You’re finally there: you’ve created a portfolio that you’re proud of, you’ve saved up for that dream lens of yours, and you know the ins and outs of your digital camera. Now all that’s left is to showcase your work on the internet and … damn. A name, that’s what you need.
You’ve spent so much time honing in on your photography skills that you’ve forgotton that you needed a business name in order to market yourself. Now I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up the title always seemed like the most difficult part of any assignment. Write a 10 page paper on the role of neurotransmitters in synapse formation? No problem! But to write a title for that paper, now that’s a whole different story. I’d write the entire paper, stare blankly at the screen for about 20 minutes, get up and pace around my house, stare at the screen for another 20 minutes, and then finally give up and decide that I was going to “sleep on it”.
Hopefully, coming up with titles (and business names) is easier for you than it is for me, but even if it’s not, have no fear. This post will give you tons of helpful pointers and will hopefully jog a bit of creativity so that you can be on the road to photographic stardom in no time. And if you’re looking for some extra help getting started with your career, check out this helpful course on how to land Your First $100 Photography Gig.
Before you start getting anxious, remember this:
A name isn’t going to make or break your chances of success. While it may seem as though your name is going to be the defining factor of your work, it’s not. Trust me! Potential clients will check out your portfolio, and the quality of your photographs will speak so much louder than any name you can come up with. The aesthetic appeal of your overall website is also an important factor, but that’s a whole different topic. If you’re interested in learning how to create a successfully designed business website, there’s a course for you.
If you’re sitting at home fretting over potential business names, take a deep breath and relax. Spend the next few days thinking about potential names, write down your top 10 favorites, and then choose the one that you think best fits you! It’s that simple, even if it doesn’t seem so. If you have some nice friends or roommates around, have them take a look at your list before deciding. Odds are, at least one person you ask will say “dude, I don’t care, just pick one”. Because you are over-analyzing it far more than anyone else will.
That being said, you don’t want to be stuck with a name like “Pretty Good Photography” or “Kewl Imagez” because, well, you are a professional. Your name should reflect that professional status or people won’t take you as seriously.
So where do you begin?
First things first, do you know what type of photography you’re going to provide to your clients? This isn’t to say you should restrict yourself to strictly pet photography or strictly sports photography, but every artist has their own particular style. Do you like to pose your subjects or are you more of a candid type? Do you like to use external lights or natural lights? If you’re unsure, check out some courses on off-camera lighting, film and television lighting, and lighting with natural light.
The most obvious (and most commonly used) business name for photographers is [Your Name] Photography. Is this bad? Not necessarily. Is this good? Not necessarily.
Let’s say your name is John Smith. A quick Google search led me to find John Smith Landscape Photography, John Smith Photography, John Smith Images – the list goes on and on. Do you want to be thrown into this heap, where potential clients will have to go through 20 different websites until they find yours?
Now, if you were born with a very unique name, maybe you want something as simple as Helga Pataki Photography. And you know what? That’s perfectly fine, because you can name your business whatever you want. But if you don’t think your name is unique enough to name your business after, or you are looking for something a little more creative, or you’re just simply wondering what I’m going to tell you, read on.
Oh, but before you read on, do you think Annie Leibovitz spent weeks deciding on a “photography business name”? Many famous photographers get known by their name, so depending on what sort of business you want to get yourself into, take that into consideration.
Maybe you don’t want to be the next Annie Leibovitz. Maybe you just want to make some extra cash taking photographs of your neighbor’s children. That’s cool, too! (Note: there are certainly many other professional opportunities between photographing your neighbor’s children and being Annie Leibovitz, I’m just using that as an example). If you’re really serious about starting a full-time business, check out this all-encompassing course on commercial photography.
In this case, you want something that is fun and catchy and will make you sound as though you know what you’re doing. Do you specialize in a specific type of photography? Try incorporating that into your business name! Perfect Pup Photography will catch the attention of all of those dog lovers eager to have professional photographs of their pets, while Precious Moments Photography may appeal to new mothers.
Keep in mind before you base your name off of your specialty: do you think you’re going to stick with this type of photography for a while? If you name yourself Perfect Pup Photography and all of the sudden you decide you want to start photographing bands, people are going to be pretty confused.
Example conversation between potential clients:
Bandmate 1: “I hear Perfect Pup Photography wants to start photographing bands”
Bandmate 2: “Duuuuuude, dog bands?”
Things to avoid
While this was mentioned briefly above, try not to box yourself in unless you know 100% that you want to stay in that little box of yours. If you currently live in San Francisco and want to call yourself Saucy San Francisco Portraits, when you move to Boston no one in your new area is going to contact you. Moreover, you’ll still have people from San Francisco calling you, and you’ll have to explain to them that yes, even though your name is Saucy San Francisco Portraits, you actually only take photographs in Boston. See what I mean?
The same goes for things like Susan’s Black and White Photography. Yeah, you may love shooting black and white portraits now, but what if you decide that you want to branch out and include color photographs? Anyone looking for color photographs taken will automatically disregard you as their photographer because they think you only work in black and white.
Consider what you’re naming your business and try to see things from a client’s perspective; if you’re looking for a child photographer, you’re not going to contact a sports photographer. If you’re looking for an event photographer, you’re not going to contact someone that specializes in still lifes.
Alright, adding adjectives into your business name can either be the best or worst decision you ever make. Do you want to become a famous photographer ten years down the line and still be stuck with a name like Anna’s Cutesy Photography? Didn’t think so. When considering an adjective, try to think of all of the connotations that word has. Choosing a name such as Transcendental Photography may seem like a cool idea, but then all of your potential clients will think you’re some type of new age hippie.
Avoid using long, pretentious words such as “efficacious”. Besides confusing potential clients, you’ll end up sounding like you’re trying too hard. On the other hand, using simple words such as “awesome” will make your business sound too generic. The trick is getting the perfect balance between simple and complex.
Make it up!
Maybe you’ve gone through the dictionary five different times and can’t seem to find a word that describes your work well. Why not make one up? Verizon and Xerox are nonsense words, Google is a misspelling of “googol”, and the word “yahoo” has absolutely nothing to do with the company of the same name. Yet, they were able to take these words and brand themselves so that the second anyone says these words, that company is what comes to mind.
You should take into consideration the fact that all of these examples are very large-scale companies that are known around the world. If you want to brand yourself with the name ‘Trazun’ for no reason other than the fact that you made it up, it may be hard to reach out to potential clients. While everyone now knows Google is a search engine, no one knows ‘Trazun’ is a photographer. Instead, you could try to use real but less-familiar words from Latin or other languages.
If you choose to go this route, consider still adding the word “photography” after whatever wacky word you come up with. This way, potential clients will understand what your business is.
Before setting your name in stone, ask yourself these questions:
- Can I pronounce it? Can other people pronounce it? If you can’t say it three times fast without fumbling over your words, change it.
- Is it too long? If you want to name yourself Paul’s Picture Perfect Pup Photography – besides the fact that it’s just far too much alliteration – people aren’t going to be as drawn to do business with you. People like short and simple, and your name should reflect that.
- Is it memorable? As ironic as it may be, calling yourself Unique Photography isn’t a good way to get people to remember you. Think short, clever, and catchy.
- Is the domain available? This is one of the most important questions you can ask yourself. If you’re advertising your services as Memorable Moments Photography but that domain name is already taken, you’re giving someone else the clients that you should be getting. Your business name should be searchable, and it should lead directly to you and no one else.
Remember: whatever name you choose to brand yourself with can always be changed in the future, but you should still put some thought into it before setting anything in stone. After all, your business name is what potential clients are going to be typing into the search engine to find you, and you want to showcase yourself as being a real professional. And once you have been working for 5, 10, 15 years, it can be harder to start from scratch with a whole new domain, especially when your specific domain is known by many people.
I’ve given a lot of tips and a lot of ‘restrictions’, but don’t let that ruin your fun. If you want to name your business Eric’s Efficacious Elephant Photography, but you really just shoot senior portraits, I’m not going to stop you! Sometimes just getting your name out there and being clear about what you do is enough to get yourself some clients. And once you get a couple of clients, those clients will recommend you to others, and so on. So regardless of your name, the more networking you do the more work you’ll receive.
Learn how to network with this course on Social Media Success for Photographers, or learn how how to market yourself through blogging. And once you’ve finally decided on a business name, learn how to Supercharge Your Photography Website.
And you can’t forget about pricing your photography. After all, you are your own business!