If you've noticed any news about the royal family in the past 25 years, chances are you've seen a photo taken by Tim Rooke. Rooke has worked as Shutterstock's official royal photographer for more than 25 years and traveled to over 110 countries photographing the world's most famous family.
Since knowing all about the royals, their history, and their traditions is literally his job, Rooke has inside knowledge about what goes into each carefully curated public appearance. From photographing Princess Diana decades ago and to capturing the cutest snapshots of the littlest members like Prince George and Princess Charlotte, Rooke shared with Good Housekeeping exactly what happens behind the lens to make those iconic images we all know and love - and what to expect when Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's royal baby arrives.
What It Was Like Going on Tour With Princess Diana
Back in the early '90s when Rooke first started, he had to process and develop all of the pictures he took of the Princess of Wales himself.
"If I did a tour with Princess Diana, and I shot film, I might shoot five rolls of film, which was 175 pictures," he says. "We had to hand process color negatives in our hotel rooms, dry the film with a hair dryer, and then scan the negatives on to the computer. It took quite a long time."
Even though he no longer waits for wet film to dry and upload on (very slow) '90s modem connections, Rooke says his job today now involves even more work. "With digital, I might shoot 3,000-4,000 pictures in a day," he says. That's a lot of images to sort through.
The Craziest Thing He Ever Did for His Job
Imagine going all the way to Mongolia in the early '90s, shooting a bag of film, and then passing it off to a total stranger in the hopes of getting it developed. It sounds risky, but Rooke didn't have much of a choice.
"I would find any passenger on a flight back to the UK and give them a bit of money to take a bag of unprocessed film back to the office," he says. "That was the way we used to do it."
The Surprising Royals He Loves to Photograph
While Rooke declined to name a favorite royal, he did share that he loves photographing Sophie, Countess of Wessex – Prince Edward's wife. There are less photographers competing for the same pictures at her engagements, which helps him build more of a rapport.
"Also, the Countess of Wessex always looks around for us," he adds. "She was in PR before she married Prince Edward, so obviously she understands the value of a picture.
Camilla also tops his list as a friendly face. "The Duchess of Cornwall calls me Tim and will speak to me. She’s great," he says. "A lot of people compare her to Diana and are dismissive of her, but she’s lovely and has lots of time for us as photographers. She’ll always look around to see where you are and stop for a picture."
How Social Media Totally Changed the Game
Rooke – known as Rookie on Twitter - not only has a lot of editors watching his work. "I know some members of the royal family also follow me on Twitter," he says. "I am reasonably careful about what I put on there. I do think it’s important to engage with people."
After each job, he'll try to post 3-4 pictures ASAP on his account. "Speed makes quite a big difference," he explains. "The quicker an image is out on social media channels, the more engagement you get. Oftentimes it’s not about the best picture but about the first-to-market."
What Goes Into Capturing the Perfect Picture
"It’s difficult to prepare for royal events," Rooke says. "They're not like red carpet events where you might have better control of the environment you’re in."
In fact, sometimes he's not even guaranteed to get in. "As an official Royal Photographer, I receive details on their events and I get invited based on the number of spots that are available for a particular event," he explains. "The spots are limited and can sometimes be picked from a hat."
Given the go-ahead from the palace, Rooke will prepare by anticipating the environment, the weather, and the best possible angles given the layout of the event location. Once he arrives, he always looks for a spot where the royals might glance so he can get a picture of them looking directly at the camera.
You also need to get permission before you start snapping away. "The royals always have to be asked to have their photo taken in advance," he says.
What It's Like Photographing Kate Middleton and Prince William
You're not the only one who's noticed how sweet Kate Middleton is with her fans. "I know that the Duchess of Cambridge is more likely to look at members of the public at an event," Rooke says. "She is very poised and pleasant in public and so I try to position myself to get the best possible angle of her with the public."
As for shooting Will and Kate together, Rooke believes the reason we don't see many photos of them holding hands is due to the different pressures placed on the couple. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will become King and Queen one day, unlike Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
What It's Like Photographing Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
Since Rooke has photographed the royals for so long, he's watched Harry grow over the years – and he's now a familiar face in the crowd.
"Prince Harry knows who I am, and he calls me Rookie because of my Twitter handle," he says. One of his favorite memories of the photographing the Duke of Sussex was on a 2015 tour. "We were doing a walkabout in New Zealand when a baby was shouting, so Harry decided to shout back at the baby," he says. "It was so funny and I’m so glad I was able to capture the moment on camera."
He's also noticed something very special photographing Harry and Meghan since they became a couple. "On my recent trip to Northern Ireland with Harry and Meghan, it was hard to not notice the amount of time she spent looking lovingly into his eyes," he says. "I've not seen this much affection between two royals in my decades of shooting. Compared to Kate and William, they are much more affectionate in public."
His Predictions for the Royal Baby Photos
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle recently announced via Buckingham Palace they planned to keep the birth of their first child private and will celebrate with the public after sharing the moment as a family. As someone who's shot Kate and William on the steps of the Lindo Wing before, Rooke know this is a departure from what's happened in recent years.
So what can the public expect to see? "They just launched their Instagram, so I think they may issue a picture on their Instagram," he says. "In due course, it is likely that they may have an official photo call [like they did for the engagement]."
Although he would have loved to see Meghan, Harry, and the baby soon after the birth, Rooke gets why they made this decision. "While it will be disappointing to not be able to capture the first introduction of Baby Sussex to the world, it is understandable," he says. "If it’s right for the family, then that’s absolutely what they should do."
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