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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.

Michael Middleton / Today
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.

Michael Middleton / Today
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.

Today
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.

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