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Royal baby photos: Are Prince George family snaps pleasingly cozy or just bad?

By Laura Smith-Spark and Melissa Gray, CNN
updated 8:25 AM EDT, Tue August 20, 2013
  • "Babies, happy parents and dogs all bring smiles," CNN reader says of the pictures
  • Professional photographers question the lighting, focus and composition of the snaps
  • "They're not terrible," but they don't have royal grandeur, says one photographer
  • "You can still make it casual, but this is just casual and poor quality," says another

London (CNN) -- It's a classic family scene. The proud parents showing off their new baby in the garden. A doting grandpa snapping photographs.

Fine for Facebook or Instagram. But when the baby in question is the future British king, and the photos are the first official photos, it doesn't take long for the world to weigh in -- on their quality, no less.

Most seem to agree that Michael Middleton, father of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and granddad to Prince George of Cambridge, should leave royal photography to the professionals.

"They are lovely snaps for a grandfather to have taken. But in terms of the quality, they are not really what you want for such a historic picture" is the verdict of Eddie Mulholland, vice chairman of the British Press Photographers Association and a photographer for the Daily Telegraph.

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The Daily Mail describes Catherine and Prince William's decision to use "one of proud grandpa Mike's happy family snaps" as "a startling break with tradition."

Most criticism zeroed in on the focus and the lighting -- always a challenge for amateur photographers not equipped with fancy flashes or reflectors.

Prince William and Catherine, the latter holding Prince George swaddled in a white blanket, are posed on the lawn of her parents' home in Berkshire with the sun behind them, a difficult shot to pull off.

"I guess the reason Kate's father chose backlight was to avoid bright sun on little George," speculates the Mirror's royal photographer, Kent Gavin.

He's happy to share some advice though. "Back-lighting is always a little tricky for the non-professionals but it does give a nice result. Photographing against the sun needs a fill-in flash. Another option would be to use an area in shade away from harsh light."

His other tip? "My professional view would be to see more of baby George."

'Babies, happy parents and dogs all bring smiles'

The inclusion of the family pets -- the Cambridges' cocker spaniel Lupo and the Middletons' golden retriever Tilly -- in some of the snaps also gets a mixed reception.

A reporter for The Times of London remarked that the official photographs came "in a choice of formats: with or without dogs."

Mulholland, of the Telegraph, was more scathing. "The photograph with the dogs is the worst. One of the dogs in the corner looks like a furry rug," he wrote.

But the pictures got a more favorable write-up from some CNN readers who commented on the story.

"Babies, happy parents and dogs all bring smiles and the world needs more smiles!" said Earlypro.

"Its nice to see a family snap and not a professional one. Its a special time with a new baby I hope the press backs off and let them enjoy it," wrote Ann.

The public also weighed in on Twitter.

"Who cares? The photos are beautiful and show a new family! I think it's great that 'Grandad' got to take the photos," tweeted MammaMia, a mother of two from the English West Midlands.

"I'm no royal watcher, but love choice new family made to release photos snapped by baby George grampa. Can u blame them?" posted @MemoryMan Studios, a portrait studio in Dublin, Ireland.

No 'feeling of grandeur'

However, John Keatley, an editorial and celebrity photographer in Seattle, told CNN that taking such informal pictures jars the royal "brand."

"The amateur image that these photos put across certainly doesn't create the most grand or royal image in the viewer's mind," he said.

"They're decent photos. They're not terrible. But at the same time, they certainly don't have the same shine and pop and feeling of grandeur that you often see from official royal family photos."

He acknowledged that the family may have been trying to project a casual, informal image.

But, he added, "You can still make it casual. But this is just casual and poor quality. They didn't have to make a bad quality product to put that idea across."

Christopher Barr, a professional photographer in Arizona, agrees.

"It's obvious that a professional didn't take these. It hasn't been color-corrected. Even somebody with a modicum of Photoshop knowledge could improve these pictures immeasurably," he said.

"It's not a very good effort. It's a particularly poor effort given that he's taking pictures of such an important thing at such an important time."

But Lana Marks, a friend of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, told CNN's "AC360" show that she thinks William's mother would have been delighted by his approach.

"One of the things she told me is that she so much wanted William to have a normal life with his family in the future, with whoever he wed and had children with," she said.

"All of her dreams have come true and her legacy's coming true, and all the influences she's had on William, the normalcy, is showing through so greatly now. She would be immensely happy."

READ: Prince William interview: Future king talks fatherhood, baby George

INTERACTIVE: Where does Prince George of Cambridge fit in to the royal family tree?

CNN's Laura Smith-Spark wrote and reported in London, and Melissa Gray reported in Atlanta.

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