Controversy at Cambridge: Photo editing goes too far when it alters authenticity

By Tyler White | Sports Writer

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, posted a photo of her and her children on March 10, wishing everyone a Happy Mother’s Day. Although it seemed like a benign post, it caused a lot of controversy and speculation over one problem: photo alteration.

News sources like AP removed the photo from their stories after noticing editing to the photo, such as weird hand placement and sleeves fading out. But why is this such a big deal?

It’s just editing, right?

Digital photo manipulation has become such a mainstream topic that we often see it every day. On social media, we tend to adjust some of our photos, and using Photoshop can be pretty fun. But when does it go too far?

Kate said she occasionally experiments with editing, much like any other amateur photographer. This is a perfectly fine response in a normal context, but it goes too far in this situation because of surrounding issues.

On Jan. 16, Kate underwent abdominal surgery, and she was released on Jan. 29. During that time, nothing about her condition or the reason for the surgery was released, which caused a lot of speculation about her health and whereabouts. Moreover, a few weeks ago, the UK government announced she would appear at a Trooping the Color ceremony in June, yet the statement was not cleared by palace officials.

Along with speculation about Kate, there has been speculation surrounding the royal family in regard to King Charles III and his health issues. With all of this in mind, photo alteration leads to the question of why it was edited to begin with.

The photo caused many to question whether it was edited to make it appear like Kate is fine. Through this, speculation about her current condition has arisen and has added to the complicated situation of the secrecy behind her surgery.

According to AP, the only minor adjustments that can be made to photos are cropping and removing dust on the camera sensors or scratches on the negatives, but the original meaning and authenticity of the photo must be maintained. In photojournalism, it’s important to tell the story through the photo, not adjust the photo to match a specific story someone wants to tell.

For anyone else, experimenting with editing can be a hobby, since they may not necessarily be trying to tell a story through photos posted on social media. However, for someone as prominent as Kate, photos posted on social media tell a story and are used on news sites.

As such, altering her photo to the extent that she did seems to produce deception and controversy rather than authenticity. It only adds fuel to the flame of speculation.

So, with all that being said, when does editing go too far? I can’t say for sure. I think it depends on the context. In this case, even the simplest editing has led people to question the current condition of Kate. However, what if she hadn’t undergone surgery recently? Would the reaction have been the same?

In a world saturated with digital manipulation, it’s important for us to stay vigilant and aware of what we are seeing. When it comes to photojournalism, we must take care to ask: is what we’re seeing authentic, or is something more going on?