Royal photographer Tim Rooke on what it was like to photograph Meghan and Harry
The Duchess of Sussex is celebrating her 40th birthday on Wednesday 4 August, and will likely spend her special day with her husband, the Duke of Sussex, and their two children at their home in California.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have spent the last couple of months on parental leave since the birth of their daughter, Lilibet, in June.
As Meghan turns another year older, Tim Rooke, royal photographer for image service and creative platform, Shutterstock, tells The Independent about the time he spent photographing the Sussexes and the insight he gleaned while observing their relationship.
Rooke, who has been photographing royals in Britain and across the world since 1990, said he noticed heightened media interest in Meghan and Harry, particularly when they announced their engagement on 27 November 2017.
He recalls: “I’ve definitely noticed a high level of interest from the media when it comes to Harry and Meghan, and I think their modern relationship has drawn a lot of interest as well.
“This is something I observed when they announced their engagement. There were around 100 members of the media outside Kensington Palace for the announcement, which was significantly bigger than the media interest for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s engagement.”
On the couple’s wedding day on 19 May 2018, Rooke said there was “a different amount of hysteria around this day” compared to other royal weddings he had photographed before.
“I think everyone was so interested in Meghan and how she could help shape the most famous family in the world,” he said.
“I love photographing smaller, more intimate events, this is when you see the family at their most candid and are usually the most well-received images – however, there is nothing like photographing the royal weddings. You can always feel the excitement in the atmosphere.”
Two photographs of the Duchess stand out to Rooke as his favourites, due to her “natural” demeanour in front of the camera and “genuine affection” between her and Harry.
The first photo was taken during the couple’s royal tour in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2019. The 10-day trip included speeches by Meghan about women’s and girl’s right, and visits to non-profit organisations and mental health charities. Less than six months after this trip, the Sussexes officially stepped down as senior royals.
“We were visiting a university and this particular shot captured Meghan on her own,” said Rooke. “It wasn’t intended to be a standout photograph but the way the light positioned itself made for a lovely image.”
The second was an image of Meghan and Harry holding hands in New Zealand. The couple visited the island country, alongside Australia, Fiji and the Kingdom of Tonga, in 2018 – just before they announced they were expecting their first child, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor.
Rooke photographed the couple during a visit to the Redwoods Tree Walk in Rotorua, and said the shot “captured their genuine affection for one another perfectly”.
He described the Duke and Duchess as “an authentic couple”, adding that it was “always so great to see them interact with each other”.
“They are always so loving towards each other, it’s so nice to see,” he told The Independent.
“Whenever I have photographed them, you can feel the love between them. From my time photographing them over the years, I have noticed how Harry and Meghan show affection towards each other.
“For example, hand-holding like [in] the photograph I mentioned of them during their time in New Zealand – this is something you don’t necessarily see with other couples in the royal family,” he added.
“Harry and Meghan interact with one another in front of the camera in the same way they would off-camera, and the best results are definitely when they don’t realise they’re being photographed.”