Alicja Zmysłowska

A Siberian Husky sits on black sand and poses in front of the Sólheimajökull glacier in Iceland. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 by Alicja Zmysłowska.

"When I was younger, digital drawing was a way for me to express my emotions, and now I do it through my photography," says Alicja Zmysłowska. Here, Siberian Husky Kraka poses in front of the Sólheimajökull glacier in Iceland. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens at 1/1250 sec, f/1.2 and ISO 640. © Alicja Zmysłowska

All Alicja Zmysłowska wanted as a child was a pet dog. "My parents bought me and my brother a cat each, but it wasn't quite the same," she remembers. In 2006, when she was 11, Alicja's parents finally gave in and brought home Kiara, a Golden Retriever. "She was the dream dog," says Alicja. "As soon as I got her, I realised I wanted to immortalise memories with her, which is when I first picked up a camera." The more photos Alicja took of Kiara, the more her interest in photography developed.

One year later, Alicja decided to take photography more seriously and invested in a Canon EOS 400D camera. "My dad was an amateur photographer and would let my brother borrow his EOS 400D occasionally, so I knew I wanted to stick with Canon when I eventually got my own kit," she says. Armed with her new DSLR, Alicja began posting photos of Kiara on forums and online art pages. "Encouragement within those communities inspired me to keep shooting and improving," she recalls.

When it was time to branch out from personal shoots with her own dog, Alicja started attending local dog shows and volunteering at dog shelters, taking pictures to improve a dog's chances of adoption. "The shoots I do for dog shelters are always challenging," she says. "It's hard to see dogs who are suffering and scared, but good photography often increases their chances of adoption, so it's always worth it."

A headshot of Canon Ambassador Alicja Zmysłowska holding a Canon camera, with a dog on her shoulders.
Location: Ruda Śląska, Poland

Specialist areas: Dog portraiture, fine art

Favourite kit:
Canon EOS R5
Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM
A Dalmatian lifts a paw up and looks at its surroundings while posing amongst lava formations near Lake Kleifarvatn, Iceland. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X by Alicja Zmysłowska.

"Selecting the best images can take a few hours," says Alicja of post-processing. "Once I have my favourites, I then retouch each image individually." Nokvvi the Dalmatian is photographed here amongst lava formations near Lake Kleifarvatn, Iceland. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X (now succeeded by the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III) with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM lens at 16mm, 1/640 sec, f/2.8 and ISO 4000. © Alicja Zmysłowska

In a black and white photo, a Golden Retriever sits and poses under overarching trees. Taken on a Canon EOS 7D by Alicja Zmysłowska.

"If I've shot everything in the same conditions, there are a few settings I can copy and paste in my edit software, but I spend a lot of time perfecting each image individually," says Alicja. Here, Golden Retriever Kiara sits in a peaceful location in Alicja's home city of Ruda Śląska, Poland. Part of Alicja's Craving Miracles series. Taken on a Canon EOS 7D (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 7D Mark II) with a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens (now succeeded by the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM) at 1/100 sec, f/1.8 and ISO 125. © Alicja Zmysłowska

Alicja is a self-taught photographer. "I didn't go to university or art school," she says. "My dad helped me a little in the beginning, but I mainly learnt by trial and error." After years of perfecting her craft and posting her photos online to growing audiences, Alicja's professional career took off in 2015 when her photos went viral on social media. "I started getting invited to travel all around the world to take photos of dogs and to lead workshops for other photographers who wanted to learn my methods," she remembers.

In a black and white photo, a Golden Retriever stands with her eyes closed in a lake in Silesia, Poland. The dog's reflection is visible in the water. Taken on a Canon EOS 6D by Alicja Zmysłowska.

"I want to create art that provokes an emotional response in my audience," says Alicja. "My style is dreamy but dark, and I apply the same rules to almost all the pictures I take to make sure I'm consistent." Here, she captured her Golden Retriever Kiara with her reflection in a lake in Silesia, Poland. Taken on a Canon EOS 6D (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 6D Mark II) with a Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM lens at 1/2000 sec, f/2 and ISO 640. © Alicja Zmysłowska

Now, Alicja splits her time between leading workshops both at home in her native Poland and abroad, client commissions and personal artistic projects. Through years of consistent posting online, she has grown a following of over 130,000 on social media. Beyond digital publishing, her work has been featured in publications such as National Geographic Poland, Digital Photo UK and Digital Camera Poland, and has been displayed in galleries including the Palace of Fine Arts in Kraków. Inspired by her love for dogs and passion for art, Alicja enjoys removing her subjects from the realities of everyday life and creating timeless masterpieces that will endure.

How does your approach to dog photography influence your style?

"When setting up my camera, the most important thing is shutter speed. I always try to shoot at the fastest shutter speed possible, ideally starting around 1/1000 or faster because I move a lot myself to find the best angle and dogs tend to move quite a lot as well. My Canon EOS R5 has such good ISO performance that I'm able to stick to these speeds even in darker conditions. Aperture is also very important. I shoot wide open, typically at f/1.2 on my favourite lens, the Canon RF 85mm F1.2L IS USM. This makes my plane of focus very narrow, which is how I like it. If the eyes are super sharp, I don't care if the nose isn't in focus – it all adds to the effect. Shooting wide open means I get creamy bokeh, which I further enhance in post-processing."

How important is post-processing?

"Post-processing is very important to me as it allows me to ensure that all of my images fit my personal style. Until I got my EOS R5, I shot with a Canon EOS 5DS because I needed the highest possible resolution and to retain the most data in each of my shots so I could edit exactly how I wanted. When editing, I use dodge and burn a lot to make my subject's eyes pop, and edit out distracting details like leashes or distracting bits of fur. I carry a lot of the skills I learned as a digital artist over into photography to create my artistic style."

Which photo set are you most proud of?

"My favourite pictures are ones I take of my own dogs, of course. My Border Collies, Cirilla and Zira, love photoshoots because it means spending time with me, and lots of treats. I must have taken a million photos of Cirilla, who is eight now and often finds good spots for photos before I notice them myself and looks back at me as if to say, 'This is the place.' My favourite projects, however, are Craving Miracles because I love how it achieves what I set out to do – connecting dogs with big epic landscapes – and Shadows of Infinity, a black and white project that I was creating at the same time. The black and white shots from that series were displayed in the Palace of Fine Arts in Kraków, which was such an honour."

What has been your most challenging shoot to date?

"When shooting my Craving Miracles series in Iceland and Norway, the terrain proved to be very challenging. On one of the shoot days in Trolltunga, Norway, I covered 28km on foot trying to find the perfect location. Then, of course, there are the challenges of capturing the dogs themselves. For this series I had to find adventurous dogs that would be confident climbing over rocks or posing next to waterfalls, but even with the right dog, there can be limitations. Some still need constant reassurance from their owners, or even to be held in position while I take the shot, which means I have to edit the owner out afterwards."

One thing I know

Alicja Zmysłowska

"Mastering your craft takes time, and photographers need to be patient. Keep practising, searching for moments, and take the time to develop your own style. Be authentic, explore ideas that fit with who you are and who you want to be and keep at it."

Facebook: zmyslowska.photo

Instagram: @alicjazmyslowska

Website: alicjazmyslowska.pl

Alicja Zmysłowska's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

A flatlay of Alicja Zmysłowska's kitbag showing Canon cameras, lenses and accessories.


Canon EOS R5

Capture sensational 45 megapixel photos at up to 20 frames per second. "Switching to this camera with its animal eye-tracking autofocus, huge ISO performance and impressive dynamic range in RAW files majorly improved my work," says Alicja.


Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM

A professional grade wide-angle lens with a natural perspective, an f/1.4 aperture and low-light capabilities. "With this lens, I can include more of the landscape in my frame while being able to get close enough to my models to really focus on their eyes, which is a fundamental part of dog portraits," says Alicja.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM

This short telephoto portrait lens offers superior optic performance, producing elegant and detailed results with a perspective that flatters your subject. "The quality and sharpness of this lens is just outstanding," says Alicja. "Dreamy, blurred backgrounds are really important in my photographic style and this lens exceeds my expectations."

Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM

A professional telephoto L-series lens with a wide f/2 aperture. "This lens is perfect for portraits and dogs in action shots, such as catching a frisbee," says Alicja. "With its sharpness and fast autofocus, I can get great effects in every take."


Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R

This adapter allows Canon EF and EF-S lenses to be used with EOS R System cameras.

Related articles

Canon Ambassador Jaime de Diego

Canon Europe Ambassador Programme

Find out how the ambassador programme works, and meet the phenomenal photographers chosen to represent Canon.

Canon Professional Services

Members get access to CPS Priority Support, both locally and at major events; a priority Fast Track repair service; and — depending on your level of membership — free back-up equipment loans plus return shipping and discounts on maintenance. They can also enjoy exclusive members’ offers.