Hoffmann was born on May 24, 1918 in Banská Štiavnica, Kingdom of Hungary, since 1920 Czechoslovakia. After studying journalism in Prague, he worked at Twentieth Century Fox in Paris as a photojournalist. During Mussolini's invasion of Abyssinia he was sent to make a documentary of the invasion. After returning from Africa he was sent to Spain to film the 1936 People's Olympiad (a protest against the official Olympic games in Berlin under Hitler's propaganda). Soon after he arrived in Spain, the civil war broke out and Dezo found himself on the barricades. In this period he met personalities such as Hemingway and Robert Capa. Allegedly the three men formed an inseparable trio.
Facing war dangers Dezo was injured a few times. The third injury was serious, leaving him without memory for several months. After recovery he moved to England and joined the squadron of Czechoslovak pilots flying with the RAF during World War II.
After the war he remained in London, working for various newspapers and magazines. In 1955 he began his collaboration with Record Mirror magazine, which was the start of his career photographing show-business celebrities. In 1962 he went to Liverpool to shoot an unknown but promising group - The Beatles. Mutual appreciation and sympathy led to a long-lasting relationship between Hoffmann and the group. Dezo also made a 8mm colour film during this first Beatles assignment, which must be the first ever colour film taken of them, also featuring many scenes actually shot by the Beatles.
It is said that Paul McCartney had declared him the world's best photographer. During the following years Hoffmann's famous photos of The Beatles attracted the attention of many other stars. He was regarded as a "nice chap" who was appreciated and welcomed wherever he went despite his strong foreign accent.
In 1982, Omnibus Press published With the Beatles - The historic photographs of Dezo Hoffmann, showing some of the photos captured by Dezo during the prime time of Beatlemania. This book is out of print as Dezo's Beatles photos collection has been acquired by Apple Corps Ltd. Most of the photos used in the 'The Beatles Live at the BBC' CD/LP, including the front cover photo, were taken by Dezo. (The remainder of Dezo's archive of approximately 1 million photographs of countless pop musicians and showbiz personalities was acquired by Rex Features, the respected photo agency and photo library which had represented Dezo for worldwide media sales of his work from the early 1960s until his death).
Dezo Hoffmann died on March 29, 1986 aged 73 in the Harley Street Clinic, London. He was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium where his ashes were scattered on the bluebell lawn.