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Interview with Michael Betzner | GBPW Episode 178

4 min read

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Quick summary

In this episode of the Great Big Photography World Podcast, content creator and portrait photographer Michael Betzner talks about how he became a photographer, his approach to directing models, and how he found success in social media by leaning into his authentic self.

portrait of Michael Betzner.

I just kept reminding myself, when you’re uncomfortable, you’re growing.

Michael Betzner

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Portrait shoot by Michael Betzner.

In this episode, I speak with Michael Betzner, a content creator and portrait photographer based in Durham, North Carolina. Michael’s journey into photography was sparked by finding his partner’s old camera. Today, he mainly focused on editorial branding and self-love sessions.

We talk about:

  • Michael’s photography journey.
  • The importance of authenticity and honesty in building a community and connecting with followers.
  • How to be genuine in connecting with models to make them feel comfortable in front of the camera.

& much more!

Michael’s journey to overcoming insecurities and growing through uncomfortable experiences in his photography journey is truly inspiring. I hope this episode motivates you to create art without getting boxed by social media demands.

Here is a preview of our conversation with Michael Betzner.

Portrait photo of two ladies.

Q: As a self taught photographer, what did you struggle with the most at the beginning?

Michael Betzner: Manual settings. I shot in automatic for about a year. And I also just had really big self-doubt; I had a mental block; I’d be like, I’m not a real photographer until I can shoot manual or until I can do this. And I would put all these limiting beliefs in my head. And I think that really was the biggest thing that held me back the longest.

And then when I let those things go, I was kind of like, “You know, whatever, I’m just gonna post whatever I want to do, and I’m gonna try my best and post it even if it’s not great.” 

And I saw success in so many different ways, like success on social media and success in my clients. I started booking more people and success, just feeling comfortable and happy with myself and taking time to just accept where I was. I’ve been telling myself and reminding myself that it’s okay because I think a lot of the time, the photography community, it can get toxic, where it’s like, “Well, if you don’t shoot manual, you’re not a real photographer.” And it’s like, well, is that true? You know, at the end of the day, this is a hot take; if you pick up a camera and take a picture, you’re automatically a photographer. 

Self-portrait by Michael Betzner.

Q: Do you think it’s important to share their process of taking photos?

Michael Betzner: Yeah, it’s different on each app. For me, I would say Instagram is definitely more sustainable. The algorithm and the way TikTok is set up, they want you to post five videos a day, and it’s just not sustainable. But just be yourself and be real and honest. Show up on your stories, talk on your stories, be on there and talk about your process, and show behind-the-scenes videos.

The biggest thing that I found that I get to connect to people is when I make a series about things, and I openly just talk about it.

Michael Betzner shoot with a model.

Q: What advice would you give to people who want to make their models feel at ease in front of the camera?

Michael Betzner: Have some moments of connection, and don’t let yourself feel that pressure because they know that in shoots, sometimes it feels like a lot of pressure, and you’re like, “Oh, I only have an hour”, or “I have a limited amount of time, I have to get the best shots.” 

When I let that pressure go, I just started saying, “Let’s just have fun and see where it goes; whatever happens happens”. And I started listening to my client’s insecurities or the things they didn’t want or the things they did want and like flowing with that and moving with that. That really helped me get creative in a different way.

And also showing your client and your model the images in your camera while you’re shooting. I do that like 40 different times during a shoot. I’ll take pictures, then show the person I’m taking pictures of and be like, “Look how cute this is”. Because a lot of the time, they’ll notice something I won’t, or it will just motivate them to try new, more crazy or weird poses because they are like, “Oh, okay, like, that’s cute!”“I like that I look good here. I trust you now, let’s do something even more weird.” And so I can direct them into more weird poses or something that’s maybe a little bit more uncomfortable, or like out of their comfort zone because they’re seeing that what I’m getting is something they like.

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Taya Iv is a portrait photographer, 500px ambassador, and host of Great Big Photography World podcast.
Taya Iv is a portrait photographer, 500px ambassador, and host of Great Big Photography World podcast.
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