Denise Czichocki: Kennel Club’s Dog Photographer of the Year

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles
Updated on 13 January 2020

Denise Czichocki is the Kennel Club’s reigning dog photographer of the year.

The Swiss photographer was the Overall Winner as well as Oldies Category 1st Place Winner for her stunning photo of Merlin (above) in 2019.

Denise captured the 14-year-old gazing at magnolias in full bloom in her native Switzerland.

Looking beautiful and wise, Denise managed to capture the special moment despite the rescued Podengo being deaf.

When Denise reached out to @lifewithkleekai last year about the possibility of photographing our Alaskan Klee Kai Copper and Skye, we leapt at the chance to see the award winner at work.

We spent a fascinating four hours with Denise and her partner in the English capital as Copper and Skye posed in a number of famous London locations.

In this interview, Denise touches upon her success as a dog photographer as well as providing our readers with some of her best tips to get great snaps of your beloved pet.

1) How did you get into dog photography?

I got into dog photography because of my two dogs: a Shetland Sheepdog named Sunny and a Windhound mix called Safran. I wanted to capture all lovely moments of them forever.

2) Did you have any professional training before you started?

Yes for sure! I got the diploma in photo design and visited different courses in dog photography for editing and photography skills. After that I practiced a lot with my own dogs and also with other dogs to develop my skills and to try new perspectives.

3) When did you realise you’re really good at photographing dogs?

Ufff! That’s a good question and really hard one to answer. There is no wrong or right in dog photography, it always depends on personal preferences. But I think I realised that my dog photography isn’t that bad when I was booked for private dog photo shootings.

4) Do you have a favourite camera or lens that you use? If so, why?

Alaskan Klee Kai Skye (Photo: Photo-Passion / @lifewithkleekai)

Alaskan Klee Kai Skye (Photo: Photo-Passion / @lifewithkleekai)

My favorite camera which I use always is the Canon EOS 5D mark 4. I love her speed while taking action shots. I am in love with different lenses for example: the Sigma 35mm f1.4 and the Sigma 105mm f1.4. Both lenses have a really good sharpness and a lovely bokeh.

5) What’s the key to photographing dogs?

Love of dogs, rest and patience and a lot of time!

6) Does a dog need to be well trained to pose for a photo?

It is not necessary that the dog is well trained. It helps and it is more easier for the dog photographer. But you can create lovely emotional pictures with all dogs, no matter if they are well trained or not. You will get the most emotional pics when the dogs are truly themselves, doing what they love and being as/what they are.

7) What tips do you have to get dogs to look at the camera?

You can make different noises to get the “into-look” or you can use their favourite toys and treats. Try it out, every dog acts differently.

8) Can you give our readers some background behind your award winning photo?

Merlin starring in Denise's award-winning photo (Photo: Photo-Passion)

Merlin starring in Denise’s award-winning photo (Photo: Photo-Passion)

I had different dog shootings in the blooming magnolia and Merlin, thats the name of the dog on my award winning picture, was one of them. A really lovely old dog (almost 15 now). He has poor hearing so I couldn’t work with noises. I just tried to capture the moments that he offered me on his own. Luckily he gave me so much of them. You can see one of these lovely moments in my award-winning photo.

9) Is this your favourite photo you’ve taken? Do you have other favourites that you can tell us about?

It is one of my favorite photos. But I love all photos that I have taken and all dogs that were standing in front of my camera. Each dog has its own sweet history…there is one picture of my own dog, Safran, which I love, love, love! Not because its my dog but because of his acting in this photo. We (my boyfriend and I) adopted him from Morocco through a Swiss animal organization. His character is to be free and to be on his own…and this moment I was able to catch in our holidays on the Danish coast last year in spring. My dog, Safran, walking alone on the beach of the Danish coast…strong, wild and just perfect for me.

10) Where is your favourite place to photograph dogs?

I love to be in nature to take photos, to be at lovely river banks or forests or mountains and I love to capture moments of dogs in the city with all great architectures and lightings. City dog photography is really diverse, just love it.

11) Where would you love to visit in the future for dog photography?

Ohhh I would love to come back to London to catch moments of lovely London dogs again. A big, big dream is to photograph someday in Canada at/in the Indian summer and I would love to photograph in New York City 🙂

12) What are some key things to remember for someone who is an amateur dog photographer but wants to step up their game?

Patience and a lot of practice. Try out and find out what you prefer.

13) Do you think it’s ok to leave leashes in photos or do you prefer when they’re photoshopped out or not wearing one?

I always prefer not wearing collars and leashes – it is a more free and wild look for the dog. It is more natural in my opinion. But safety first…if a dog couldn’t photograph without, I always leave a special leash on and remove it afterwards via Photoshop.

14) What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

To create memories forever, to meet lovely dogs, to have lovely conversations with their owners and to make new friends.

15) Any other dog photographers that you recommend our readers to check out?

There are so many talented dog photographers out there. I truly love the work of Alicja Zmysłowska from Poland (click here to see her photos). So inspiring, she creates beautiful pictures of dogs in really wonderful landscapes. I am so in love with her “craving miracles” pictures, they are beautiful! I love the way she fuses the dogs with breathtaking landscapes. It is really really amazing. Another amazing dog photographer is Jess Bell from Canada (click here to see her photos). I really love her dog colored powder action photographs.

You can follow Denise on Instagram to see more of her stunning photos here at @photopassionnet.

If you want to learn more about Denise or contact her about acquiring her dog photography services, visit her website here.

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