A dog walker passes Kensington Palace in London, Friday, Jan....

A dog walker passes Kensington Palace in London, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. The first official photo of Kate, the Princess of Wales, since she underwent abdominal surgery nearly two months earlier, was pulled from circulation by The Associated Press and several other news organizations, Sunday, March 10, 2024, because the image appeared to have been manipulated. Credit: AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth

LONDON — The first official photo of Kate, the Princess of Wales, since she underwent abdominal surgery nearly two months ago, was pulled from circulation by The Associated Press and several other news organizations because the image appeared to have been manipulated.

Kensington Palace had issued the image Sunday as speculation swirled on social media about the whereabouts of the oft-photographed princess who hadn’t been seen in public since December.

But efforts to tamp down rumors and supposition may have backfired after royal observers noticed inconsistencies in the photo's details.

While there was no suggestion the image was fake, AP pulled the photograph from circulation because it did not meet its photo standards. Kensington Palace declined to comment.

WHAT HAPPENED?

The photo appeared on social media channels for the Prince and Princess of Wales at 9 a.m. along with a message from Kate wishing everyone a happy Mothers' Day, which was celebrated Sunday in the United Kingdom.

The release of the photo followed weeks of gossip on social media about what had happened to Kate since she left a hospital Jan. 29 after a nearly two-week stay following planned surgery. She hadn’t been seen publicly since Christmas Day.

The photo showed a healthy looking Kate seated in a chair surrounded by her smiling three children. It was credited to her husband, Prince William, heir to the throne, and was said to have been taken earlier in the week in Windsor.

“Thank you for your kind wishes and continued support over the last two months,” she said.

The story quickly became a top news story in Britain and the photo had almost 50 million views on the X social media platform by the end of the day.

But close study of the image revealed inconsistencies that suggested it had been altered, for instance in the alignment of Princess Charlotte’s left hand with the sleeve of her sweater.

By early evening, AP and other news agencies, including Getty, Reuters and AFP, decided to remove the image after examining it more closely.

WHY DID THE AP ‘KILL’ THE IMAGE?

AP’s editorial standards state that images must be accurate. AP does not use altered or digitally manipulated images.

AP’s news values and principles explain that minor photo editing, including cropping and toning and color adjustments, are acceptable when necessary for clear and accurate reproduction and should maintain the authentic nature of the photograph.

Changes in density, contrast, color and saturation levels that substantially alter the original scene are not acceptable. Backgrounds should not be digitally blurred or eliminated by burning down or by aggressive toning. The removal of “red eye” from photographs is not permissible.

When AP determined the photo appeared to have been manipulated, it issued what is known as a “photo kill,” an industry term that retracted the image and instructed clients to remove the photo from their systems.

“At closer inspection it appears that the source has manipulated the image,” the AP said in its advisory. “No replacement photo will be sent.”

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