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Photographer Who Took Kate Middleton and Prince William Car Photo Addresses New Editing Speculation

After Princess Kate's Mother's Day photo came under fire for editing errors, another image of the royal was accused of manipulation

<p>Chris Jackson - WPA Pool/Getty Images</p> Prince William and Kate Middleton at the South Korea state visit in November 2023

Chris Jackson - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Prince William and Kate Middleton at the South Korea state visit in November 2023

Another image of Kate Middleton is under scrutiny.

The Princess of Wales, 42, issued an apology on Monday surrounding the Mother's Day image that was pulled by multiple news agencies due to suspicions of manipulation. Hours later, she was photographed in the backseat of a car with Prince William leaving Windsor Castle. While Prince William, 41, headed to the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey in London that day, PEOPLE understands that Princess Kate was heading to a private appointment.

Speculation arose online that the latest picture was also doctored, with social media users citing a difference in how the brick wall behind the vehicle looked through the window versus above the car.

The photo agency that captured the pictures, Goff Photos, denied editing the images. While they told E! News that the pics "have been cropped and lightened," they clarified that "nothing has been doctored."

Jim Bennett, the photographer who snapped the photos, tells PEOPLE, "We don’t change our photos in Photoshop other than adjusting the light levels if necessary. Car shots are unpredictable at the best of times and with some reflection on the glass it can be difficult."

<p>ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty</p> Prince William and Kate Middleton after King Charles' coronation on May 6, 2023

ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty

Prince William and Kate Middleton after King Charles' coronation on May 6, 2023

Related: Kate Middleton Apologizes for 'Confusion' Over Family Photo That Caused Controversy

Bennett expected to see Prince William heading to London for the Commonwealth Day service.

He says, "It wasn't until I checked on the back of the camera to make sure I had a frame of Prince William that I realized there was someone sitting next to him. It turned out to be Catherine!"

The Princess of Wales has been out of the public eye since Christmas as she recovers from an abdominal surgery that took place on Jan. 16. The Mother's Day photo shared over the weekend marked the first official portrait of the royal since her procedure. Although the palace released the image likely with hopes of quelling rumors about Princess Kate's health that have been circulating online, the snap quickly came under fire for multiple editing errors. Later on the day it was released, major photo agencies issued a "kill notification" on the image.

<p>Chris Jackson - WPA Pool/Getty Images</p> Prince William and Kate Middleton at the South Korea state visit in November 2023

Chris Jackson - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Prince William and Kate Middleton at the South Korea state visit in November 2023

"We became aware of concerns about the image and we carried a report about it last night, and made clear that we were seeking urgent clarification about the image from Kensington Palace," PA Media, one of the agencies that removed the photo from their service, said. "In the absence of that clarification, we are killing the image from our picture service."

Princess Kate said in a statement on Monday, "Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing. I wanted to express my apologies for any confusion the family photograph we shared yesterday caused. I hope everyone celebrating had a very happy Mother's Day." The message was signed with a "C" for Catherine, indicating that the note came directly from Kate.

Related: Kate Middleton's Mother's Day Photo Isn't the Only Recent Family Snap Accused of Photoshop

In addition to internet sleuths analyzing the photo, Sky News looked into the image file's metadata. They found that the image provided by Kensington Palace was saved twice in the photo editing tool Adobe Photoshop. The outlet said the image was first saved on Friday at 9:54 p.m. and again on Saturday at 9:39 a.m.

A palace insider downplayed the PR crisis, telling PEOPLE exclusively that although the situation is a "bump in the road, it's not an earthquake."

"[Kate] has apologized and graciously so," the insider says. "She has done something that 99% of us do — and we don’t have the scrutiny that they do."

"Think of the level of scrutiny of pictures of her, as people pore over them," the insider continues. "You’re always on display and always got to be perfect."

<p>Jacob King/PA Images via Getty Images</p> Kate Middleton attends Windrush generation event on Oct. 3, 2023

Jacob King/PA Images via Getty Images

Kate Middleton attends Windrush generation event on Oct. 3, 2023

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But Mark Borkowski, a London-based public relations and crisis communications expert, tells PEOPLE that there may be longstanding repercussions.

"The difficulty now is because there is so little information about what’s happening to Kate, if they were going to project things are all normal in this way — with a photo that is now deemed to be fake — it is pretty damning about the floundering and the poor decision making that’s going on," he says.

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