The South African newspaper full page feature

South African newspaper for South Africans living abroad

The article – Questions by Lindy Timm

Picture perfect

Wedding photography has recently taken a turn from the static, posed pictures that used to be the standard to highly creative and visually attractive captured moments.

Chanelle Segerius-Bruce and Craig Bruce are a South African husband and wife team who live in Surrey and have joined the photography revolution, providing couples with stylised and emotive pictures of wedding ceremonies and preparations.

Lindy Timm chats with Chanelle about jetting the world with her trusty Canon 5D.

Did you study after school? Did it assist you in achieving what you have?
I did a Graphic Design course at Hirt and Carter, Durban. It covered using a Mac, Quark XPress, Freehand and Photoshop. It gave me a good base to start with. When we moved over to London I started out in the design industry.

Did you always have an entrepreneurial spirit?
I have always wanted to work for myself. The aim was to find something that I could do on a freelance basis to actually start up my own business.

Tell us a bit about Segerius-Bruce photography and what your role is?
The first part of the business is wedding and portrait photography. I run the marketing, blogsite (mixture of a website and a blog), answering client enquiries, making bookings and shooting of course. Craig shoots weddings with me and we work as a husband and wife team. I cover the bride’s preparations and he goes with the groom. During the ceremony I am up at the front most of the time and Craig moves around getting shots from the back and sides. This means we really cover a wedding from all angles. I would say that 80% of the day is shot in a documentary fashion. This is wedding photojournalism – unprompted, unstaged, real moments. For the other 20% we take the bride and groom away on their own and do some highly creative, fashion-style images with just the two of them.

The second part of the business is the high end beauty and fashion Photoshop retouching that I do. I work from home or in London studios. I work on high end advertising campaigns doing beauty, hair and fashion retouching.

You’ve done work and retouched campaigns for some big industry names such as Vogue, Esquire and Mario Testino. What has your proudest moment been?
Taking the plunge from working full time as a retoucher in-house for The Body Shop International to going freelance was a difficult decision, but the best one I could ever have made. It gave me the freedom to work with different photographers and on more high end advertising campaigns within ad agencies and within photography studios. It also gave me the time to be able to set up our photography business.

You’ve traveled to some amazing destinations to shoot weddings. Which one has been your favourite?
We travel ‘home’ to South Africa twice a year and cover weddings while we are out there. Last year we were flown out to Cyprus to shoot a wedding which was fantastic – although the 35 degree heat was a bit of a challenge! It really is amazing to visit locations that you may not have thought of going to yourself. At the end of this year we are off to shoot a beach wedding at The Hilton in Mauritius and we will be in SA again in April shooting a game reserve wedding. Thailand is on the cards for the end of 2010 with a wedding at The Four Seasons in Koh Samui.

You’re intimately involved in people’s weddings. Has there been a special wedding moment that has stuck in your mind?
We shot the wedding of an international Samoan rugby player and during the speeches all the groomsmen and some of the groom’s family got up and performed the New Zealand Haka. It was so amazing to see it live – I didn’t know if I should laugh, cry or take the pictures! The Haka is very emotional seen up close and personal.

What’s the concept behind Shoot the Dress?
Your wedding dress will only be worn once, so rather than packing it away in a box why not wear it again for an artistic photo shoot after your wedding day? For destination weddings we can do this the day after the wedding getting the bride and groom to wade into the ocean in their full wedding gear. It’s a chance to have some really relaxed, highly creative shots when you are not worried about your guests.

You recently got married. Were you business partners before you got married? What makes your partnership work?
We got married in 2007 and were starting the photography business around that time. We actually met working together and so we are used to spending a lot of time in each other’s company which is important. Both of us share the passion of photography – so much so that during our honeymoon in Zanzibar we could often be found wondering along the beaches or through the streets of Stone Town, cameras in hand. I did wonder what the other couples must have thought of us!

What drives you to succeed?
The love of photography. The positive responses from our wedding and portrait clients. It is always such a great feeling to hear their words after seeing the images. We have also had some of our weddings published in local and national wedding magazines. This month in fact we have Keata & Jason’s wedding “A London Love Affair” in Cosmopolitan Bride Magazine. It is fantastic seeing your work in print.

What is your vision for your company?
To establish ourselves as Destination Wedding Photographers. We absolutely have wonder-lust and to be able to combine that love of travel with our passion for photography is the ultimate goal. The plan is to spend some of the time in South Africa and the rest here in the UK with other destinations thrown into the mix.

What’s the most important lesson you have learnt about business?
Everyone has an opinion on how things should be done. There is a lot of information out there on the internet. You need to do a lot of research and read up on your particular business and then work out what is right for you.

Do you feel there are more opportunities in London for people starting a business or career than there are in South Africa?
I left South Africa when I was 18 years old so I really cannot say for sure. I feel that certainly for the retouching side of things I would not have had the opportunity to work on such high end brands as D&G, Versace, Burberry and many more. The retouching business seems to be in the main cities such as London, New York and Paris. For weddings I think that South Africa is in fact becoming a very popular destination, especially the Cape area. Every time I leaf through the UK wedding magazines I see at least one South African beach or wine estate wedding featured. I think it is a wonderful thing.

Was it difficult to establish yourself as a South African in a UK market?
This has never been an issue for us. I think the pictures sell you before they know who you are or where you are from. Being South African I think we are generally open and friendly people which is great for the wedding industry. With regards to retouching – the studios in London where I work tend to have a very mixed bag of people and I have worked with all sorts of nationalities including French, Italian, Japanese, South American and more. It tends to be a rather eclectic mix of people in the photographic industry.

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