I, Nick Chao, am a self taught portrait and fine art photographer currently living and working in Santa Cruz CA. I enjoy creating painterly, stylized portraits with dark and fantastical themes. Growing up, I'd always loved all kinds of art and while the idea of starting with a blank canvas and creating something real and beautiful appealed to me, I found that I wasn't very adept with traditional media such as painting and drawing. Instead, I turned to the cameras I had always used to document my life through snapshots and taught myself how to use them in tandem with imaging software to make more interesting, purposeful photographs. The camera lets me start with capturing realism and through set dressing, lighting, and post production I can end up with images that are more heavily stylized and painterly. I have no artistic qualms with heavy retouching and personally find it a very useful and important part of the photographic process. 

      I find inspiration in many things but in particular I enjoy looking at classical painting, editorial photography, beautifully designed objects, fantasy movies, and video games. When hunkering down at the computer for a retouching session I can be found blasting movie/game soundtracks, symphonic metal, and listening to tech podcasts.  

      For those interested in the technical side, I shoot a Fuji system with X-T2, X-T10 and X-E2 bodies and 23mm, 35mm, 56mm, 90mm, and 18-55mm lenses and a Canon system with 6D and 5D MK2 bodies and 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 100mm, and 24-105mm lenses. I light with Alien Bees strobes powered with Vagabond batteries on location and process/retouch with Capture One, Lightroom, and Photoshop running on Macs.