Kate Middleton And Prince William’s Wedding Photographer Reveals Just What It Takes To Capture The Perfect Pics

Have a wedding coming up soon? Better take notes from Hugo Burnand...

Kate middleton prince William

by Bonnie McLaren |
Updated on

In the Instagram era, wedding photos - plastered forever on social media - are more important than ever. The royals, Sepia filter or not, always seem to have it sorted though, with a team of photographers capturing timeless wedding portraits. Kate and Wills, when they tied the knot in 2011 (eight years ago today!), were obviously no different. But even if you don’t have a royal budget, their photographer Hugo Burnand has given us all some tips on how he captured those perfect images in an interview with Town and Country - including that iconic family portrait, which almost didn’t happen.

1. Do a full dress rehearsal dedicated to your photos

‘We did dress rehearsals with stopwatches using endless staff from Buckingham Palace to fill in as family members, so we knew we had just enough time,’ Burnand explains. ‘The Fly Past was at 1:30 p.m. and we couldn’t over run, even by a minute.’

2. Get the jelly beans on hand

What do you do when you have lots of hungry and restless children, posing for photos they’d probably rather not be in? ‘I told them all that they would get jelly beans if they were good. Bribery is good — but you can’t give in to bribery if they haven’t done their job,’ he said. ‘By the end of the shoot there were hardly any jelly beans — it wasn’t just the children who were eating them.’ Oops.

3. Get the photo room ready not one, but three days in advance

‘We had three weeks of serious pre-production organisation and then three days right before the wedding when we set ourselves up at Buckingham Palace inside the Throne Room — it became our home,’ the photographer explained.

4. Make sure there’s women in the camera crew

‘It was important for me to have female influence on my team otherwise it becomes a bit school-like with lots of men standing there in their morning coats,’ Burnand revealed. ‘It can feel threatening, perhaps not to the older generations but to the younger ones.’ He added that his mum, fellow photographer Ursy Burnand was on hand to help. Yas to girl power!

5. Make sure you've prepared for ALL the potential disasters!

Burnand made sure the shoot was a success by being prepared for, well, literally everything. ‘If you really do have everything in place — you have practiced a bulb exploding and how quickly you can change it; you’ve practiced the lens freezing; the camera freezing and how to coax a child away from hiding behind a curtain. Our preparation was so tip-top that all we really wanted was for it to happen, we were like “come on, test us, test us,” so it wasn’t scary, it was incredibly exciting.’

6. Save the best photo until last...

Amazingly, everybody’s favourite picture from the big day almost didn’t happen. Burnand adds, ‘We finished with three minutes to spare so I asked Catherine if we could do the shot we had talked about previously. And she turned to William and said, "What do you think?" And he said, "Let’s go for it." So in three minutes she sat down on the steps, Sarah Burton put the dress out perfectly.’ ‘That was a very spontaneous picture,’ he added. ‘That little detail there [points to Kate’s hand touching William’s knee] and William leaning in there, all these things were not directed, but a result of a good relationship with everyone.'

Take a look at Grazia's definitive guide to Kate and William's relationship below...


A Definitive Timeline Of Kate And William's Royal Romance

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1991: School Years

Think Kate and Wills first locked eyes at University? Think again. It turns out the now-married parents of the future heirs to the throne actually crossed hockey sticks - sort of - at just 9 years old. According the royal biographer, Kate Nicholls, Kate first saw William while his prep school was playing against hers in a Hockey match. Kate wasn't interested in boys at the time (unsurprising - as I'm sure you'll recall yourself, when you're 9 years old boys are mostly smelly, annoying creatures who you don't want to have much to do with), but Wills was the first to catch her eye due to the excitement generated around his arrival at the school. As the biographer put it, 'It was the first time Kate had set her eyes on the young prince, but certainly not the last.'

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2001 - 2005: The University years

It wasn't until 2001 that Kate and William's worlds collided again. The pair officially met as freshers at the University of St Andrews: allocated rooms near to each other in St Salvators Hall of Residence, they had both initially signed up for the same art history course. While William struggled to adjust to campus life at first, Kate persuaded him to stay, with the Prince eventually switching to a geography degree. For their second year, they moved into a student house along with two other friends, but romance didn't blossom until the end of 2003, when Kate split up with her boyfriend (a fellow St Andrews student). The relationship became public knowledge when they were photographed on a skiing trip to Klosters in 2004; the following year, the pair were pictured together on their graduation day.

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2006: Post-graduation

These were the golden years for Kate and Wills early relationship - while they took very separate paths after university (the former working as a party planner for her parents' company, the latter starting officer training at Sandhurst) but their relationship continued to go from strength to strength. It's at this point, several years into the romance, that Kate began to appear at William's side for important events, proving that she'd very much become part of the (royal) family. The pair attended the wedding of William's step-sister Laura Parker Bowles in the summer of 2006, but Kate's most significant appearance came later in the year, when she watched William graduate from Sandhurst (a ceremony that also counted the Queen and Prince Charles among its guests).

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2007: The break up (and speedy make up)

After reports emerged that Kate and William's relationship had cooled, it was confirmed in April 2007 that the pair had parted ways, with the intense media interest doubtless a factor in the decision. The break, however, didn't last long, with the young couple back 'on' just a couple of months later, and Kate was photographed attending the Concert for Diana, marking the tenth anniversary of her sad passing, in July. Later looking back at the brief split in an interview announcing his engagement, William said: 'We were both very young […] we were both defining ourselves as such and being different characters. It was very much trying to find out way and we were growing up, it was just a bit of space – things worked out for the better.'

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2008 - 2010: Relationship milestones

April 2008 marked the first time that Kate had attended a high profile public event with her boyfriend since their brief split the previous year: along with members of his close family, she watched as William received his RAF wings (marking him as a qualified pilot) at a ceremony in Cranwell, definitively proving that all was well once again in the relationship. Just over two years later, the couple moved into their first home together, a cottage close to William's RAF base in Anglesey where they would remain for the next three years.

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2010: The engagement

When it comes to the engagement, where do we begin? The sell-out Issa dress? Diana's sapphire? The birth of the K-mid blowdry? William proposed his mother Diana's 18 carat sapphire and diamond engagement ring while the pair were on a Safari trip together in Kenya, later revealing that he had to carry this priceless heirloom around in his rucksack for around three weeks before eventually getting down on one knee. After weeks of speculation, the happy news was finally confirmed at a press conference just over a month later, held at St James's Palace, when Kate described her 'loving boyfriend' as 'a true romantic,' who had been 'supportive of her] in good times and also through the bad times.' And if that didn't sufficiently tug at your heartstrings, William's decision to give Kate his mother's ring as '[his] way of making sure [Diana] didn't miss out on today' certainly would. 'She's not going to be around to share in any of the fun and excitement of it all, so this is my way of keeping her sort of close to it all,' he explained. Mario Testino, whose images of Diana are among the most iconic shots of the late princess, was behind the lens for the couple's engagement photos. Kate opted to wear a white dress from high street favourite Reiss, which immediately sold out (just like her [blue Issa wrap dress, worn to the press conference).

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2011: The royal wedding

On 29th April 2011, William and Kate were married at Westminster Abbey, in a ceremony thought to have been watched by as many as two billion people in more than 180 countries around the world. For her princess moment, Kate opted to wear a bespoke gown designed by Alexander McQueen's Sarah Burton, which rapidly became one of the most iconic (and most copied) wedding dresses of all time.

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July 2011: The first royal tour

As far as first royal gigs go, hosting Barack and Michelle Obama at Buckingham Palace certainly isn't bad. After that, the newlyweds were put straight to work, embarking on their first overseas tour. The trip took in the United States and Canada, encompassing everything from a glamorous BAFTA event in LA to dragon boating to an appearance at a rodeo (comedy cowboy hats included). According to one royal biographer, Prince Charles was reportedly slightly displeased at the sheer volume of photo opportunities, branding their posing as 'tasteless,' but we loved every single one.

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December 2012: A pregnancy announcement

'Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are very pleased to announce that the Duchess of Cambridge is expecting a baby,' read the official pregnancy announcement released by the Royal Family, adding 'The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Harry and members of both families are delighted with the news.' Kate's pregnancy was revealed earlier than usual, when she had not yet passed the first trimester, as she was admitted to hospital for acute morning sickness, or hyperemesis gradivarium.

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July 2013: Prince George is born

It's a boy! On 22nd July 2013, Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge was born, becoming the third in line to the throne of Great Britain, behind his father William and grandfather Prince Charles, and ahead of his uncle, Prince Harry. The baby prince was christened in October, in the Royal Chapel at St James' Palace, wearing an antique christening gown that has been worn by royal babies as far back as 1841.

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September 2014: Kate's second pregnancy is confirmed

In September 2014, the Duke and Duchess had yet more happy news to share: an announcement from Clarence House confirmed that Prince George was set to become an older brother, as the Duchess was expecting her second child. Suffering again from acute morning sickness in the early stages of her pregnancy, the Duchess was forced to cancel a string of royal engagements.

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May 2015: Princess Charlotte is born

'I hope it will be a girl this time,' Prince Charles told reporters after it was revealed that he would soon become a grandfather for the second time. Eight months later, on 2nd May 2015, Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge was welcomed into the world, born in the Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital (just like her older brother). 'I feel very, very lucky that George has got a little sister,' the Duchess later told an interviewer.

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2015 - present: Family life

Kate, William and their two young children continued to enjoy family life away from the cameras at their home, Anmer Hall in Norfolk, with the young Prince eventually enrolling in nursery at the Westacre Montessori School. At the start of this year, however, it was announced that the royals would be moving to Kensington Palace in the autumn in order to step up their official engagements, also coinciding with the start of term at Thomas's Battersea, Prince George's new school. 'From this autumn, the Duke and Duchess will increasingly base their family at Kensington Palace,' the official statement read. 'As they have in recent years, Their Royal Highnesses are keen to continue to increase their official work on behalf of The Queen and for the charities and causes they support, which will require greater time spent in London.'

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May 2017: Pippa's wedding

Just a few weeks after celebrating their sixth wedding anniversary, Kate and William attended the nuptials of her younger sister, Pippa, with their two young children taking on starring roles in the proceedings: George as a page boy and Charlotte as a bridesmaid, both kitted out in their wedding best from Pepa & Co. While Kate wasn't officially a bridesmaid for her younger sister, she did help keep the young bridal party (including a reprimanded Prince George) in line. See you at Harry's wedding, William and Kate?

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September 2017: A third child is on the way

On September 4th 2017, Kensington Palace release a statement confirming the Duchess of Cambridge's third pregnancy. 'Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are very pleased to announce that the Duchess of Cambridge is expecting their third child,' it read. As with her previous two pregnancies, the Duchess is suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum, causing her to cancel an engagement at Hornsey Road Children's Centre. Prince Louis Arthur Charles of Cambridge is the couples third child, born on the 28th April 2018 in St Mary's hospital, London.

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2017-2018: The 'Fab Four'

After a year of dating Prince Harry, Meghan Markle is reported to have met Kate and Princess Charlotte in January 2017. However it's not until a year later that the two Royal couples are officially photographed together - earning the title 'the Fab Four' at Anmer Hall as they walk to the Christmas Service.

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2018: Meghan Markle And Prince Harry's Wedding

In May 2018, Princess Charlotte is a bridesmaid for the wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex's nuptials mark the first major Royal Wedding since Kate and Williams in 2011. Following the wedding however, rumours of a reported feud between the Duchesses emerge with sources claiming that Meghan left Kate in 'tears' over a series of demanding dress fittings for Princess Charlotte.

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2018-2019: The 'Feud' Rumours

A year after the Meghan and Harry's wedding, several attempts have been made to diffuse unflattering media headlines speculating over reports of a froideur between Kate and Meghan. As of March 2019 it's confirmed that the couples 'royal households' will split, meaning the couples will no longer share staff. Royal spokesperson's confirm that Kate and William's staff team will stay in Kensington Palace while Meghan and Harry's staff will be based in Buckingham Palace. Representatives are quick to confirm this is a planned move, and not due to rumors of growing tensions between the couples.

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2020: The Couple Isolate At Anmer Hall

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the family decided to isolate at their home in Norfolk. But that didn't mean a stop to their royal engagements, as the pair visited surprised pupils at Casterton Primary Academy in Lancashire with a Zoom call, and have now, finally, returned to face-to-face engagements.

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2020-2021: The Annual Christmas Card

The Middletons' sent out this Christmas portrait, which sees the family in good spirits. It's believed the family are going to remain at Anmer Hall in Norfolk and resume homeschooling their children, after England was plunged into Lockdown 3.

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CREDIT: @kensingtonpalace / Chris Floyd

2021: Ten Years Married

Two gorgeous portraits were released by Kensington Palace in celebration of their tenth wedding anniversary. Still definitely in love!

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