Brainerd Photographer – A Good Kind of Crazy

Deb Mitzel
Deb Mitzel, Owner of Deb Mitzel Photography

As many of you know, I’ve been involved in my local business community for over twenty years, and when people find out that I’ve started a photography business in addition to my day job, some of them think I’ve lost my mind! While I can certainly appreciate that sentiment, the reality is that my photography business fills up my tank, so to speak, and provides the fuel for my day job. Photography allows me to scratch an entrepreneurial itch I’ve had all of my adult life, as well as provide me with a creative outlet. Now, I’ve always said that I don’t have a creative bone in my body, but I have decided there must be a little bit of creativity in my shutter finger because there’s more to photography than just having a good camera, despite what some folks may think. I always have to chuckle when people say things like “those are beautiful photos, you must have a great camera” or “I wish I could afford a camera like that, then I could take great photos too”… Of course, the snarky side of me wants to say something like “Yeah, I’ve heard you’re an incredible surgeon, you must have a great scalpel” or “you’re an incredible hair stylist, you must have great scissors”.  But thinking better of it,  I smile and say “thank you, I do have a great camera, but the operator has a little to do with it, too”, and then wink.  The reality is that anyone can press a button, but that won’t guarantee the same results any more than someone having an expensive scalpel will make them a better surgeon.

The Difference Maker

With everything we do in life, we and our attitudes are the difference maker. John Maxwell wrote a book many years ago called “The Difference Maker”, and it is a great read for anyone who needs to gain a little perspective in their life.  The gist of the book is that our attitudes determine whether our lives are good or bad, and reminds us that the ability to make that choice is ours and ours alone.  No one can do it for us.  My attitude about photography is that I LOVE it, and my goal is to make every session an enjoyable experience for all involved.   Now, if you come in with a bad attitude and don’t want to be there, I might have a more difficult time, but I can almost guarantee that even with a bad attitude to start, you will walk away at the end with a “less bad” attitude!! Ha! How’s that for proper English?!?

I love what I do, and you can feel that from the moment we start to talk about your session, so you probably don’t want to book with me unless you want to have a good time and get some great pictures. If you want bad pictures and want to hate every minute of the experience, DON’T book a session with me. 😉  I concede that having a side business in addition to another full time career may be a little bit crazy, but photography is the thing that gives me energy and fuels my passion for life.  If that’s crazy, serve me up another helping, please!

Until next time…be the difference maker in your own life…Change your Attitude, Change your Life!

Brainerd Photographer enjoys working with high school seniors
Working with fabulous young people is what fuels my passion for photography.



Class of 2018
These young ladies have a lot to contemplate as they enter their Senior Year of High School this fall.
Change your attitude, change your world!
I love the genuine smiles on their faces…laughter and a great attitude can make all the difference in the world!


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Brainerd Senior Photographer – Never stop learning

I recently attended a photography retreat and conference in Arizona. Not a bad place to be in March when you’re a Senior Photographer from Minnesota!  The retreat organizers were on a mission to provide hands on opportunities to shoot and actually use our camera gear, as well as a variety of more traditional classroom training.   I strongly believe that we should always be learning and trying to better ourselves, so deciding to attend this retreat didn’t take much arm twisting! I truly believe that if you get to the point where you think you know everything about something, it’s probably time to hang it up.

Graffiti Alley Dancer
Brainerd Senior Photographer Deb Mitzel captured this image of a Phoenix dancer in a graffiti alley during a photography retreat.

Never stop learning

I have so many things to learn about photography, and honestly, that’s a big part of what I love about it – there’s always a challenge around the next corner. From posing to lighting, and editing to album making, there is always something new to learn and be challenged with.  I connected with a huge variety of other photographers at the retreat.  Some specialized in portraits, such as senior photography, others in landscapes, architecture, products, etc. Some had been doing photography for years, others has just gotten started. The really incredible thing was that we were all willing to work with each other and help each other out. From group shooting challenges to stretching ourselves in the studio and on location, there were so many ways to learn and take ourselves outside of our comfort zones. It really was an amazing few days.

The Portfolio Review – can you say intimidating?

While at the Retreat, I took the opportunity to have my portfolio reviewed, which can be a really scary proposition. Having another photographer review and critique your best work can be mind-rattling, but I welcomed the opportunity to learn and grow from those whose work I admire. The reviews were very positive, but one suggestion was to step outside of the safe zone and get a little edgy with my photos, which I fully intend to do. As I’ve mentioned many times, much of my focus is on providing an experience, and I also want to give you photos and options you may not find elsewhere. I will always make sure you get those “safe photos” to hang on the wall, but I also think we should mix it up with some edgy sports portraiture or high fashion model style looks. You know those looks and poses you post when you’re taking your selfies? I want you to let loose so we can capture some of that “real you” during your senior session, too. And you just never know, those may be the photos you end up hanging on the wall after all. 😉

Phoenix Graffiti Alley
Brainerd Senior Photographer Deb Mitzel captured this image of a Phoenix dancer in a graffiti alley during a photography retreat.

What fills you up?

If you’re a senior or are about to be, the idea that you should never stop learning may seem daunting, and you may be thinking that you’re just ready to be done with school and learning for a while. That may be, but this is a different type of learning – learning that will serve you well for the rest of your life, and give you energy when you need it the most. Find something that fuels your passion and learn everything you can about it, whether it is something you will use to pay the bills or not. In life, there are things that fill you up, and things that deplete you. Filling yourself up by learning something you’re passionate about is the best way to be your BEST YOU in everything you do.

Photography is the thing that fills me up, so attending this retreat was a great way for me to expand my knowledge and use what I’ve learned to do my best work for you. 🙂

Until next time,


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Brainerd Photographer – Leading a Double Life of Business and Photography

In the past couple of years, I have gotten to know a lot of new people through my photography business, people that I hadn’t had the opportunity to cross paths with in my twenty years in the community previously.  It has been such a fantastic experience, and it reminds me that in some ways, I lead a sort of double life.  My husband and I have lived in the Brainerd, MN area since the mid-90’s – he was transferred here with his company and I quickly landed in the automotive industry, which is what I had been doing prior to our move.  I have met so many great people over the years through my business connections – my involvement with the Chamber of Commerce, the Blandin Leadership Program, and a variety of non-profit organizations.  Because I have been so involved in the business community, I actually started to believe that I knew a lot of people in the community at large.  I have since found out how many people I don’t know.  It’s amazing how many people you come to know when you start hanging out in different circles.  Try hanging out at a football game or a gymnastics meet – there’s a whole different crowd!  Now, don’t get me wrong, I still know a ton of people at those activities, but there are so many more that I’m just getting to know, and I’m loving it.

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A little look back, and a big look forward…

Oh. My. Goodness.  I have been soooo bad at keeping up on my blog!  When I looked back and saw that my last post was in July, I could hardly believe it, but indeed, that was the last time.  As many of you know, I have a full time career outside of photography, so I am in this business because I absolutely love it and it gives me incredible energy!  However, much to my surprise, I have discovered that there are only 24 hours in a day, and sometimes I guess I just need to sleep!  As a result, when something has to give, my blogging is the thing that seems to fall to the bottom of the pile.

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Need help finding something to wear for your photo session, or just need to find a fun outfit that makes you look good?

2017 Senior Model Team, Box Car, Paul Bunyan Land, dmitzseniors
This boxcar provided a perfect backdrop that is reminiscent of a TV Series poster. Model’s clothing provided and styled by Fashion Affection Boutique.

What should I wear?  For many of us, it’s a daily question, but when it comes time to decide what we should wear to have photos taken, many of us go into complete panic mode, and then we head out shopping.  Wouldn’t it be nice if you could have someone help you who knows fashion, what works on different body types, and what will photograph well?  Someone to give you peace of mind so you can come to your photo shoot confident and feeling fabulous?  Well, I happen to know the someone who can do that for you…her name is Jennifer, and she’s the owner of Fashion Affection Boutique, located in the Fitquest Center, right across from El Tequila.  The moment you meet her, Jennifer will make you feel completely at ease, like you are having a conversation with a good friend.  Just tell her what you need an outfit for, and she’ll ask you a couple of questions, then begin to work her magic, finding you exactly what you need, even though you weren’t even sure where to start!

Jennifer, Fashion Affection Boutique owner and fashion guru
Jennifer, Fashion Affection Boutique owner and fashion guru

Earlier this year, when I was putting together plans for my Senior Model Program, I approached Jennifer about working with me on a model shoot, and quickly found that we shared a similar passion in that we love to help people feel empowered and beautiful.  We go about it in different ways – she by helping women select outfits that make them feel beautiful, and me through the lens of my camera, but we both knew that by working together, we could have an even bigger impact!

I knew Jennifer had a gift from my own experiences in her store, but it really hit home when the models and I met with her to select their clothing for the model shoot.  She had asked 3 simple questions of them ahead of time, and we arrived to find that she had selected outfits for them as a starting point based on those three questions.  She invited them to tweak their looks, and let her know what they did or didn’t like so they could change it up, but she was absolutely spot on right out of the gate!  The moms in attendance were shocked at how well Jennifer was able to do without knowing their daughters, when they likely wouldn’t have fared as well knowing them their entire lives.  To say Jennifer is good at what she does would be a gross understatement!

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So… if you’re trying to figure out what to wear for your upcoming photo shoot, or you need a fabulous outfit “just because”, stop by Fashion Affection Boutique and meet Jennifer or one of the other ladies.  They’re all fabulous by the way, and will help you find clothes you just can’t wait to wear!  And one other thing… in case you’re thinking you’ll have to drop a lot of cash to have this experience, think again – there is nothing in the store priced over $50!  That’s a pretty lofty goal, and Jennifer has done it with fashionable clothes you’ll love to wear.

Jennifer and her mom, Sue, can regularly be found in the boutique, along with recent high school graduate, Hannah, not pictured. They are all fabulous at helping you find the perfect outfit!
Jennifer and her mom, Sue, can regularly be found in the boutique, along with recent high school graduate, Hannah, not pictured. They are all fabulous at helping you find the perfect outfit!

Check out the fabulous clothes on the girls in these photos – they all came from Fashion Affection Boutique.  Tell Jennifer and the ladies I sent you when you stop by – you won’t be disappointed!

The carousel provided a fun backdrop for our model shoot at Paul Bunyan Land. Model's clothing provided and styled by Fashion Affection Boutique.
The carousel provided a fun backdrop for our model shoot at Paul Bunyan Land. Model’s clothing provided and styled by Fashion Affection Boutique.
Model shoot at Paul Bunyan Land. Model's clothing provided and styled by Fashion Affection Boutique.
Model shoot at Paul Bunyan Land. Model’s clothing provided and styled by Fashion Affection Boutique.
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It’s all about the experience!

Anderson, Amie Proofs-1I’m often asked why I do photography when I am already so busy. If you didn’t know, I also have a full time career in the business world, but I love portrait photography so much that it doesn’t feel like work to me.  There is just something about working with a client one on one that I truly enjoy. And the more I work with folks, I find that many of them have had a prior experience that was less than pleasant, which makes them dread the thought of doing it again.  I take great pride in providing a fun and relaxing experience for my clients, so when you contact me about taking your photo and tell me you “hate having your picture taken”, you need to know that is a personal challenge for me to make sure that’s not the case THIS time.

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