Nick Koudis Shoots With Style & Humor; A Sometimes Unorthodox Approach Leads To A Signature Style

Working at Spiratone, Nick Koudis ( began his photographic career designing many of those wonderful gizmos made popular by my mentor, the world-renowned Norman Rothschild. Koudis brought his knack for developing clever and ingenious gadgets with him when he opened his first studio in New York City over 25 years ago. Back then we could always find him building his own sets and large-scale models that he’d photograph for his advertising clients. And of course, he was shooting film then, with a 4x5 Sinar p, Mamiya 645, and Mamiya RZ67.

Colin Hanks

For this shot of actor Colin Hanks (son of Tom Hanks) for Alternative Press magazine, Nick Koudis first had to photograph the tiger at a wildlife refuge, a situation where it was not practical to use studio lights. His assistant held a 550EX off to the right as the key light. As a fill light, he used a Quantum Qflash with softbox attached (with all remote lights triggered by the Elinchrom EL-Skyport), holding the flash while shooting. Hanks was photographed separately, this time entirely with 550s. The key light was a 550 inside a Chimera strip light (using a special Chimera adapter). Then there was another 550 attached to a Chimera mini-bank as fill, and behind Hanks stood another 550 to add that blue-gelled highlight. The final step was to composite the two images.
All Photos © 2009, Nick Koudis, All Rights Reserved

Recent years saw Koudis move his studio to Los Angeles. The pace, the lifestyle, the environment influenced a shift in the direction his work would take. He found himself shooting more editorial and portraiture, with a strong focus on celebrities. Already involved in stock photography, he now found himself shooting more for Getty Images, his stock agency, than for his advertising clients. He still shoots ads, but the tenor of that work has changed as well. Whereas in the past his advertising work was often grounded in fantasy creations, today it is more grounded in reality. However, you can still find occasional touches of one Nick Koudis trademark, namely whimsical humor.

Steve Carell

“The shoe-mount system is my go-to solution,” Nick Koudis observes. “When you’re shooting a celebrity, you may be in a hotel room or even in your own living room (which was the case here). And you don’t want to compromise the light.” This tongue-in-cheek portrait of actor Steve Carell was also shot for Alternative Press magazine, for a double-page spread. Koudis first shot the sunset, which established the quality, color, and direction of the lighting that he’d emulate with his Canon 550EXs. He used a 550 inside a strip light in the front and then practically surrounded the actor with additional 550s, which included adding gels where needed. The hands reaching out for Carell belong to three separate models. And we should add that he used a black card on the right to pull back some light, giving us that dark area along the arms on that side. Koudis then composited the images of sky and actor into one final picture.

The Move To Digital
Over the years, his work saw other changes, notably a move toward digital. Instead of building models and sets, he builds composite images digitally. Of course, not all images are digital composites, but they may still involve some digital retouching and manipulation. Toward these ends, Koudis uses Adobe software, namely Photoshop and Lightroom ( When he needs 3D renderings, he turns to Carrara 3D ( Koudis prefers to shoot tethered, and when on location, he connects the camera either to a MacBook Pro or iMac. In the studio, he prefers the Mac Pro.

Jessica Biel

For this studio portrait of the lovely Jessica Biel, Nick Koudis employed the powerful Profoto system, matching that with the equally robust EOS-1Ds Mark III. A softbox was the main light, with additional lights on the background and a final light—a hairlight—giving the shot its finishing touches.