He can hardly be described as a shrinking violet. But Rankin, whose stylised images of male genitalia and naked supermodels have earned him a reputation as the enfant terrible of the photographic world, has finally found someone able to make him blush.
The 35-year-old once dubbed the "court photographer of Cool Britannia" has revealed how the Queen "took the piss" out of his clumsiness as he hurried to take a portrait photo for her Golden Jubilee portfolio.
And Rankin, whose lens never wavered when confronted by a naked Helena Christensen or an irritable Vinnie Jones, admitted he was reduced to a nervous wreck when he first set eyes on the monarch. "She's got an amazing presence," he said. "I'm never nervous, but she walked into the room and all of a sudden I was a bundle of nerves.
"She's got a great sense of humour, and she took the mickey out of me... The sink lead fell out of my camera and she started smiling and joking. She said, 'oh, you do have a lot of equipment, don't you?'
"She definitely walks around with blood flowing through her veins. She's very human."
Rankin, full name John Rankin Waddell, whose hyper-real portrait of the Queen has raised eyebrows by depicting her with an unnaturally youthful glow, added that his original intention was to "take 20 years off her" by removing all her wrinkles digitally.
In the event, both this image and another which would have seen her against a backdrop of the Union flag were vetoed by Buckingham Palace. "In my original shot I put a Union Jack behind her head, which was my way of kind of celebrating 25 years of Punk and 50 years of the Queen at the same time – it was about sitting between the two," he said. "I heard afterwards that she liked the stitching in the Union Jack, but she didn't think it was appropriate to have it in the finished shot."
He added: "I did re-touch the final photograph, but originally I'd re-touched her a lot more. I really pushed it.
"Her people said 'don't even think about it', but somewhere in a studio there's an image of her looking 20 years younger."
Rankin, who says he is "not a royalist", conceded that no one was more surprised than him by his inclusion in the handpicked line-up of Golden Jubilee photographers, which included Prince Andrew and the Earl of Lichfield, as well as Canadian rock star Bryan Adams.
Despite his nerves, however, he would like her to one day sit for him again, 'but I'd want to do something a bit different next time," he said. "This time I literally only had five minutes, but next time I'd want enough time to be able to scratch the surface."
Rankin, whose flair with the camera was first showcased when he launched style magazine Dazed and Confused 10 years ago, is currently planning a move into film-making. All being well, his first major project will be a movie version of fellow Scot Iain Banks's cult novel The Wasp Factory, to be scripted by actress and comedienne Morwenna Banks.
"That's the the movie I really want to make," he said. "But the first thing I'll be doing is a short for FilmFour about an abusive relationship which will probably be shown in the cinemas later this year."
Rankin's next photographic project will be a series of 100 famous women wearing the same flesh-coloured, halter-neck Gucchi dress.
The images, due to appear in Dazed and Confused stablemate Rank, will be billed as a celebration of today's most "inspiring and beautiful" female icons. Among those already captured are super- models Elle MacPherson, Jodie Kidd and Jerry Hall, Marianne Faithfull, and All Saints singers Nicole and Natalie Appleton. Others set to appear include Germaine Greer, Grace Jones, Kate Moss, Sophie Dahl and artist Sam Taylor-Wood.Reuse content