Jason Bell, the photographer responsible for the official family portraits from Prince George’s 2013 christening, has revealed the truth about the shots – and admitted to faking one significant detail.
In the documentary Portrait of the Queen, Bell admitted to feeling pressure over getting the shot just right. It was, after all, the first time that four generations of direct heirs had been captured together in over a century – since Queen Victoria’s reign specifically.
The iconic picture sees the Queen and her four heirs – Prince Charles (now King Charles), Prince William, and Prince George – gathered around the chair upon which the Queen sits in the Morning Room at Clarence House, with sunlight streaming in around them.
The catch? The light wasn’t real.
“A christening picture is a happy picture,” Bell explained, “and when I think about happy, I think about – sort of – summer, and sun, and light, and bright.
“So I think in a way, that was my first creative decision going into it. I want[ed] it to feel like a beautiful, warm, summer-y afternoon.
“Obviously, the problem with that was I was actually doing the shoot in October in London and, you know, I’m a longtime Londoner, and I know that you can’t rely on London weather.
“So, what I did was I put big heavy lights around all of the windows and the window behind them outside in the street. And, you know, to get enough light coming through the windows to really feel like a sort of summer afternoon, you know, you need quite a lot of light.”
As well as the big creative decisions necessary on the day, Bell had to plan well ahead, and explained how “it’s always important to research around the project and you know, see what people have done before – who goes where. Where does the Queen go? Where does Prince George go?
“You’re thinking about the sort of lineage, if you like, and the structure of the picture wants to reflect [that].”
Bell also admitted that he drew inspiration from a portrait of Queen Victoria and her heirs in 1894 – in that picture, Queen Victoria was holding her youngest direct heir, who would go on to become King Edward VIII.
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And with the opportunity may have been daunting, and the stakes for his career high, Bell noted that one detail in particular stood out to him, confessing that he was “quite drawn” to it.
“The personal element of it, you know, is the same as it is in any other family,” he said, “and that’s kind of interesting watching, you know, them be[ing] a family together if you like.”
Images: @jasonbellphoto / Instagram, Portrait of the Queen / Sharmill
This article first appeared on Over60.