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There are plenty of choices when starting a photography business, but your most personal and lasting choice is the name you pick for your own company.
Over the course of my career as a developer and consultant I’ve named more than a hundred businesses, but none were as difficult to choose as the name of my own businesses.
Ideally, your own business lasts a lifetime and will be permanently connected to you. It’s crucial to balance factors such as discoverability, brandability, trust, and emotional response, while also choosing a name you like and can live with. Read on for a breakdown of naming options and an analysis of each.
Business Naming Options
Stake Your Location
A regional name will improve your local discoverability, but I only recommend this if you solely offer services in your own locale. Be mindful of awkward limitations should you end up moving or branching out. A portrait studio named “Denver Photo Studio” would have a difficult time if they relocated to Phoenix.
Beyond city names, also consider the name of your county, state, or popular local landmarks.
Describe Your Specialty
If you specialize in a certain type of photography, such as wedding photography, you may choose to describe this prominently in your business name. This helps with discoverability and might boost your credibility by demonstrating a tight focus on your specialty.
For example, a popular newborn baby photography company calls themselves “Bella Baby Photography,” and they solely photograph newborn babies in the hospital.
Just keep in mind that you may be limiting your own growth if you name your business after one exclusive specialty.
Play With a Portmanteu
A completely unique brand name is a common choice for many businesses, especially in the dot-com era. This is done by creating a name from the combination of two other words, such as “Lifetouch,” a prevalent national portrait studio, or “Pholite,” a photography brand I’m currently developing.
While your name will be entirely unique and very brandable, you may have more of a challenge marketing a business named after an otherwise nonexistent word.
Promote Your Product or Approach
Descriptive words that speak to your style or approach to photography are common. Powerful or clear-cut words may help customers recognize what you do, but you also run the risk of being too nondescript. A good example is “Portrait Innovations,” a somewhat generic but very direct name for a popular national studio. It’s quite obvious that they specialize in portraits.
However, with a Google search, I found a surprising number of studios calling themselves some variation of “Elite Photography”. While perhaps impressive and strong, it’s just not distinctive. Such common names can be difficult to brand.
Say Something Silly
A lighthearted business name appeals to emotions and allows you to be highly creative. Trey Ratcliff’s “Stuck in Customs” is a great example. It’s the playful name he uses for his wildly popular travel photography brand. There’s also “Blame The Monkey” by Elia Locardi. These names may not immediately be identifiable as photography brands, but they’re highly memorable and emotionally appealing.
Use Your Own Name (or Pseudonym)
Using your own real name or surname for your photography business exudes a level of trust beyond any other. By using your own name, you are fully connecting yourself to your business and your reputation.
If you’re concerned about privacy or don’t particularly like your own name, consider operating under a pseudonym. It’s public knowledge that renowned stock photographer Yuri Arcurs’ real name is actually Jacob Wackerhausen. Many popular photographers do this for privacy or creative purposes.
Additional Naming Considerations
As you consider possible names, take these additional factors into consideration while you make your final decision.
If you plan to register your business, even as a sole proprietor at a local level, it’s important to check with your county or state to be sure your name isn’t already registered to someone else. If it is, subtle variations might be enough to register your name. Check with a clerk in your jurisdiction.
Domain Name Availability
Do a search to see if a strong domain name is available. One day soon you will want to build a website to display your portfolio, market to clients, take orders or sell prints. As always, a dot com is still preferred over any other TLD for both credibility and authority. Consider variations, such as ending your business name with “studio,” “studios,” “photography,” “portraits,” etc. You can register a $1.99 domain name at GoDaddy. If your domain is available, grab it immediately, even if you don’t plan to develop it right away.
For businesses in the USA, you can run a quick online registered trademark search to see if you could be violating an existing trademark with your chosen name. (You’re exempt from this if you’re doing business under your own legal name.) Even if you don’t find a match, be sure to do a Google search. Trademarks are valid the moment they are used in business, even if they are unregistered. If you find something similar, you might consider an alternative. Your name should be uniquely yours to prevent confusion in the marketplace.
Prior to settling on a business or domain name, do a search on your top contenders. Browse around and be sure your name of choice has no significant prior history. Perhaps there’s already a photographer with a similar domain name out there which would be hard to compete with in search results. Or maybe the domain name you chose was registered years before. Sometimes this can be a good thing for SEO ranking, unless the previous owner behaved badly. Watch for negative comments and reviews from third parties. Does everything look clean? You can run a final check of the domain name’s history over at Archive.org.
These tips should help you decide on the perfect business name for your own photographic endeavor. After narrowing your choices down to a few good options, make your final choice based on your own gut feelings. With all else being equal, a name that makes you feel good about your own brand is most important. Photographers by their very nature are emotive beings, after all.
Let’s see what names fellow photographers have chosen. Feel free to post your business name and website in the comments below.