Cover photograph for interview with Hanna Derecka

Interview with Hanna Derecka – The Winner of CPC Portrait Awards, August 2019

Meet Hanna Derecka - Photographer from Poland and The Winner of our monthly photo contest CPC Portrait Awards, August 2019!

17 mins read


CPC: Dear Hanna, first of all, we want to congratulate you on winning our Monthly Contest CPC Portrait Awards! Can you tell us how does it feel to be a winner?

Hanna Derecka: Thank you very much! It is an amazing feeling to join the group of such fantastic photographers, the winners of your competition! I am even more happy that the black and white portrait has been selected as a winner.  

Photograph by Hanna Derecka


CPC: Could you tell us more about yourself? Who is Hanna Derecka?

Hanna Derecka: I’m 42 years old, I was born in Poland in Brodnica, raised in Lower Silesia where I’ve been living with my family ever since. I’m a mother of four children. My sons are already teenagers – 13 and 16 years old, girls are 2.5 and 8 years old. At the age of 18 I became independent, and worked as a self-employed person while studying economics. Photography became my main source of income in 2013, when I was a single mother raising three children. For a few years I managed to raise children working hard as a photographer. In 2015 I met my husband, in 2017 we became the parents of the youngest daughter Nadia. Together we create a wonderful patchwork family of 5 children.



CPC: We cannot wait to hear the story behing the winning photograh! What were your thoughts when you were creating ”Extravagance”? Is it part of a bigger project? How did you get an idea for this shot?


Hanna: As a mother of teenagers, I understand the problems of growing up, dissatisfaction with the appearance, the desire to express their emotions, opinions, most often different from the opinions of adults. My life experience sometimes makes me a bit of a psychologist at a photo shoot.

“Extravagance” is one of the portraits that I prepared for the opening of the exhibition of portraits at Linhartovy Castle in the Czech Republic.
This is a series about adolescence, choices and acceptance. For winning portrait posed Maja, my client’s daughter. She is an extremely modest and unique girl. The stylization on Maya’s neck was created from table tread. The conversion to b&w was to catch the eye as a manifestation of her confidence.


CPC: How did your photo journey begin? Were you formally educated in photography, or are you self taught?

Hanna: I didn’t finish any photography school, I graduated in economics. But now I’m currently a member of 3 photographic federations, I also obtained a qualification certificate in the portrait of the FEP organization. I’ve been involved with photography for over a dozen years. I bought the first nikon d70 camera, to be able to take good pictures of my boys. At that time, I was taking thousands of photos, documenting their childhood. 

Since 2013 I work as a full-time photographer in my own photo studio. In principle, everything that can be seen in my photographs at the moment I learned by myself but good observers can find the influence of Ewa Ćwikła, in whom I was lucky to participate in the workshops in April 2019. I fell in love with portraits in 2017, but I couldn’t do them at the time. Due to health problems in 2017, I had to take a break from the photographer’s work.

Image from the interview with Hanna Derecka
Image from the interview with Hanna Derecka


CPC: What can be find in your camera bag? If you could only have one lens for the rest of your life, which one would you choose?

Hanna: I use nikon D810 camera with nikkor 24-70mm 2.8 and nikkor 50mm 1.4 in the studio, for the locations – additionally sigma 135mm 1.8. For the rest of my life 😉 – universal zoom.

Image from the interview with Hanna Derecka


CPC: What sets you apart from most of the portrait photographers nowadays are your creative and clever concepts. Where do you find inspiration for them?

Hanna: In my portraits I like to combine the light of painting of the 17th-18th centuries, which I try to bring in the studio with everyday objects. It’s funny, because seeing an object with an interesting structure, weave or form, I immediately wonder how I could use it in a portrait and whether the Model will wear it. In this way, in my portraits, decorative neck flanges are made of cotton pads or plastic cups. Recently, Zuzanna, my red-haired Model, dressed in my old 20-year-old coat of a military character and held a “back cushion for drivers” in hand.

I find inspiration everywhere. Surrounded by everyday life, children, nature, ordinary activities… My husband and I love flea markets and secondhand shops … As a historian he looks at everything in terms of origin, age.. I have a portrait in my head right away … Our last acquisitions are just waiting for our Models and their time to exist … I am a type of collector, everything will be useful to me and I don’t want to sell or throw away anything 😉 Such searches take a lot of time but also give great satisfaction.


CPC: Do you have any photography idols? Someone you look up to when it comes to art and creativity?

Hanna: When it comes to art – generally paintings XVII-XVIII centuries. I can look for hours how great the painters were doing with reproducing the details on the fabrics, how wonderfully they could make light spots, give skin colors. It’s amazing. The inspiration for me are photographers: Gemmy Woud-Binnendijk, Ewa Ćwikła, Danielle van Zadelhoff. I admire artists: Aykut Aydogdu and Omar Ortiz.


CPC: In your opinion what are the elements a good photograph must have. What are the crucial thing to focus on when creating portraits?

Hanna: For me – emotions, eye contact and conversation with models are very important. I talk to models. Sometimes I tell them they don’t have to do anything, just to look at me.

Preparing for a photo session it is also very important. I often find  ethereal materials, lace, thick woolen weaves in stores, silk and velvet… In portraiture I pay attention to details, in post production – to preserving the skin texture. I do not like pretentiousness, over-the-top styling, plastic skin and overly whitened eye whites. Sometimes less is more…

Image from the interview with Hanna Derecka


CPC: You are someone who has very bold and brave style, it seems like you enjoy playing with textures and colors in post production. We would love to hear more about your workflow! On average, how much time do you spend editing an image? Which tool in PS is your favorite?

Hanna: Thank you! Post processing  sometimes means many hours of work.  I can spend up to 3 hours editing one portrait. I love to paint with light in PS, enhance colors, apply textures to my portraits.
I often work in the evening, when my children go to sleep… Although I’m generally working spontaneously, I’m a perfectionist when it comes to processing and attention to detail.
I work only in PS and I use a lot of techniques in post-production, tried and tested for years.  I edit everything manually and use only few actions.  For example, to get the right tone, I use photo gradients in PS and  only sometimes I work with the NIK plugin. I’ve learned a lot about retouching from fotoblogia on YT.


CPC: What made you fall in love with portrait photography? Why this genre?

Hanna: After a few years of hard work only for clients, I was happy when I got pregnant with Nadia. It was summer 2016. I was going to rest, take care of myself and then return to work with new energy. Unfortunately, when Nadia was two months old, an accident happened which thwarted my plans. As a result, my spine has broken in couple places.

 I was lying in bed with a small child by the breast, in a metal corset… And I had no idea if I would walk again without pain, I couldn’t lift the camera. The treatment lasted about 9 months … During the long weeks spent in bed I began to learn new editing techniques, I had a lot of time to practice, try and try… Depressive states intertwined with better days … I had my little daughter who gave me strength. I had a loving husband and older children who became very independent. Then I decided to change the face of my photography, I wanted to show children, how mature they are, bring out their internal beauty … That’s why the portraiture …

 In March 2018 I made the series of portraits, first after a break and first ever. For children with Down Syndrome from the Open Heart Association in Legnica. The effect exceeded my wildest expectations. And that’s why I do it today and I will continue to do it … That’s when I fell in love with melancholy …

Photograph from the interview with Hanna Derecka


CPC: Child photography is becoming more and more popular worldwide. What is your opinion on the current child photography scene? Who are your favorite photographers in this genre?

Hanna: I am one of those who do not constantly follow what is happening in the world of child photography. I cut off the flow of information to myself. There are so many photographers in the world who do child photography. As an admin of one of the largest photo groups on Facebook, I have a cross-section of children’s photography from around the world. I admire artworks of MK Slowinski, whom I like very much privately, I look with delight at the refined portraits of Paulina Duczman, the stories of Damian Drewniak. I like very much the photography and approach to photography business of my friend Karolina Magnowska.


CPC: Can you share with us what was your most unusual/scary/awkward or the most exciting moment since you are a photographer?

Hanna: I had a few scary moments – the shutter fell during baptism, lenses spilled out of the wrongly fastened backpack! The most exciting ones are probably still ahead of me, but I especially remember my photographic success from October 2018. Portrait of my son Gerard (16 years now) won 2nd place in the IPA Photo Awards 2018. It was my first such significant success, the more that I only sent this one photo, one of his first portraits. Gerard was born with a cleft lip and palate and was very shy as a child. His confidence changed a lot at the moment. I hope I gave him courage with this success.

Image from the interview with Hanna Derecka


CPC: If you could offer one piece of advice to photographers reading this, what would you say?

Hanna: Don’t worry about what others are saying! Don’t worry about something not being liked! Find your type of photography, the one that will give you satisfaction that speeds up your heartbeat. Do your job and enjoy the fact that you can do it! Then everything makes sense…

Photograph from the interview with Hanna Derecka
Photograph from the interview with Hanna Derecka


CPC: What are you currently working on? Do you have any photographic plans for future?

Hanna: In addition to  upcoming Christmas photo sessions, I’m preparing a fantastic photo project, due to be done as early as December this year/beginning of the next year. I am also starting to teach photo workshops again, the first one coming up in January in Złodziejewo.


CPC Team: There are so many amazing photographs were submitted to CPC Portrait Awards in August, could you pick a few ones that caught your eye?

Hanna: The selection of featured photos this month is just stunning!! I can’t choose one person but a few. Iris Valentina – her simple and noble portraits captivate, Oksana Zarovna – whose artwork strikes with climate and light, as well as Marysia and Krzyś Słowinscy, for beautiful colors and excellent post-production.

 I would like to thank my beloved husband Sebastian, who from the beginning of my portrait path was supporting me, in tough moments he never once doubted that I would photograph again, my children for constantly inspiring me and not letting forget about what is in life’s most important thing.

Interview with Hanna Derecka



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Cover photograph by M&K Slowinski
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