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!


Continue Reading

Lost photos – the downside of today’s technology

Have you ever talked to a friend who was so bummed out because they had just lost or broken their cell phone?  Were you there when they realized that the majority of their recent pictures were on that phone?  Were you also there when they realized that they didn’t have it backed up, and those photos were lost forever?  I have, and let me tell you, it’s not a fun moment.  The pain of lost photos is definitely a downside of today’s technology!

Connection to the Past

This family was all about having a good time taking their pictures, and it showed in the photos. Thank you for being such great sports, Kappes Family!

When it comes to photography today, so many of our precious memories are living on a little card inside our phones, and since most people aren’t backing them up, they can be lost in the blink of an eye. I’ve heard from more than one parent in the past few years who lost a large chunk of their photos when their phone died or they switched carriers, lost it, or some other scenario. To me this is just tragic. Photos have always been an important part of my life’s story. They are how I was able to connect with grandparents that were gone before I was born, how I was able to see my parent’s relationship as they were dating and newly married, how I’ve relived many moments from my own childhood, and that is the kind of experience I want for absolutely everyone. In my mind, it is something that truly cannot be taken lightly – you can’t get those moments back once they’re lost forever.

A Present for the Future

That, my friends, is why I’m so extremely passionate about you taking home wall art and albums of the photos we create during your session with me. If I just hand you a digital USB device and no physical photos, the odds of them ever getting printed and put in albums or hung on your wall are slim to none, and that is a darn shame! Not to mention the fact that by the time someone realizes the true value of them (one or two generations down the road), the technology will no longer be able to “read’ those photos and they will be lost forever. That doesn’t happen with prints. Yes, they may fade and dull over time (but even that has improved greatly with technology), but they are still physically present, and future generations can hold those photos in their hands and feel a connection to someone they may never have had the opportunity to know. That is so precious and cannot be emphasized enough.

I think our society has come to a point with cameras in everyone’s hands that photography has become a bit devalued, but for those of you who still cherish the importance of it, and want to have that lasting legacy, I am here for you. I am not that photographer who will spend two hours with you and then just dump all the files on a flash drive for you and send you on your way. No, I care too much about you and your legacy to do that. I realize you’re busy and have a million other things to do, so I am going to be the one who ensures that you have physical prints that will last for generations to come.   Have you ever paid attention to the photos in the obituary section of the newspaper?  This may seem a bit morbid, but I promise there is a point… Have you noticed those photos where it is obvious that the deceased’s photo was cropped out of a snapshot with other people in it? Isn’t it sad that there wasn’t even one great picture of them solo that could have been used? Or, how about the ones where the deceased had lived a long life and died at 95, but the photo is of them at 25 years old? Perhaps their family had a reason for including the old photo, but in many cases, the reason is that the deceased hadn’t had a professional photo taken of themselves for 70 years! As one who values the printed photograph, this saddens me.  The moral of the story?  Do yourself and your family a favor and make sure you take and print photos of your family throughout your lifetime, whether you do it with a professional photographer or not.

They wouldn’t have let her fall, but for a moment she wasn’t sure!

Since I’m already on my soapbox!

And, since I’m already on my soapbox about printing photos, how about one more topic?   For those of you that whine and complain every time you’re asked to be in a photo, please do your family and friends a favor and knock it off! You may not personally care about the photo, but trust me, you have current and future loved ones who do. So next time you are tempted to complain when asked to sit for a photo, remember that you are only hurting those that love you, because we both know it’s not hurting you. Ok, rant over, but I find it so frustrating when people (usually guys) make such a fuss about having their photo taken, when in reality it is one of the best gifts they can give to their family. So relax and smile, guys! Your future grandchildren will thank you! 🙂

Until next time…


Continue Reading

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,


Continue Reading

Brainerd Photographer – My Senior Experience

I’ve talked before about the great experience I had with my senior photographer.  I grew up in a small town, so I had known him all my life, and he was only a few years older than me.   I have written about the fact that I never really felt like I could smile.  I don’t remember specific anxiety about it, but I distinctly remember being pleasantly surprised when my proofs came back and I was happy with them and how my smile looked.  I am a child of the 80’s (yes I’m old), and at that point the majority of senior pictures were in a studio in front of some lame bookcase backdrop, and most of them looked the same.  My experience, however, was significantly different.  Jay (that was my photographer’s name) did some of those indoor studio shots, too, but the backdrops were better, and then we went to several different outdoor locations to shoot as well.  I think I had four or five different outfits, and he made the entire experience comfortable and enjoyable.  It obviously must have been, because 30 plus years later (yep, I said I was old), I am still talking about it.  In fact, I enjoyed working with him so much that he was also our wedding photographer when my husband and I got married.  That positive and personal experience with Jay is what drives my passion for developing a relationship with my clients and providing the best senior experience possible.

I understand that most of us are a bit insecure about having our photos taken, so isn’t it nice to know that you’ve got someone on the other side of the camera who wants to get to know who you really are, and will do everything in their power to present you in the best light, in the way that everyone else sees you?  Not necessarily in the critical way you see yourself?  Man, speaking of that…the other day I went on a shopping trip because I was in desperate need of some new clothes.  So, off I went, determined to find something new to make me feel good and spunky again.  Well, that whole idea went south as soon as I stepped into the dressing room at the department store.  When was the last time you stood in front of the mirror in the harsh light of the department store dressing room half clothed?  Well, I did it the other day, and I’m here to tell you, it wasn’t a pleasant experience!  Now I work out regularly and try to watch what I eat, but man, it was still a “come to Jesus” moment for me.  Fortunately, I don’t live my life half clothed under the harsh lights of a department store dressing room, but if I did, I would need someone alongside me to peel me off the ceiling from that scary experience!  That, my friends, is what I try to do for you as your photographer!  I think we all view ourselves as half clothed under those harsh lights, and we need someone to come along who sees the real us, and can show us what we really look like under soft natural light with all our clothes on…let me tell you, it’s a very different, and much more pleasant experience!


Until next time…


P.S…and if you’re going shopping, be sure to bring a friend along for moral support!

Continue Reading

Brainerd Photographer – Planning for your Photo Session

If you’ve ever talked to me about my photography or spent much time on my website, you know that providing an “experience” is very important to me. I know the idea of providing an experience has become a bit of a catch phrase in the marketing world – don’t we all like doing business with people we know, like and trust? Sure we do – it makes perfect sense, and I guess to me, that’s just common sense! With regard to my photography business, my goal is to take experience a little further. Photography is such a personal thing – it’s just me and my camera with you, in what, for most people is a pretty vulnerable position. Some people like having their picture taken, but most are a bit self conscious. I completely understand that and don’t take those fears and concerns lightly. I want to make you feel at home in front of my camera, and know that I will do everything in my power to have you feeling comfortable during the process so you walk away feeling confident and excited to see the images that I’ve captured.

I want your session to be reflection of you, so we’ll put a plan together to make that happen before I ever pick up the camera. We’ll do this during your pre-session consultation. This is when we’ll meet in my studio to get to know each other a bit and plan out your session. I am specifically referring to my process with seniors here, but other than business headshots, I prefer to meet with all clients ahead of time for a consultation. I like to know what your goals are for the session, what you’re planning to do with the photos, who you are, what you’re into, what your concerns are, what you’re excited about. I want to tell your story through images, and capture you in a way that is authentic and true to the person you are at this moment in time. If I don’t have the opportunity to meet you until a few minutes before your session, we’ll still capture some great images, but they may not really tell the story of who you are, and I want you to look back at your photos when you’re my age (which is pretty old!), and remember fondly where we went, what we did, and some funny story that happened along the way. That is the authentic experience I want for you!

When it comes to senior photos, or any photos for that matter, deciding what to wear can often be an extremely frustrating process. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could work with someone to give you honest advice and help you find the outfits that look great and help you feel “like you”? I’ve been working with Jennifer and her team at Fashion Affection Boutique in Baxter for the past year with my senior model team, and they have done a fantastic job finding clothes to match the style and personality of each model. We will be working together again this year for my model program, and Jennifer has graciously agreed to provide some wardrobe guidance to those of you who might need it when planning your sessions. If this is something you’d be interested in, just let me know when we schedule your session, and we’ll arrange a time for you to stop by Fashion Affection and get the help you need. Having clothing that makes you feel good and looks good on you is so important! Thanks to Jennifer and her team at Fashion Affection for helping us make your senior experience just a little bit better!

I recently did a photo shoot with the ladies of FAB. They are one fun loving bunch of ladies, and I promise they’ll take great care of you when you visit their store!

Until next time…stay Modern. Authentic. You.







Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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!

160519_Model Clothing Selection_0019.jpg 160518_untitled_0042.jpg 160518_untitled_0041.jpg 160518_untitled_0040.jpg

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.
Continue Reading

Happy Mother’s Day!

Stauffer Proofs-20

Mothers and Daughters share a special bond, and it was obvious during my session with these two.  If you spend a couple of minutes with them, you will quickly realize that they are extremely close, and share such a strong connection.  The smiles, laughter, hugs, and inside jokes were abundant and so fun to capture. Happy Mother’s Day, Jessica – you and Hailey are lucky to have each other.  And to the rest of you moms out there…Happy Mother’s Day!

Continue Reading