We present an experimental method to characterize multi-photon detectors with a small overall detection efficiency. We do this by separating the nonlinear action of the multiphoton detection event from linear losses in the detector. Such a characterization is a necessary step for quantum information protocols with single and multiphoton detectors and can provide quantitative information to understand the underlying physics of a given detector. This characterization is applied to a superconducting multiphoton nanodetector, consisting of an NbN nanowire with a bowtie-shaped subwavelength constriction. Depending on the bias current, this detector has regimes with single and multiphoton sensitivity. We present the first full experimental characterization of such a detector.