updated 09/21/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 09/21/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT
Perhaps it was the Queen's loss. In a decade of taking memorable PEOPLE pictures, Smith, 42, has tackled more than 300 assignments in 14 countries, including Raisa Gorbachev in Geneva, British soldiers in the Falk-lands and Sir Laurence Olivier in a funk. "The paradox was that the greatest actor in the world wasn't able to sit for a picture without some direction," recalls Smith of his favorite assignment. "He just sat in a chair and groaned out of frustration. I gave him a flower and asked, 'Could you do something with this rose?' He bellowed, That is a carnation! An Englishman should know his flowers!' After that everything went all right. Once he had a prop he was able to slip into a character. When I looked through the viewfinder I knew I had something special."
Before he got a chance to see such views, Smith worked at Time Inc.'s London headquarters, on and off, as a copy boy and teletypist for 15 years. He finagled his first photo assignment from PEOPLE in 1976. Within a year he was taking photographs full-time, and perhaps not coincidentally, his hair turned white. (His wife, Christina, thinks it looks distinguished.) He has since become expert at photographing the royals and offers this advice to beginners: "Your most valuable piece of equipment is not a 1,000-mm lens or a motor-driven camera but rather a stepladder, to get a view over the heads of TV crews, policemen and tourists. To get your ladder into position you may have to camp overnight."
Photographing Maj. Ronald Ferguson (p. 100) for this week's issue required haste more than height. "He was very brisk, which is typical of ex-military men," says Smith. "That meant that each picture had to be done in seconds, rather than minutes. On top of that, in one situation a polo pony kept trying to get its rear end into the frame. Yes, it's true—never work with children or animals."
Unless you're asked. "Terry never, ever, lets us down on a shoot," says Picture Editor M.C. Marden. "He is about as perfect as you can get."