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Photography in the Making of Forza Horizon 5 with Nicole Francine Holmes


A couple of months ago, we were getting super excited about the release of Forza Horizon 5 by Playground Games and Xbox Game Studios. At the time, what we couldn’t tell you is that expert photographer and BenQ ambassador Nicole Francine Holmes was pivotal in the making of the open world racing game. Nicole’s expertise in photography and Playground Games’ desire to have a realistic depiction of Mexico in the game came together very nicely. Photogrammetry is increasingly important in making graphics for video games, and Nicole provided Playground Games with countless photos on which the design team based in-game assets.

We had a chance to talk to Nicole about her involvement in Forza Horizon 5, and are grateful she took the time to answer our questions: 

  • How did you get involved in the Forza Horizon 5 project? 
  • In August 2019, Playground Games contacted me to see if I would be interested in taking texture and photo reference captures for a high profile game development project. They found me on the internet and saw that I lived in Mexico and that I spoke English. At that time, I had never heard of Playground Games or Forza Horizon, and thought that maybe the email was some kind of scam. I replied to the email and said I was interested in learning more about the project.


  • Can you share what your role as a professional photographer was in the development process?
  • My role was taking photos and producing reference photography with photography techniques such as photogrammetry. As a photographer, my role was very important in the development process as the game’s visuals are based on real photos. As a result, the visuals in this game are outstanding and the reference photographs are an integral part of that.


  • Forza games in general pride themselves on realism and accuracy. Do you think your work helped with this?
  • I do, as the imagery is real and accurate. The skies are real skies, the bark of trees is accurate as are the stones and rocks, the sand at the beaches, the leaves on the trees, the grass and all surfaces, the texture on the outside of a building, and even down to the colors of the buildings. We did very detailed photography for this project, and a Color Checker was absolutely necessary.


  • Do you think people playing Forza Horizon 5 will benefit from the content you contributed?
  • I think if you have never been to Mexico, you will be extremely surprised with how beautiful Mexico is and how much it has to offer. It is an amazing country, rich in culture, food, and a variety of landscapes such as the ocean, lakes, mountains, volcanoes, snow, forests, deserts, and cities

  • Was your work on the project demanding and can you share something about that?
  • This project was demanding because of all the detail that was put into it, including sometimes very long hours and working in very hot climates. I was fortunate to get a huge part of the project in Guanajuato where I stayed for almost a month. Quintana Roo was also a large part, and it was amazing being on the island called Holbox, where the streets are sand and where there are no cars or trucks, only golf carts and bicycles. This project has probably been one of my most challenging jobs yet, but also the most rewarding and definitely something that I would love to do again.


  • And on a more personal note, how long have you been based in Mexico, and how did that help you become part of the Forza Horizon 5 team?
  • I have been in Mexico for over 15 years, and I know the culture, language, the people, and a lot of different locations, which also helped in choosing the locations for the game. Working in Mexico definitely has its challenges but what I have learned over the years is "everything and anything is possible in Mexico, it is just a matter of learning how to do it".


Thank you Nicole! As we’ve played A LOT of Forza Horizon 5 since its launch in early November 2021, we are personally grateful to Nicole for her work on the massive project. Make sure to visit Nicole on Instagram as well!

More About Nicole

Nicole Holmes was born in St.Catharines, Ontario, Canada in 1973. She bought her first camera at the age of 12, and since then has been photographing life as she sees it. She is very adventurous by nature, loves to travel and is a true sports fanatic. Learning new sports is at par with her passion for photography.

Find Nicole Online At

Ian van der Wolde – proprietor of Altered Images Photography BenQ Ambassador & Commercial Photographer

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