Royal couple's intimate family photo a break from formality of the past

When photographer Ian Pelham Turner was chosen to shoot the first Christmas photos of a baby Prince William with Princess Diana and Prince Charles in 1982, he was given all of seven minutes to get the job done. 

“You couldn’t actually talk to them in any way, shape or form, (or) direct them in any way, shape or form,’’ Turner told TODAY on Tuesday. “You had seven minutes to actually capture these world-shattering photographs, or so we hoped for.”

Royal family portrait: Prince William, Duchess Kate show off Prince George

Times have certainly changed now that Prince William is a parent himself. On Monday, William and his wife, Duchess Kate, released their first family photos showing them with Prince George, who was born on July 22. They weren’t shot by a professional photographer, but by Kate’s father, Michael Middleton. Kate, looking chic in a $72 fuschia dress by Seraphine Maternity, is pictured holding a sleeping George next to William on a sunny day earlier this month in the garden at her family’s home in Bucklebury, England.

Prince William and Duchess Kate hold their newborn son, Prince George, at Kate's family's Bucklebury estate. Instead of a professional photographer, the couple used Kate's father, Michael Middleton. Michael Middleton / PA
Prince William and Duchess Kate hold their newborn son, Prince George, at Kate's family's Bucklebury estate. Instead of a professional photographer, the couple opted for Kate's father, Michael Middleton.

Unlike Turner, Middleton was presumably allowed to speak and interact with the royal couple and had more than a few minutes to snap the photos. The family’s pets even joined in the fun, as one shot features the Middleton’s retriever, Tilly, and the couple’s cocker spaniel, Lupo. A downside of having Prince George's grandfather take the photos instead of a professional has been some online criticism that the backlighting could use some work and the shots are out of focus. 

Prince William: I changed baby George's first diaper

"William and Kate have always done things their way, and this informal set of royal baby photographs proves that,'' NBC News royals expert Camilla Tominey told TODAY.com. "Taken by Prince George's grandfather Michael Middleton, they project an image of a very down-to-earth couple, seemingly free from the stuffy constraints of royal protocol. This is a very modern vision of monarchy, dispensing with some of the more formal traditions of the past. Once again it shows that when it comes to how they manage their own lives, the duke and the duchess aren't willing to be dictated to — they are the ones calling the shots."

The relaxed, do-it-yourself approach of the royal couple is a far contrast to the pressure-packed, formal atmosphere that Turner encountered when he was chosen to take William’s first Christmas baby shots with Diana and Charles on Dec. 23, 1982.

Happy family: Prince William and Duchess Kate, holding son George, relax with Tilly, a Middleton family pet, and Lupo, the couple’s cocker spaniel. Michael Middleton / PA
Happy family: Prince William and Duchess Kate, holding son George, relax with Tilly, a Middleton family pet, and Lupo, the couple’s cocker spaniel.

“For two weeks beforehand, I didn’t eat because I knew things that can go wrong,’’ Turner told TODAY. “This was in the days of film, not digital, so you never really knew what you had until you saw those little black squares on the film afterwards that you knew were the images.”

During the shoot, a man stood with a stopwatch to ensure that Turner only took exactly seven minutes to snap the photos. An unforeseen complication had Turner sweating out the seconds as the time ticked down.

When photographer Ian Pelham Turner was chosen to shoot the first Christmas photos of a baby Prince William with Princess Diana and Prince Charles in ... Getty Images file
Photographer Ian Pelham Turner was chosen to shoot the first Christmas photos of a baby Prince William with Princess Diana and Prince Charles in 1982.

“For four of the seven minutes, Diana had William’s teething ring right in front of her face,’’ Turner said. “So the most famous woman in the world, I couldn’t see. After the fourth minute, I knew time was running out for me, so I made a noise like I was dying.”

Luckily, Diana turned a potential disaster into a famous photograph.

“Diana turned around and realized that she was holding the teething ring right in front of her face,’’ he said. “(She) moves the teething ring, William went to grab the teething ring, and in 1/60 of a second I was quite a famous photographer afterwards.”

It also turned out that Turner’s time wasn’t quite up after grabbing a memorable shot. Diana, who had worked with Turner before, walked toward the camera, playing with baby William, and soon Charles joined in as the session spilled into 15 minutes.

“From what was really going to be one portrait shot of the three of them [turned] into magnificent pages of pictures that went right across the world,’’ he said.

  • Slideshow Photos

    Tim Graham / Tim Graham Photo Library

    Image: FILE - Royal Pregnancies, Babies & Children

    Prince George and more royals as babies

    As Prince George makes his portrait debut, take a look at these photos of royal babies throughout history.

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    A royal family -

    In a much anticipated moment, William and Kate sit with their son Prince George in the garden of the Middleton family home in Bucklebury, Berkshire. The happy royal family are surrounded by Tilly the retriever, a Middleton family pet and Lupo, the couple's cocker spaniel. This photo was taken by Michael Middleton, Kate's father and George's grandfather.

    Check out more photos of royals as babies throughout history!

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    Will and Kate depart the Lindo Wing with their newborn son at St Mary's Hospital on July 23, 2013 in London, England.

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    Kate Middleton, aged three, while on vacation.

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    Kate Middleton, age four, left, poses with her father and sister Pippa, in Jerash, Jordan.

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    The Duke And Duchess Of York pose with their children, Princess Beatrice And Princess Eugenie at the Royal Windsor Horse Show on May 16, 1992.

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    The Duke And Duchess Of York (Prince Andrew and Sarah) pose with their newborn daughter, Princess Eugenie, outside the hospital on March 30, 1990.

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    Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, left, holds her daughter Princess Beatrice Elizabeth Mary, after her christening in the Chapel Royal at London's St. James Palace, on Dec. 20, 1988, as the Duke of York gets a closer look at the baby.

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    Prince Harry learning to crawl at home in Kensington Palace on Oct. 4, 1985.

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    Prince William makes a royal salute as he watches the scene of Trooping the Colour from the balcony of Buckingham Palace with Harry and Princess Diana in London on June 15, 1985.

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    Princess Diana with sons Prince William, foreground, and Prince Harry in 1984.

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    Princess Diana and Prince Charles leaving St Mary's Hospital, London with their newborn son Prince Harry, September 1984.

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    Charles and Diana at Kensington Palace with Prince William and his koala bear toy on Feb. 1, 1983.

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    Diana, Princess of Wales, poses with Prince William at Kensington Palace on December 22, 1982.

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    Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales leave St Mary's Hospital with baby Prince William on June 22, 1982 in London, England.

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    Lady Diana Spencer (1961 - 1997), later the wife of Prince Charles, is pictured on her first birthday at Park House, Sandringham on July 1, 1962.

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    Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother sits with her grandchildren Prince Charles, Princess Anne and baby Prince Andrew on August 1, 1960.

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    Britain's royal family sits on blanket on the grounds of Balmoral Castle, Scotland on Sept. 8, 1960. Prince Andrew, in the lap of his father, Prince Philip, reaches for a trinket presented by his mother, Queen Elizabeth II as Princess Anne and Prince Charles try to catch the baby's attention.

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    Prince Charles admires his baby brother, Prince Andrew, shortly after his birth in this photo taken on March 18, 1960.

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    Queen Elizabeth II, and her husband Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, hold their two children, Charles, Prince of Wales (left) and Princess Anne (right) in 1952.

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    Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) with her husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and their baby son Prince Charles, in July 1949.

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    Princess Elizabeth holds Prince Charles after his christening ceremony at Buckingham Palace, London, on Dec. 15, 1948.

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    Elizabeth, Duchess of York, mother of Queen Elizabeth II and wife of the future King George VI, holding her younger daughter Princess Margaret Rose October 30, 1930 in London.

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    Queen Elizabeth, Queen Consort to King George VI with Princesses Elizabeth, left, and Margaret Rose in 1930.

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    Elizabeth, Duchess of York, looks at her first child, future Queen Princess Elizabeth, in May 1926.

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    Prince Edward, later King Edward VIII and the Duke of Windsor, holds his younger brother Prince George, who succeeded him to the throne following the abdication, in 1903.

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