A. K. needs only one camera and lens, set manually, including manual focus.

A.K. Nicholas artist signature

Technical Process

A. K. Nicholas’s fine art nude photography is assembled rather than captured. His nude artworks are composites, combining people and scenes, either from the same photoshoot or from different places or times.

A. K. sees photographic equipment as merely a means to an end. His interests lay in preparing the activity in front of the camera.

To achieve deliberate results, A. K. shoots using manual settings, sometimes including manual focus. He may occasionally use a tripod, but prefers to stabilize the camera by resting his arm on a solid surface. He will lay on the ground to achieve the desired viewpoint, and has even been known to lay in the surf, lifting his camera above incoming waves between shots.

A. K. with Hasselblad film camera
A. K. with Hasselblad film camera

His typical setup is a single Nikon DSLR and one lens. Occasionally, he uses digital or film medium format cameras made by Mamiya or Hasselblad. He has also assembled a DIY underwater DSLR camera kit.

During a photoshoot, A. K. spontaneously captures separate exposures of the figure, background, and other elements to be recomposed later. As often as not, A. K.’s outdoor photographs have some degree of artificial light mixed in.

A. K. uses software to sort, correct, and transform the images. Each image is simplified by removing distractions such as inconsistencies in the backgrounds. As with his hardware, A. K. keeps his software workflow simple using proprietary presets and techniques. Although elements of the image are retouched, he keeps some of the subjects’ blemishes, scars, and wrinkles to preserve relatability. The subjects look human, with real skin rather than the overly smooth bodies found in advertising.

Editing may include borrowing a detail like a few tendrils of hair or relocating a water ripple, and it can entail combining frames from the same shoot or from entirely different circumstances. He can impart subtle mood shifts by darkening a shadow, modifying distracting pebbles, recoloring the sky, or eliminating a distant cell tower.

Significant compilations may include replacing a figure or changing a background. The artist may go as far as splicing the top and bottom halves of a body from separate shots to obtain an impossible pose.

A. K. gauges the abstract composition of each photograph in black and white. If the image stands on the fundamental appeal of shapes, textures, and lines, it remains tonal—largely free from the distraction of color.

Fine art nude photography - Technical process

A. K.’s tonal alteration technique pays homage to black and white nude photography but is not strictly black and white. This process adds hints of hue, such as warm highlights and steely cold shadows to set a mood. It is inspired by classic darkroom chemical processes applied to black and white photos: selenium, sepia, and platinum. A selection of two or more colors are mapped across the darks and lights of the image. With digital brushstrokes, A. K. adjusts the intensity of the tints in select areas. This effect is sometimes repeated multiple times on the same image.

When it comes to color photography, A. K.’s technique employs false color: a restrained palette, rooted in his training in oil painting. These imagined colors are plausible and convincing, but don’t duplicate reality. This process helps the viewer see the fictional realm through the artist’s eyes. Through this often painterly effect, color is applied selectively in layers across the image. This technique evokes an emotional response and enhances the illusion of depth as warm-toned subjects appear to protrude from cool-toned surroundings. The selective use of color can set the mood for a scene, diminish some elements, and emphasize others. Bright, warm hues punctuate a composition, such as a halo around a figure or a highlight on a hand or face. A. K. uses brighter values to outline the contours of the body and muted saturation to homogenize the surrounding space.

A. K.'s artist mother stressed the importance of archival materials, lamenting the deterioration of her favorite early works. A. K. recalls viewing a Leonardo da Vinci drawing created with experimental materials. The result was so fragile that it had to be kept in low light and under protective glass. This cemented his commitment to archival processes, even for experiments, in case they yield a result worth keeping.

A. K. partners with a local printing technician who specializes in the exacting standards of original art. This collaboration mirrors the tradition of an artist and lithographer working together to ensure consistent quality in the paper, inks, and outcome. The artist supplies the image and the technician maintains and calibrates the equipment. Both of them inspect the photographs for faithful details and colors. If any flaws are detected, no matter how slight, the misprint is destroyed and the photograph is printed again.

The photographs are produced using a large format, archival, thermal, inkjet printer. Despite any similarities in name, this process differs significantly from the inkjet or thermal printers many people are familiar with. Thousands of precision nozzles spray thick coats of microscopic droplets of ink in twelve colors. A. K.’s limited editions are printed using OEM high-density pigmented inks, which sit on the paper rather than being absorbed like dye-based inks. This makes images that are crisp, opaque, and vibrant.

The archival photographs are on a smooth, 100% cotton artist's paper. Artists have used cotton paper for etchings and lithographs for hundreds of years. It always has a matte finish—not glossy, not plastic, and not metallic. A. K. only uses a heavyweight (300 gsm), museum-quality natural fiber paper called Pura Smooth which is made in the United States. The process meets archival standards set forth by the Fine Art Trade Guild and the Blue Wool test for photographs that will last generations with no signs of fading. Besides feeling better in your hands, thicker paper lays flatter, is completely opaque, and provides a stronger barrier to any contaminants. This premium base is free from optical brightening agents (OBAs), acids, or other impurities. Each photograph is signed and numbered along the lower margin in graphite pencil by the artist.

A. K. evaluates service providers, vendors, and material manufacturers for a commitment to environmental and social responsibility. This reflects his commitment to reduce his environmental impact and operate in a socially responsible manner that promotes fair pay, gender equity, and a workplace free from discrimination.