Nikola Miljkovic is a photographer from Serbia who shoots in a broad range of styles. He can capture anything from food and casual lifestyle stock to beauty and erotic themes published in Croatian edition of Playboy. And every one of his shots is always flawless. The images I have here are only a small representation of his talent. Nikola contributes exclusively to iStock and I urge you to check out his portfolio there to really appreciate his range. While it might seem that every time Nikola presses a shutter he creates a masterpiece, there is really a lot of work behind his photos. I am glad I was able to finally do this interview and share his story with our readers.
When and why did you become interested in photography?
It’s hard to say, or rather I don’t remember. Of all of my friends in school I was the one to carry a camera whenever we organized excursions.
I remember my initial introduction to National Geographic magazine and my amazement from all of the beautiful photos they publish. I remember the macro photographs by my teachers in high school. I remember my first negative from an analog camera, which always produced good shots.
A lot of moments that have defined me and my future have occurred almost imperceptibly. Certainly there were those who were able to make difference in my life, but I guess there is some cosmic energy that put stuff in the right place.
Did you have any “formal” training or are you a self-taught artist?
I am self-taught photographer, but during a very important period for the development of my stock portfolio, I was an active member of a forum in which there were great people who generously shared their knowledge, so I have learned a lot there, and we all progressed provoking each other. To this day I’ve never met a truly experienced photographer that would guide me in person or exchange thoughts on that level.
Note: some images in this gallery contain nudity.
Where are you based from and do you travel for work?
I am based in Serbia, but I’m always ready to respond to the invitation to work in other countries. So far I have worked in countries in the region. And here, in Serbia, I travel a lot for work.
Yes, I am a full time photographer, about six years.
How would you describe your style?
Let’s say that I love two things: the skin and challenges. Skin is the most common motif in my photos. It comes out in beauty portraits, glamour or art nude. It is not motivating enough for me to photograph clothes, fashion. I’ve done a lot of these jobs, but they do not satisfy me completely. But I can take fashion session underwater for example – that is inspiring!
You shoot various themes such as beauty, glamour, nude, lifestyle, sport and travel; if money was no object and you could just focus on one theme, which one would it, be?
It’s a very difficult question for me. On one hand I love to travel and meet other people, cultures and religions, but the journey itself is not the main subject of my photography.
On the other hand, I love what I do most, glamour and nudity.
Maybe things are set up the way they should be.
Would you like to focus on one theme or do you like having a variety in your photography?
Variety. It must be boring when you keep doing the same thing over and over again.
What type of cameras do you shoot with?
I have Canon 5DmkII I would like to buy 5DmkIII in near future, but I do not see that this change is still necessary in my case.
What are some of your favorite lenses? If you had to just choose one lens, what would it be?
Definitely Canon 50mm f1.2L and Canon 135mm 2.0L are my favorite.
Just one – probably 50mm
Oh yeah, right now I dream about Canon 85mm 1.2L
Do you have your own studio, rent or shoot at home?
I rent a space that I transformed into a studio. For my purposes it is the perfect space.
What lighting equipment do you work with?
It’s a bit funny story. I use cheap Chinese lighting equipment that so far had more than one million flashes.
Do you work alone or do you use assistance?
It depends on what I photograph. If I’m doing art nude, I’m almost always alone with the model. If I have multiple models and work in a space that is too small, I definitely need an assistant. But I belong to a group of photographers who do not make a circus of the session.
All of your work always looks professionally retouched, do you do your own retouching or do you get help polishing your images?
Flattering question. My wife and I, we do photo retouching together. She is my right hand, very often an assistant on the set. So far we attended two retouching workshops “High end beauty and fashion” held by Natalia Taffarel. We spend a lot of time retouching, sometimes a lot more than we should.
How many images do you average per shoot and how many do you usually end up using?
It depends on many things and it cannot be generalized. For example, if I’m photographing nudity, I make only a few shots per pose, but I need a lot of time to set a model into a good pose. But, if I exclude nudity and try to make average number, it is probably about 300-500 photos, and afterwards I use about 5-10% of them.
Can you please describe your workflow from the time you take the image until its ready to get published?
I transfer all photos to a computer first, then make a back up to two external hard drives. After that I’m browsing and deleting photos using my “elimination system”. What remains at the end of the browsing I move to a folder “for retouching”, the number of photos in that folder will be cut in half later. I like to retouch new photos. I always have old photos, from previous sessions, but I want to do the new ones immediately. When I finish a photo, I do not publish it immediately, but wait a day, because only then I can see any mistakes that I’ve made.
Both. Two computers are set up so that my wife and I use back to back. She usually works on a Mac, and I on the PC.
What software do you use for editing?
I work exclusively in Photoshop.
What is your most used Photoshop tool, plug-in, action set etc.?
I actually never used a set of actions or plug in. I do not know why, maybe just because I like to control all the factors until I get the desired results. I have noticed that people like to do more varieties of photos and to choose one that looks most attractive. I can’t do it in that way.
Where do you find your models?
The network of my friends and virtual friends has become very large. Models in the region generally know my work, and my photos are the best advertisement. Usually new models call me to ask if I can arrange some session for them. When I’m working with models that I have already worked before, it’s on my call.
How do you come up with ideas for shoots and where do you get your inspiration from?
I always ask what models want from photos and what they need photos for. I love to hear their ideas and suggestions. The challenge for me is to answer their wishes in my way. But the idea should be clear, must inspire me and bring me to that state where I can’t wait for shooting.
Of course, it is not always like that. I do not work only with professional models, so often I have to be the one who inspires. Then inspiration comes from model’s charisma or how she looks, character traits.
You often shoot very intimate and sensual subjects, how you make your models feel comfortable and relaxed?
Probably my reputation speaks a lot about me. I do not flirt with models, but I also don’t behave as we are in a corporate meeting. I love to make jokes, to get to know the model and talk about the details from their lives, about their modeling job, etc. Girls also know what kind of photographs I do, and it’s never a surprise in what direction shooting will go. And a model always knows in advance what we will be doing.
What has been your most memorable assignment and why?
Hmmm, difficult question.
First thing that comes to mind is definitely the session with ballerina at sea in Montenegro. We worked underwater as well, I was in full gear, and she wore her ballet slippers, little dress for ballet and we dived together to depths of 4-5 meters. And it was amazing and quite funny, even for her. Another interesting shoot was in Greece with 25 contestants for Miss Serbia. A lot of girls in one place competing in showing off their beauty and femininity. Unforgettable two weeks with over 2000 shots per day.
And then there was a photoshoot for a professional swimmer. I had a problem with my equipment, where I could not fire the flash above water if my transmitter went below the surface. I’ve adjusted to the situation and the result was excellent
Have you ever had anything go wrong at a shoot and if so, how did you handle it?
As I have already mentioned, I just try to adjust to the situation. It’s good if a problem is only with the equipment. But it happened once or twice that the problem was with me, I didn’t have enough concentration or I was very tired. Then I had to stop shooting. Of course, this cannot happen in a serious session, because I always prepare physically and mentally for such jobs.
Who are some of the people in the industry that inspire you?
Vadim Stein, Andreas H. Bitesnich, Igor Amelkovich…
If photography didn’t exist, what would you do for a living?
I have been working as an architect for 8 years and I have been in education as well. Anything that concerns applied arts.
Is there anything you would have done differently during your photographic career?
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started?
Generally, now I know what advertisers look for in stock. But, that knowledge is of no use to me, because I do not shoot commercial photography. The content of my photographs simply has no wide spread application.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
I’d like to be able to inspire people to find a way to do good for other people. Have you seen a movie “Pay it forward”? I’ve just remembered it.
What are you still learning?
Everything. I don’t know anything. I do not follow the rules, and I do not know the rules. I only follow my own feelings and senses.
What do you love most about being a photographer?
Every day is different. I meet new people, work under different conditions, and create something new every day. I can express myself in various ways. I learn something new every moment.
What is your greatest fear related to your work?
I’m not sure that in future it will still be enough to pay my bills.
What do you do on a typical Friday night?
Well, I like my job a lot. I never look at what day it is. It may be Sunday, Monday, Friday, holiday … If I want to work, I work. When I do not have a photoshoot, I work on a computer.
What is your favorite photo you have shot recently?
My last big project was shooting for humanitarian exhibition, lots of money was raised for the safe house. Shooting was done outside in an abandoned surface mine. Model was amazing, muscular fitness instructor. We had a costume with big wings. Temperature was about 0’c and she was naked in extraordinary surroundings and in amazing winter light.