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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Senior Photos – How to Choose the Right Photographer for You

Kat, a 2018 Brainerd High School Senior, is a member of the Deb Mitzel Photography Senior Model Team.

The school year is winding down, and for you current Juniors, that means Senior Year is right around the corner, and it’s time to start thinking about choosing your photographer and booking an appointment for your senior photos. Not sure who to book or what to look for? Senior photography is a once in a lifetime opportunity to document the culmination of your high school career and the start of your adult life. It’s a really important moment in your history, and you want to be sure that you choose the person and the experience that will best tell YOUR story.  I’ve included a few tips below for finding and choosing the senior photographer that is right for you.

Tip #1  Meet the photographer in person

Deb Mitzel
Deb Mitzel, Photographer

I meet all of my seniors in person. I want to know who you are, what you’re into, and find out information that will help me capture you in the most authentic way at this point in your life. I don’t just want to “take your picture” – I want to know who you are, and do my best to visually tell your story through the photographs we create together.  If we don’t hit it off when we meet, I shouldn’t take your photos.  The bottom line is…if you’re not comfortable with me, we won’t get the best photos for you, and we shouldn’t work together.  This has never been an issue, but I would rather have you work with someone else if I’m not the right photographer for you.

Tip #2  Find someone who wants to collaborate with you and give you a senior experience

You’ve got ideas and visions for what you want your senior photography experience to look like, and I want to make sure that your vision is met. I’m not going to just drag you off to the most common hotspot and catch a few great shots. I want us to take our time and capture you doing the things you love in the places you love the most. Sure, I’ve got ideas and locations that I’m more than happy to share, but I will listen to you and find a way to make your vision a reality if at all possible. This is not about me, it’s about YOU!

Sidney, BHS Class of 2018

Tip #3  Review their work

Take a look at their website and social media. Are they in touch with what’s going on in the lives of their seniors? Are they in touch with current trends and have resources to help you get the best experience possible? I do my best to work with people who will help my seniors look and feel their best for their photos. I work with local fashion boutiques to help you style your wardrobe for the session, as well as local hair and makeup artists to help you complete your best look for the photo session. I try to stay on top of current trends, and am happy to share and incorporate those ideas to help you have the best senior experience possible!

Lauren, BHS Class of 2018

Tip #4  What is the experience like?

I am forever talking about the importance of the experience, and it is because I believe it is such a big part of how I can provide value to you. I want you to have an experience that will provide an awesome memory for you every time you remember it. I don’t want to just show up, take a few pretty pictures, and send you on your way. I want your session to be a fun moment in your life that you will remember fondly for years to come.

Joe, BHS Class of 2018

Tip #5  What physical evidence will you have to remember the session?

In my opinion, there are two very critical components to any photography experience – the actual experience of the session itself, and the physical items you have to trigger the memories after the fact and for years to come. I strongly believe that you should have a great time during the session itself, but I also believe it is super important that you take home albums and wall displays so you have something tangible to look back on and remember this important and special moment in your life.

I am not what is referred to in the photography industry as a “shoot and burn” photographer. I won’t just take your photos and then hand them off to you on a flash drive…you know what happens with those photos? More often than not, they never get printed and enjoyed. I’ve talked to so many people who have photos on drives that they’ve never printed because they don’t know what to do with them, where to go, how to get the best prints, etc, or they just don’t “get around to it”. This is why you come to someone like me, who has the resources and knowledge to do it for you. In some cases, those drives get lost and the photographer can’t be found, and those precious memories are lost forever. How sad is that? You and your memories are so much more important to me than that! I am a full service boutique photography studio, which means you don’t need to do any of the work, and I will deliver beautiful artwork to you that is ready to be hung on your walls or placed on your coffee table. And that’s where it should be – not on a flash drive somewhere that no one will ever see.

What if your great great grandmother’s photo had been hidden on some flash drive – would you ever have seen a photo of her, and realized that you had her nose, or felt a connection to her? Physical photos give us a feeling that can’t be replicated, therefore I feel it is extremely important to preserve that tradition. Some will say the shoot and burn method is less expensive, and that may be true in dollars and cents, but what are your precious memories really worth? Isn’t it worth it to have physical, tangible albums and wall displays that will last a lifetime? If you lose that flash drive, how much would you be willing to pay to get those photos back? My friends, photography is not a commodity. Look for the person that will provide you the best experience, value, and physical products to display your artwork and hold your memories for future generations. You will never regret it!

If the experience I provide to my senior clients is appealing to you, please connect with me.  Let’s sit down, have a conversation, and see if we are a fit.  I LOVE what I do, and nothing makes me happier than being the one to help you tell YOUR story through photography!  I’ll be waiting for your call. 😉

Until  next time!


Ava, Pequot Lakes High School Class of 2018
Mario, Little Falls High School Class of 2018
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Class of 2018 Senior Model Team – Brainerd Photographer

2017 Senior Model Team


2017 Senior Model Team prepares to head off to college in the fall.
I met with a few ladies from the Class of 2017 Senior Model Team recently to get a few photos of them in their college gear. Hard to believe they’ll be heading off in the fall!

This past week has been a week of reflection and of looking ahead for me.

I did a photo shoot with my girls from the Class of 2017 Senior Model Team AND I did the initial photo sessions with the guys and gals that will be with me for the next year on the Class of 2018 Senior Model Team.  We often hear people talk about “young people these days”… and generally it’s not in the most positive light, but I am here to tell you that there are a lot of great young people out there, many of whom I have had the opportunity to connect with through my Senior Model program.

Looking Back to Senior Model Team 2017

If it hadn’t been for two girls who were instrumental in helping me launch the Class of 2017 Senior Model Team, there wouldn’t be anything to talk about for the Class of 2018.  Hanna and Jaelyn, thank you for helping me find the talented young women I’ve had the pleasure to photograph and get to know over the past year!  I appreciate your help more than you know.

The Class of 2017 is winding down their senior year, and will soon graduate and head off to college in the fall.  They are a group of beautiful, talented, and genuinely nice young women, and I can’t wait to follow their future adventures.  Thank you for allowing me into your lives, ladies, it’s been an absolute pleasure getting to know you and your families!

Looking Ahead to Senior Model Team 2018

The Class of 2018 Senior Model Team is packed with a diverse group of guys and gals that I am so excited to get to know better.  We’ve got athletes, writers, dancers, musicians, artists…I cannot wait to see the types of creative shoots we’ll be able to put together over the next year!   Most of the girls and guys were in the studio recently for their initial photos, and it was such an awesome buzz of energy and positivity.  We had fabulous fashions for them to model (Thank you Jennifer at Fashion Affection Boutique and Maya at Modern Man), and makeup artists to give the girls that polished look (Thank you Corrie and Casey from Moxy Hair Studio).  At one point during the week, I looked up and saw moms and daughters hanging out in my studio and having a great time, and thought “this is it, this is what my vision is all about!”.  I always talk about the experience, and seeing everyone in my studio getting ready, having a great time, and waiting for their turn behind the camera…it was the experience I had envisioned for the model team, and it was fun to see it become a reality.

Stay Tuned

Stay tuned to the blog and my social media accounts to see the Class of 2018 Senior Model Team introductions and to follow our journey over the next year.  You can follow me on Facebook at or on Instagram at @dmitzphoto.  You can also subscribe to my VIP list to receive exclusive access to future specials, tips, and other behind the scenes goodies. Sign up form is on the right side of the blog.  And, of course, there’s always, where you can see more of my work, link to my blog and social media accounts, and find information about booking your own photography session.

Until next time…make it a great week!  And check out the photos below from the “College Shoot” with my 2017 Senior Model Team.


Class of 2017 Senior Model Team College photoshoot
A few moments from the “college bound” shoot with the Class of 2017 Senior Model Team.


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Brainerd Senior Photographer – BHS Prom 2017

Spring time is Prom time…

…for most high schools, and it’s one of those high school experiences that I think everyone should have. Getting dressed up, going out to dinner, and dancing the night away with your best friends…nothing says high school experience quite like it!

About a week ago, I had the opportunity to actually attend the Brainerd High School Prom, something I hadn’t done since my own, many moons ago!  It was fun seeing all of the young people dressed up in their finest at the Grand March, and then watching them drop their purses and kick off their heels as they arrived at The NP Event Center to dance the night away.  I was struck by the fact that even though so many things have changed since my time in high school, some things, like prom, are still very much the same.  Yes, the preparation is a little more extravagant (getting your hair and makeup done?  that wasn’t even a consideration in my time), and the clothes and meals are fancier and more expensive, but the fun of dancing and singing to your favorite songs with all of your closest friends is still the same.  It’s a timeless tradition that doesn’t go out of style.  As you know, for me, experience is a huge deal, and prom is one of those experiences that you will remember the rest of your life.  Can you guess what else was similar to my high school days?  The music!  I heard at least three songs that were played during my own high school days..and you know what else?  The kids knew every word by heart!  Kinda makes this old 80’s girl proud. 🙂

The Pre-Prom Party

I spent time with a couple of my 2017 Senior Models and their friends before they headed off to Grand March.  This fun loving group all traveled together in a RV driven by one of the parents – what a fun experience!

Brainerd High School 2017 Prom
Brainerd High School 2017 Prom
Brainerd High School 2017 Prom
Brainerd High School 2017 Prom
Brainerd High School 2017 Prom

Grand March and The Main Event

Click on this link to view Grand March and Dance highlights, as well as the entire Prom gallery –

2017, BHS, Brainerd High School, Prom, Prom 2017
Brainerd High School 2017 Prom at The NP Event Center

2017, BHS, Brainerd High School, Prom, Prom 2017 2017, BHS, Brainerd High School, Prom, Prom 2017

2017, BHS, Brainerd High School, Prom, Prom 2017
Brainerd High School 2017 Prom at The NP Event Center

Until next time!



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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 – Creating the ultimate Senior Experience

It’s that time of year again when I’m busy making plans for the upcoming senior season and thinking of all the things I want to do to provide an incredible experience for my senior models, as well as all of the seniors who come to me for their portrait experience. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating…I want my seniors to walk away with an experience they will remember fondly every time they look at their photos, whether 6 months, 6 years, or 6 decades from now! That’s a pretty lofty goal, but I’ve always set high standards, and I’m not going to start doing things halfway now, that’s just who I am.

This year my seniors will have the opportunity to enter a national senior model competition. If they are chosen as one of the winners, they’ll win a trip to a warm, sunny destination in January, where they will participate in a fashion shoot for a magazine, as well as have the experience of a lifetime. I am so thrilled to be able to provide this amazing opportunity for my seniors this year! More details will be coming soon, but you can be sure it will be an incredible opportunity for the winners.  Now, I know that everyone who enters will not win the big prize, but we’re going to have some fun and creative shoots locally, too, so if you’re an upcoming senior, this is something you’ll definitely want to be a part of.  This is all part of that senior experience I want you to have – all you have to do is let me know what you’re into and what your vision is, and I’ll do my best to help you make it a reality!

To give you an idea of what’s involved in this national senior model competition, check out this incredible video produced by Katherine Mendieta that showcases the winning seniors at their model shoot in Las Vegas a couple of years ago. Talk about an experience! I am continually looking for ways to raise the bar for my seniors, and am really excited about this opportunity!  Stay tuned to the blog and social media for all the details!

Until next time…



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