The primitive fear that photographers somehow capture one's soul isn't entirely wrong.
Photographs do capture and clasp safe the souls of our happiest times: babies and grandparents, first bicycles and first dates, growing kids and old houses and new puppies. Photographs chronicle all the moments of our lives, from everyday happenings to ceremonial rites of passage.
Few family milestones generate more photographic coverage than a wedding. Whether a full-scale production planned months in advance or an impulsive "let's just do it," the event is certain to be surrounded by battery of cameras, ready to capture every minute of the day.
But it's hard for family and friends to be both photographer and participant. Who throws the rice or "Electric Slides" when everyone is behind a camera?
That's where Lloydlee Heite comes in. As a professional photographer, he frees all those amateur "chroniclers" to enjoy everything from -the solemn exchange of vows to the silly shenanigans with the bride's garter.
Heite has recorded hundreds of weddings over the past nine years. Those commissions are a far cry from the former teacher's first tinkering with a camera, when he hustled to catch action shots at local field hockey games.
"I already know so many of these people. I had the hockey teams, then their graduation pictures, and now they're getting married," said Heite. "I do their engagements, their weddings, and then their kids - it's kind of neat."
A member of several state and national photography organizations, the Bridgeville native has won numerous local and national awards. That experience and proven creativity attracts many young couples.
In years past, engagement announcements featured the bride to-be alone, often using her graduation picture. A recent trend includes the fiancee in an engagement portrait taken especially for the announcement of the event. Many couples include this first portrait in their wedding albums.
Heite recalled one couple who wanted their engagement pictures shot at the park where the groom had proposed, to be followed by wedding photos at the same site. Other couples, he said, commission just a set of formal shots or request only candid coverage of the day.
"There are standard groupings - the whole wedding party, just the bride and bridesmaids, just the groom and ushers, then the parents with the bride, and the parents with the groom," said Heite. "Last year, I did a Halloween wedding, where they were all in costume, but they still wanted those set pictures of the wedding party and the parents."
All those choices are made in an initial consultation between photographer and bride and groom.
"There are people who want only the more posed, more traditional shots, and people who want only very candid wedding shots, and then there are those in the middle," said Heite. "I tell them, if you're the kind who is going to just put the album away on a shelf, go with something very simple. If it's going to be out for everyone to see, you'll want something more elaborate."
As the star of the show, brides often schedule an individual portrait session some weeks before the actual wedding. Depending on the personality of the bride and the planned mood of her ceremony, portraits can range from demure to slightly daring. The contrast, for example, between sitting on a flowered lawn amid yards of white lace and spreading that same expanse of white satin across a huge brass bed.
Heite's studio walls are a gallery, where unconventional angles and unusual props create unique portraits: an intimate shot of a couple's kiss; the close up of a bride's upturned face,framed in her gauzy veil; or a bride nonchalantly dribbling a basketball, heedless of all her wedding day finery.
Because wedding parties often include far-flung attendants, the professional photographer usually cannot schedule any other pictures before the actual day. Heite said he was once asked, however, to do a portrait of newlyweds several weeks after the wedding. The couple commissioned a romantic pose atop a craggy rock at the ocean, where sea spray lifted the bride's veil and tossing waves made a dramatic backdrop.
The photographer's wedding day schedule revolves around what coverage has been decided. He may follow the bridal party from their preparations through the reception, or may limit his shots to a set of posed portraits at the church.
It takes some time to arrange the additional lighting necessary for a successful picture and set up the studio-type backdrops for some shots. Out of consideration of guests, many couples ask the entire wedding party to assemble at the church very early, so that many of those staple shots can be done before the ceremony. Since grooms traditionally do not see their brides before that walk down the aisle, guests do have to wait after the wedding for the few poses which include both newlyweds.
The wedding reception includes its own list of standard shots, from Daddy's dance with the bride, to cutting the cake and throwing the bouquet. Most couples also request lots of candid shots of family and friends enjoying themselves.
By the time the newlyweds have returned from their honeymoon, Heite has proofs ready for them to view. Couples make their selections, then it's only a couple weeks before the finished album and any additional pictures are ready for delivery.
Heite said that, although more couples are choosing to have their wedding memories captured on video tape as well as on film, he's not worried about becoming obsolete.
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