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FULL INTERVIEW

GABRIELLE HAIL PHOTOGRAPHY

1. First, how does it feel to do what you do?

Sometimes it doesn’t even feel real to be able to call photography my career. It is so incredibly rewarding in the best possible ways and I feel so thankful and full of bliss working as a wedding and portrait photographer.

2. What do you love about what you do?

I love that I am able to connect with amazing people from all over the world who value my work and trust my creative vision. Photography grants me the ability to be an artist, to travel to new and exciting places and to step into the most important moments of people’s lives.

3. How did you get started with photography?

Funny story. I was always attracted to the arts in some capacity but could never draw or play an instrument so thought photography could be a good medium for me that also satiates my analytic brain. I wanted to start on film so researched the most basic film cameras that could allow me to learn at my own pace. I decided on the Pentax k1000…a 35mm camera from the 80’s that photography students learned on. I was 19 at the time and living with my mom and step dad so naturally told them of my plan to start learning film photography. Turns out, my step dad had the exact model of the film camera I wanted in mint condition stored IN MY BEDROOM CLOSET. It was there waiting for me and he gave it to me as a gift. I learned everything I know now about exposure and composition on that Pentax and still use it to this day.

4. What made you want to start your own business? How did you start Gabrielle Hail Photography?

Initially I was passionate about photography as a hobby but quickly learned how it was possible for me to not only create art with my photos, but also make an income and serve people by giving them photos that will last a lifetime. My company didn’t come to fruition until after I had given birth to my daughter, Holiday. She was definitely a huge inspiration to me and pushed me to make Gabrielle Hail Photography a reality.

5. How did you get started using social media as a marketing tool?

It almost happened naturally when I was only a hobby portrait photographer. I would post my work on my personal Instagram account and people would reach out regularly to book sessions or collaborate. I realized how powerful a tool social media was and through learning how to efficiently use hashtags and locations on Instagram and ads on Facebook, it helped propel me to being a full time professional photographer.

6. How much of your business comes from social media?

Approximately 75% of my business is generated through Facebook and Instagram.

7. Any benefits you didn’t expect from using social media as a marketing tool?

I didn’t expect the reach that I am now capable of. When I first started using social media, it was expecting to reach potential clients around my area of New Orleans but I am now reaching receiving leads both out of state and internationally. It is helping me develop my brand of a fine art wedding photographer.

8. Any negative or unexpected experiences you had from marketing through social media?

None so far! It has been an incredible tool connecting me to potential clients and other amazing creative professionals.
Any advice you’d give small businesses who are thinking about starting a social media marketing campaign?
DO IT. Know your brand and don’t be afraid to market to a specific niche. For example: If you’re a wedding photographer in Seattle and want to book more intimate, outdoor weddings don’t use generic, saturated hashtags like #weddingphotographer on your images. Hashtags like #seattleweddingphotographer #seattleelopements #pnwphotographer #pnwweddings #intimateweddings or #adventurebrides will put your images in front of potential clients who are both in your area and looking for a photographer specific to your brand.

9. Any thoughts or pieces of advice for small photography businesses out there?

Owning a small business is hard, really hard…especially in a creative field. My advice is to know your worth, produce work from the heart, and for god’s sake, take some time off once in a while. You deserve it.

10. What tools on Insta do you use to measure analytics?

I have a business profile on Instagram and utilize the Insights feature. This is incredibly helpful to keep track of my impressions and what days and times yield the highest results as well as my reach in terms of specific demographics like location, age and sex. With this data, I’ve learned that posting at specific times like 11:00 am and 5:00 pm on weekdays reaches the 77% of my followers who are women between the ages of 25 and 34.

11. What tools on FB do you use to measure analytics?

I also measure my reach on Facebook through their Insights tool. I regularly boost posts that are marketed towards my ideal client and can keep track of people reached, engagement and button clicks. Lead conversion is my biggest goal with boosted ads and I learn how to make better ads with Facebook’s insight data.

12. What steps do you take to reach a wider audience?

Interaction is key! I can post ads all day long but the best way to reach more people is to interact with more people. Consistent, meaningful connections with real people on Instagram or Facebook not only keep my posts relevant in the browse feed, but also lead to an increase in reach across the board.

13. Do you aggregate any of this data? If so, do you use any tools to help you see what efforts are successful?

Most of this data is aggregated through my website host, Squarespace. I utilize their analytics to see how many leads from Facebook and Instagram are turned over to my website. This is my ultimate goal. I want my potential client to hit my website already invested in my work, learn more about me, view my portfolio and be ready to submit a contact form.

14. What does a “successful” post look like on Insta/FB?

A successful post to me, isn’t so much about the number of likes, but the meaningful engagements like comments and shares. Also being able to engage back with those comments helps make a post successful. I want a photo to move my audience, make them feel and encourage a dialogue. If I’m able to do any of those things over social media, I consider it a success.

15. How did you get the idea to tag other creatives in your post?

When I organized my first styled bridal shoot a little over a year ago, it was natural for me to tag the other vendors involved so they could see the images. Of course, this led to all of their followers to also see the post and the engagement of these images went through the roof. I always make it a priority to tag my posts with not only the subject and vendors, but also feature accounts that may share the image if it aligns with their aesthetic and message. For instance, I always tag my New Orleans wedding images with #wednola and #thatlacommunity. On occasion, I’ll be featured on their Instagram accounts and thus reach a wider audience.

16. What music do you listen to when you’re doing SM marketing? If you don’t listen to music what’s going on in the background while you work?

Music is a huge inspiration for my work and it would be nearly impossible for me to work without it. I love Florence and the Machine, Grimes, Big Data, Childish Gambino, Led Zeppelin, Everything Everything…put on what inspires you, grooves you and moves your soul. Marketing doesn’t have to be a chore. Put a record on, get a glass of wine and work it out.

17. You post a lot of personal along with your pro posts – how has this impacted your business?

My business and brand isn’t only my photos — it’s ME. Sharing my personal life not only through posts but also through Insta Stories makes me relatable to potential clients. They like to have an insider view into my day to day grind and connect with me through my love of cats or Seinfeld or having a glass of wine with my evening bath. I’m all about breaking down that fourth wall and being as real as possible. Because of this, potential clients are ready to make an investment with me because they relate to my personality and attitude.

18. Besides social, are there any other online marketing techniques you use?

SEO is another huge technique that I implement to bring more traffic to my website. I haven’t mastered it yet, but it shouldn’t be forgotten. Your website should always be number one priority to turn those potential leads into clients and all other social media marketing should lead to it.

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Sophia Williams
sophia@andsonsdesign.com

Sophia is the founder and co-principal of &SONS Creative Development.

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