Discover which feature he uses most — and why the most difficult shot from Captain America was known internally as Cry, Run, Cry.
Ask the Artist: Nemanja Sekulic, Photographer
4 minute read
How the digital artist creates images that transport you to alternate realities, his fave Optics effects to use in Photoshop, and finding inspiration.
Nemanja Sekulic is a pro photographer and digital artist, who has a passion for photomanipulation and compositing. In both his personal and commissioned projects, some of which you can see on his website, Sekulic weaves elements of science fiction, fantasy, and surrealism into realistic everyday vignettes. Follow him on Twitter.
Where are you from and how did you get your start in pro photography?
I’m from Belgrade, Serbia, but I started my creative journey as a photographer 20 years ago, when I received my first copy of Adobe Photoshop as a birthday gift. At first, I tentatively experimented with creating photo manipulations and compositing just using some scanned photos from different magazines. But those digital experiments revealed how much you could do with Photoshop even when I used only a few images. I soon realized that in order to create really effective composites, I would need to find or create images that are captured from the same angle with the same lighting and perspective. So, it’s this potential, combined with knowing there is a complex process in order to produce accurate photo composites, that led me to study and learn more about digital photography and Photoshop. It allowed me to capture better photos and produce more believable composites.
What type of photography or photographic genre do you work in?
I like to do a bit of everything, which I think lets me have more fun creatively speaking. And since I do photo manipulations and composites, it allows me to take different kinds of photos — portraits, maybe a landscape for a background, and then small objects, food, etc. — and combine them into a new fun, and unique story.
What photography projects are you currently working on and why?
I’m currently working on a new course in which I teach people how they can make hair and mold it into any shape or form. It’s a technique that can be used for some powerful commercial projects. What’s interesting is that my idea for creating the class came from people’s curiosity about one particular composite image, which I call “Birdhouse Hairstyle.” Lots of people simply want to know how it’s done. So, that’s why I decided to create a course on that topic.
What photo are you most proud of and why?
My favorite photo is one I call “Big Library,” which is a composite image inspired by two different elements. The first element is Cerebro, which is a fictional device — a rather large, auditorium-like room — that appears in the X-Men comic book series (and later on, films). The second element is my father, who unfortunately is not among us anymore. He was a medical doctor, and he loved to read a lot…I mean, A LOT! So, he had a big library at home. So, I made this photo in honor of him!
How do you prep for a big project?
I approach most projects in the same manner: First, I do research on the topic. I want to know as much as I can about my subject. But how long I have to do my research depends on the size of the project and its complexity. Next, I’ll do some sketching, which is an important step in compositing since it helps me understand what elements I need to include in the work to be able to create a final image. Then, after that, I take all the necessary photos for the project, which could also include other visual elements like stock photos or models of a 3D element. Then, I go into Photoshop and Optics to make some magic!
What are your go-to filters or tools in Optics?
The lens flares presets are amazing and very useful in so many situations. I also like using the sunray filters too like the S_Rays and S_EdgeRays. And there are a lot of other useful tools in Optics, too, for film simulations and color grading.
What’s a keyboard shortcut you can’t live without?
It’s hard to choose just one, but I’d pick Ctrl+Z, or UNDO.
How do you keep yourself fueled/your favorite snack when you’re working on a big project?
Some protein chocolate will usually do the job for me!
Where do you turn for creative inspiration?
I love to read books and watch movies. I also find inspiration in music and everyday situations.
What do you do when you start feeling creative burnout?
I’ll try to do something completely different — just leave everything I’m working on and go outside. Then, I’ll try to do something that’s unrelated to the project, for a day or two, at least. That usually helps.
What’s your favorite photograph or image?
The “Big Library” is obviously one. But, I also really like my Batman image, since it’s the first time I used a 3D human model that I created in ZBrush (digital sculpting software).
“The Dark Knight”
If you could speak with an artist, living or dead, who would it be and why? I would love to speak with M.S. Escher about his world of magical illusions. He made some really amazing mind-bending works of art.
What career and/or life advice would you give your younger self?
I feel like I’m on a path in life that I’ve always wanted to be on. So, I probably wouldn’t offer much advice, other than maybe to make some decisions earlier and not to be afraid of doing that.