, as told to The Telegraph
I was happy to see that fashion photographer Mario Testino finally told the story (right) behind Kate and William’s royal engagement photo or, as I like to call it, the snapshot seen round the world. When I saw the official portrait way back in 2010, my first thought was, “Couldn’t he do better than that?!”
Sure, it’s a cute snapshot (left) but, from a technical perspective, it’s a mess. First, it’s blurry. Also, it’s pixelated. It looks like the capture was underexposed due to the backlit situation.
If you know Testino’s work, you’ll know this is not his best. Part of me is surprised he offered this image to the royal couple at all. If it had been mine, I’d have been horrified to share it with the world.
But, then again, this is the same guy known for a stunning portrait of…Princess Diana’s arm. (Sorry, but that’s where my eye goes because that’s what is in focus!)
Having been a working photographer, I can’t help but be frustrated by the technical quality of Testino’s royal engagement photo. You know I’m all for casual portraits—that’s totally my style—but what I have to wonder is if having such a poor quality engagement photo of the royal couple distributed worldwide devalues photography overall.
IMHO, it does.
It also makes me wonder if people can tell a quality image from crap anymore? And do they care? I know I care, but am I the only one?
Sometimes I feel that we’re so awash in grainy paparazzi photos of celebs and camera phone selfies that we’ve forgotten the value of quality photography.
And another question I have is: What did Kate and William want from their engagement portrait? I know they wanted to hire Mario Testino to make it; that is not in question. But did they want something formal and directed—Testino’s style—or did they really want something a bit more relaxed and approachable, like the first released image of Prince George taken by Kate’s father (below)? Maybe they needed both: the formal portrait for posterity and the relaxed portrait for themselves?
We’ll probably never know, but it is critical for you to understand who you’re hiring when you select a photographer, whether for your wedding, engagement, family, head shots, or newborn photos. Get to know their work, preferably an entire session or close to, before you decide whether they’re a fit for you or not. Read behind the lines of the words they use—photojournalist, documentarian, classic—and see if what your eye sees matches what you envision.
And if you need two different styles of photography, maybe you want to hire two different photographers or have two different sessions, each one with a different objective.
What do you think: Do we know what quality photography is anymore? And do we care?