Creative Guide: Tell a deeper story through photography with Camila Falquez
For a new part of New World, our collaboration with Today at Apple, we’re launching a series of step-by-step Creative Guides which allow you to complete a project, guided by a leading creative.
As part of New World, we’ve worked with five artists, designers and photographers on a series of Creative Guides, designed to teach you tangible skills in an engaging and hands-on way. In these Guides, you’ll have the chance to follow along the stages of a project step-by-step. Whether you’re interested in learning more about poster design, how to create imagery in AR or the process of composing portrait photography, at the end of each Guide, you’ll have completed a full project and will have new skills to take into your own creative practice.
To kick this part of the project off, we’re working with Camila Falquez, a New-York based photographer. As a Colombian immigrant who grew up in Mexico and in Spain, Camila has developed her own visual and photographic language, channelling the feelings of longing in traditional fashion imagery into more inclusive pictures that speak to representation and social consciousness. Her work merges a personal form of surrealism with a distinctive colour palette and an empowering gaze. Her images have been published in The New York Times, Time Magazine, The Wall Street Journal and Vogue Italy, among others. She has also collaborated with brands including Apple, Hermès and Nike.
For her Creative Guide, Camila is going to be teaching you her process when it comes to creating a series of photographs, from research all the way through to taking the shot. Bookmark this page so you can return to it throughout your project. Camila’s brief to you is to produce a series of photographs that embody your hopes and ideas for the New World, showcasing a person, place or group which represents this for you. There are six Steps altogether:
Step 01: Choose your “story”.
Step 02: Research this theme.
Step 03: Create the visual approach.
Step 04: Compose the first image.
Step 05: Light and frame your subject.
Step 06: Take the shot.
We’ll be sharing some of our favourite responses to the Creative Guides on It’s Nice That towards the end of New World, so make sure you share whatever you make during this Guide on social media. Use #CreativeNewWorld and #TodayAtApple for a chance to be featured on It’s Nice That, and make sure to tag @camilafalquez so that she can see what you’ve created too!
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Examples of Camila’s work to date: Being (Copyright © Camila Falquez, 2020)
What you need to complete this Guide
You can complete this Creative Guide on any Apple device, but we suggest working on an iPad or Mac for Steps 01-03 and then an iPhone when actually shooting. Below is a list of apps you’ll need to complete the Guide – all of which are already installed on your device, or free to download if not.
Keynote makes it easy to create stunning and memorable presentations and is available across iOS and Mac.
Camera is already installed on your iPhone or iPad.
Photos is where all the amazing photos you take with your iPhone and iPad live.
The Files app makes it simple to view and manage your files from any iOS device.
Apple Creative Pro Tips
Throughout this Creative Guide, you’ll find tips and tricks on all the technical aspects of Camila’s brief from our Apple Creative Pro. Just as they would be on a visit to your local Apple Store, they’re on hand to offer guidance and help you unlock the full potential of whatever device you’re working on. This includes everything from scanning documents using your iPhone to collaborating in Keynote. Just keep an eye out for the Apple Creative Pro Tip box.
Before beginning anything, you need to decide what story you want to tell in your series. Camila’s brief is to think about your hopes for the New World and find a subject or group that embodies those ideas. It’s this subject or group that will feature in your final photo series. Is there an issue you feel people need to know more about? Or an area you want to celebrate? Maybe there’s a local basketball court that is a hub for your community, or you want to portray the strength of the drag haus you belong to. To develop your ideas, get some notes down on the first page of your Keynote.
Whatever story you choose, use this time to figure out why you want to tell this story and why it’s your story to tell.
Camila Falquez: The most important thing when creating a project is having a genuine and honest interest in the subject. Every project will feel like a huge mountain to climb to start with, but if you have the passion, you start finding the solutions you need.
In my case, I am passionate about human beauty, and that exists in infinite ways. I try to always remain curious, to ask questions, go to places with my eyes wide open. I have learned that beauty can appear on any given day, in the most mysterious and simple moments – from a ride on the subway to walking around any neighbourhood in New York, or at home with my family members – and in any given moment, the spark to create will appear.
“I try to always remain curious, to ask questions, go to places with my eyes wide open.”Camila Falquez
With your “story” decided upon, you need to begin researching your chosen theme. Cast the net as wide as you can at this stage as anything and everything is relevant and may be the thing that sparks your creative approach later down the line. If you’re bouncing ideas between friends, a great way to keep a record of a concept you landed on, is to record the conversation in Voice Memos.
Slides 2-3 of your Keynote have ample space for you to gather images, record your thoughts or link out to articles. Working on an iPad or Mac, you can use Split View (two apps open side-by-side) to drag and drop content into your Keynote straight from Safari, Photos, and other apps such as Files. This is particularly helpful at this research stage. You can always add more slides to the Keynote, too – don’t hold back on how much material you gather.
CF: I research in many ways. I do the obvious internet research, but also I go to libraries and try to have conversations with the subjects before the shoot to know more about them. I also look for any other available outlets of information that will help me understand the universe I am stepping into as much as possible. I will make sure I am informed on the background history, the social implications, and will make sure I am the right person to tell the story. That genuine and honest interest in something has to also come with thorough research.
“I will make sure I am informed on the background history, the social implications, and will make sure I am the right person to tell the story.”Camila Falquez
When I began Being in History, I had no idea what I was stepping into. I started shooting my friends and as I got the first results, I began understanding that if I wanted to tell this story I had to know more about art history and its relationship to gender. I began going to museums and observing the common elements between the European paintings from around the 1400s and 1500s. I then talked to a college professor who gave me the book, The History of Beauty by Umberto Echo. As I was learning about the ideas of beauty I started investigating gender, following many activists, reading numerous books, but most importantly, I started talking to my friends about their experiences and understanding that their pain had a lot to do with the ideas of beauty I was learning about in my research.
With your story decided upon and a bank of research built, it’s time to figure out the visual approach for your series. At this stage, you need to create what Camila calls “the bible”, a concise document that you can refer back to on shoot day which will guide every decision you make. Using Split View again here is really helpful. Draw on discoveries you made in Stage 02 and use these to influence everything from the colour palette to the location; the results will be authentic and multilayered. Below, Camila lays out some aspects to consider when building your “bible”. Importantly, keep your theme front of mind and consider how every decision needs to go towards you telling that story.
Building your Keynote is easier on a bigger screen, so using an iPad or Mac is a great option here. If you want to add to it at any point while out and about, using Hand-off, you can pick up where you left off on your iPhone.
CF: It’s very important to decide what will be your approach to the story. This visual language is what will make the story be told from your point of view, so it is crucial to the final outcome because every single element of the photograph helps tell the story. Where you shoot can say so much about what you are saying: Are you shooting the subjects in their own space? Are you shooting them in a studio? Are you shooting the subjects with no added elements, or will you create an environment for the photos? For example, adding backdrops, objects, etc. Will you be using natural light? If so, at what time of the day? Or maybe you shoot at night? Or are you shooting with artificial lighting? If you are, how are you designing this light? Is it harsh? Or soft and diffused?
Your “bible” is a guide that helps all teams be aligned when creating a project. This document is what you present to each person you want to have involved, because, if done right, it’s what makes other people believe in what you want to do. I have realised that “less is more”. You want to create something that is very visual and that explains your vision in an open way; you want to inspire and get people excited, so I recommend this “bible” is filled with beautiful references, imagery and information about what you want to do.
At this point in the process, it’s time to start imagining the first image you want to take in the series and to pick up your iPhone. Before you have your sitter or object in front of you though, it’s useful to test out different compositions so that you can hit the ground running on shoot day. When composing your images, think about the story you want to tell and how different combinations of camera angles, props, backgrounds or poses can help you convey that theme. Use Camera to take several test shots, moving around elements of your composition to see what feels “right”.
There’s space on slide seven of your Keynote to house these tests and you can refer back to them when you get to Step 06.
CF: When composing an image, you want to have a very clear idea of why you are creating the image you are creating. That energy is the motor to all the other parts of the process. Lighting, set, props and the camera are the tools you have to tell that story – you only really need your intention to understand in what way you want to shape those tools. Composition is also one of the tools we have in photography to tell our story, it is a key element to image-making. I am very symmetrical when it comes to composition because it helps to tell my story, but I don’t think that is the only right way at all! Composition is a beautiful tool to have in mind when you shoot and there are endless possibilities!
“When composing an image, you want to have a very clear idea of why you are creating the image you are creating. That energy is the motor to all the other parts of the process.”Camila Falquez
While you might be raring to start clicking the shutter now, it’s important to take some time to get the lighting and framing of your image correct. These elements can make or break your shot, and they’re key to bringing all of that research and work you’ve done so far to life. This may mean observing how the light hits your location throughout the day, in different weather conditions or trying out different combinations of light sources at home to achieve the look you want – you can use Camera to once again snap test shots and record this. If you have an iPad, experiment with different colour light by holding an iPad near to your subject (find an image or fill your screen with a block colour using an app like Keynote).
You’ll find space on slide nine of your Keynote to make a record of these tests which will prove invaluable on shoot day, allowing you to respond to whatever lighting conditions come your way.
“I am very good friends with the sun. It’s always there, it’s free, and I believe there is no lighting equipment that can simulate its power.”Camila Falquez
CF: Light is how an actual photo happens, so using it to your advantage can help shape your project in whatever direction you wish. There is a tendency to think lighting is very complicated, but one has to learn how to be creative and resourceful, since we don’t always have access to lighting gear. I am very good friends with the sun. It’s always there, it’s free, and I believe there is no lighting equipment that can simulate its power. The trick with it is you have to be open to all the possibilities and play with them to your advantage: direct sun, sunrise or sunset, cloudy days, shooting in the shadow, etc. I recommend testing (with your phone) and understanding the light in your location; learning how the sun hits at different times of the day. Where it comes from, how strong it is, what shadows it creates and where they come from.
If you understand light in a free and open way, the possibilities are endless! In a photo, light is the paint one needs to draw the image one wants to create. There is no wrong choice, you just want to be in control and use it to your advantage. [At home] I recommend observing the ways the sun comes through the windows in the space at different hours of the day and then placing the subject around that.
Framing is another super important aspect of a photo. I use my phone a lot and observe the different possibilities and angles before placing my camera where the frame looks best. I don’t like to crop an image after I shoot it, because I believe in Cartier-Bresson’s technique of framing in the spot. Everything that makes it in the frame is there for a reason: to best tell your story.
Finally, it’s shoot day and therefore time to set-up your first image! Here’s how Camila preps her set for a shoot.
CF: The research and “bible” mostly help you create the set, not the image itself. So even though we stick to the plan, the image can end up looking different in many ways. Images never look how you thought they would – and that is the beauty of it! Prepping an image helps you bring together the different elements, but you always have to be open to what the shoot day will bring you. There are too many variables and to think that one can control them all is to think that one can control reality, and very often, reality has other plans for you.
Now get out there to your location or your studio and start snapping. It’s useful to pull up your Keynote on your iPhone or iPad during the shoot so that everyone can refer back to your “bible”, and is aligned on your vision. Keep everything you’ve prepped in mind here but don’t be afraid to experiment either. If something isn’t working, change it. Or if your sitter is guiding the shoot in an exciting and unexpected way, respond to them. Don’t stop shooting either until you feel you’ve got “the shot”; often, multiple frames are needed to get it right. Once you’re happy with your first image, keep shooting and build up a whole photo series that conveys your hopes for the New World.
What Camila is most excited about is seeing what response you create to the brief – she doesn’t want to sway your creative vision in any way. This is your story to tell and only you can do that.
If you’re proud of what you’ve made (and we really hope you are!), we want to see what you’ve created by completing this Guide. Let us know what story your photo(s) tells and how it embodies your hopes for the New World. We’ll be sharing some of our favourite responses to the Creative Guides on It’s Nice That towards the end of New World, so make sure you share your photograph (or several) on social media. Use #CreativeNewWorld and #TodayAtApple, and tag @camilafalquez for a chance to be featured on It’s Nice That.
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.
More from Creative Guides
Try out our other Creative Guides. We’ll be publishing five in total throughout New World, across a range of disciplines from leading creatives.