Chellise Michael Photography Document Weddings Rebelliously

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Chellise Michael Photography Captures Weddings in Rebellion Against Mainstream Wedding Photography

Chloë Hylkema

Written by: Chloë Hylkema

Chloë Hylkema

Chloë Hylkema uses her writing skills to create useful and up-to-date content for Chloë is an Emory University grad who is familiar with what it means to date in the modern age, and she works to write material that is engaging, truthful, and as helpful as possible. Being on the front lines of the dating scene, Chloë is committed to staying engaged with the ever-changing world of dating to provide the most useful content to readers.

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Lillian Castro

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The Short Version: Chellise Michael Photography is a wedding photography studio focused on capturing couples’ wedding days with an artistic touch. Using film and digital photography, Chellise Michael photographers familiarize themselves with the couple, their background, and their guests to capture the fullness of the day. Touted as ‘anti-wedding’ photographers, Chellise Michael Photography crafts photographs that reflect the individuality of each couple, guest, and wedding experience.

When I think of wedding photography, a few specific images come to mind. A wedding dress hanging in the window, silhouetted by warm and gentle sunlight; close-up shots of a couple looking deeply into each others’ eyes; and a color-coordinated family lined up in a row are all quintessential wedding-day shots. Or are they? 

Chellise and Michael, co-owners and main photographers of Chellise Michael Photography, want to document weddings as they happen, being true witnesses to the uncontrived beauty of the day. The photography studio was founded on the notion that mainstream wedding photography is frequently restrictive and leaves much of the big day undocumented.

woman wearing wedding dress being hoisted while man grips garter with his teeth
Weddings can be boisterous, and Chellise Michael Photography Studio wants to capture that spirit.

Instead of focusing on predetermined poses and wedding tropes, Chellise Michael Photography approaches wedding days like a documentary. Chellise Michael photographers highlight genuine reactions and capture the events of the day, instead of inventing them. Because weddings are about more than just the couple, the studio is also intent on recording guests and their interactions throughout the day.

Founded in 2010 in Brooklyn, Chellise Michael Photography works with couples to capture the experience, love, and vibe of their wedding day. Michael Busse, who owns the studio with his partner Chellise, told us about their approach to wedding photography and what couples can expect when they choose Chellise Michael Photography. “We’re just really into people,” Michael said, “and we rebelled against traditional wedding photography because it often neglects the individual.”

Wedding Day Documentarians

Chellise and Michael, a married couple themselves, founded their studio out of a special love for wedding photography. Both said they feel as though being wedding photographers allows them to form and witness connections with others in a rare way. They have developed their approach around the desire for connection. Their goal is to be present as observers and participants.

Chellise and Michael
Chellise and Michael are married and based in Newburgh, NY. Shot by Meredith Heuer.

Michael and Chellise said they felt as though traditional, mainstream wedding photography methods left much to be desired. Instead of documenting the day, they felt the day was directed through manufactured poses and smiles. Not to mention their glaring homogeny – despite every couple being different, many wedding photos look largely the same.

By focusing on the couple and what makes them unique, Chellise Michael Photography aims to capture the day, the people, and the love that brings it all together in the most authentic way possible. They do this by making sure the couple feels comfortable in the photography setting. That starts with the pre-wedding shoot.

These pre-wedding shoots begin in the couple’s home or neighborhood, sometimes with a little dose of liquid courage, and allow the photographer and couple to get acquainted before a camera even comes out. During these shoots, the photographer can get a better feel for the couple’s connection, story, and desires for their wedding day photography.

Chellise and Michael feel that weddings should be photographed in unique and artistic ways.

Once the wedding day rolls around, Chellise Michael photographers will have a sense of who the couple are and what is important to them. And they will have a developed idea of what the couple is like and how to best photograph them. Michael sees this knowledge as indispensable for wedding photographers. He said forming a connection before the wedding day is essential to capturing the day in its wholeness.

In addition to getting to know the couple before the wedding day, Chellise Michael photographers also congregate and socialize with the wedding party and guests throughout the entire day to make everyone feel comfortable. Socializing with family and friends allows photographers to pick up on relationship dynamics and more accurately capture them on film. 

Traditional Modes, Revolutionary Results

Chellise Michael Photography uses both film and digital cameras to achieve one-of-a-kind results. Michael and Chellise began their studio with a deep love of film, and the feeling and texture it creates in a photograph, as compared to the digital mode. “Film gives a liveliness to photos that we just love,” Michael said. “As photographers, it encourages us to be more present.”

blurry photograph of man and woman standing
Taking photos on film allows photographers to highly control shutter speed and exposure.

Using 35 mm film means that each shot must be intentional and planned. With no immediate visual feedback like the kind digital photography offers, Michael argues that film photographers need to really know their stuff to get the best shots. The film approach allows a distinct artistic vision to be achieved, with photographs having a special texture that is formulated around the feel of the wedding.

Analog film is a photographic medium that’s experienced a resurgence in popularity in recent years. Known for its wonderful imperfection compared to digital photography, photographs created on 35 mm film will have particles, flares, light leaks, and perhaps a little bit of blurriness. This type of film creates grainy photographs that have a warm, antique, and familiar feel.

Chellise and Michael began shooting film at weddings in 2012, and since then have shot film at 95% of weddings their studio has been a part of. They offer solely film packages, as well as digital/film combo packages. Michael feels these combination packages give couples the safety of digital shots along with the warmth and nostalgic feel of film.

woman standing with her back to the camera
The studio’s digital bundle offers high-definition and expertly edited photographs.

Digital photography lends itself well to the candid, editorial kind of shooting Chellise Michael photographers aim for. They create a wedding photo collection that captures the couple and the day holistically.

Photographing the Best Day Ever

The top priority for Chellise Michael Photography is the comfort of the couple. They understand that being photographed by someone couples know creates a trusting environment that is conveyed in the quality of the photographs. Couples shouldn’t have to feel awkward on their wedding day, and for some couples, being photographed is one of the most awkward experiences imaginable.

man and woman walk down aisl
Chellise and Michael regularly travel to shoot weddings.

Chellise Michael photographers capture the day from the perspective of a guest, embedding their shots into the wedding experience. Couples who chose Chellise Michael Photography for their wedding day attest to the magic this style of shooting creates. Testimonials from couples express intense excitement around the final photography products and gratitude for their personalized approach.

A testimonial from a couple who had their wedding shot on 35 mm film reads, “The photos are beyond and your friendship is priceless!” 

Another couple noted how perfectly Chellise captured their family and friends during the wedding day, writing, “These are officially the greatest wedding photos I’ve ever seen. Thank you for these pieces of art.” 

double image of man and woman standing and embracing
Getting to know couples allows the photographer to better capture their personalities.

Couples who choose Chellise Michael Photography to document their wedding day are choosing more than just a wedding photographer – they are commissioning an artist who will lend their vision to memorializing such a monumental day. Chellise and Michael formulate highly individualized approaches for each couple that are informed by extensive knowledge and experience in photography and videography.

Chellise Michael Photography is interested in shooting all kinds of couples and all kinds of weddings. In the same way their artistic approach to shooting weddings is untraditional and counter to mainstream wedding photography trends, they want couples who don’t fit the mold to feel comfortable and welcome. “We work to form connections with the couples and their guests,” Michael said, “and those connections elevate our photographs.”