A royal photographer who snapped Princes William and Harry at the school gates has confessed that some of his best pictures came by luck.
David Levenson was outside the Lindo Wing when William was born but said he arrived late, and so had to buy a ladder so he could get a view over the rest of the waiting paparazzi.
The photographer, who is based in London, discussed his years following the royals as he offered parents his top tips on capturing the best back-to-school picture.
Levenson said: “I photographed Prince Harry on his first day at nursery school. He had made a pair of binoculars out of two toilet rolls, and used them to peer at all the assembled photographers as he came out.
“When Prince William was born, I got the best picture more by luck than judgment.
“Arriving late, all the best spots outside St Mary's hospital were gone so I went to the local ironmongers and bought the tallest step ladder they had.
“I managed to see over the other photographers and from my elevated position I was able to photograph the top of his head when Charles and Diana carried William out of the hospital.
“I photographed Prince William again on his first Royal Tour to Australia in 1983, he was coming off the plane on arrival and was not seen at all in the month after that.
“One of my photos of Lady Diana made the front page of the Daily Mirror, but I had missed the famous photocall when she posed in a seethrough dress so was sent down the next day to the kindergarten in Pimlico where she worked.”
Levenson travelled to more than 50 countries with the royals and has produced 16 books on their tours, including two which became bestsellers.
As well as the royals, Levenson has covered many news stories over the years, like the Brixton riots and the Wimbledon tennis tournament.
In recent years, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have shared pictures of their children George and Charlotte on their first days at school.
The pictures are usually taken by Kate, who is a keen amateur photographer.
Levenson shared the tips with Tesco, as the supermarket chain is offering customers buying school uniform the chance to have one of three photography sessions with him.
A survey by the supermarket found parents have mixed feelings about their children returning to school after lockdown.
More than half, 51%, are anxious about the first day, while 27% are relieved at the prospect of the end of homeschooling.
Less than half, 47%, of the children of the parents surveyed are looking forward to going back to school.
Read more: How the royals tackle parenting
Alessandra Bellini, Tesco’s chief customer officer, said: “This year, we understand that there will be mixed emotions around returning to school after months of uncertainty, and that the occasion may look different around the country.
“Given this truly unique back to school moment, however, we also want to help families create special memories together.
“This is why we have worked with David to create a series of simple photography tips, so parents and children can mark that first day back.
“We’re also delighted to offer three lucky families the once-in-a-lifetime chance to win a regal photoshoot to mark the special occasion.”
Levenson’s top tips
1. For a good portrait, always stand the subject in the shade and avoid the bright sunshine.
2. Be aware of the background in your picture. Brick walls don’t photograph well. Stand the subject in front of a cleaner backdrop and move any dustbins or eyesores out of the shot.
3. For a more interesting ‘Back to School’ picture, get your kids to walk away from you and then turn their heads to the camera, to capture them smiling or try a shot where the kids are all jumping in the air, to give a bit of life to the photograph.
4. If the weather is bad, make it a feature of the photo. For example, have them laughing under an umbrella.
5. Have the subject reasonably close to the camera, and the point of focus. Just give a hint of anything behind them.
6. On a sunny day it is better for the subject to have their back to the light – it will stop them squinting too.
7. For good pictures of kids, always get yourself down to their level – don’t look down on them from above.
8. Learn to edit your photos down to just the best one or two of each shot. Only show people a few pictures, nobody wants to sit through your rejects, or umpteen versions of the same picture.
9. Don’t worry about whether or not your camera is good enough, some of the best photos in history were taken with simple equipment.
10. A camera flash only travels about 10 feet, so make sure your subject is within that distance.
Additional reporting South West News Service.