Starting Your Photo Biz… Part 2: What’s In a Name?


Why hello there! And welcome back to Photojojo’s School of Photographical Bidnezz!

So, you’re thinking about maybe starting a photo biz. You’ve checked out the pros and cons, but you’re still on the fence.

Here’s a little sumpin’ to mull over while you’re deciding: what would you name your business?

Thinking about names gets your mind into gear and prepares you for gettin’ that business off the ground.

Should you use your real name? Make up a studio name? Why? Why not? And more importantly, wherefore?

Chillax. Just keep reading and we’ll help you sort it out.

Starting a Photo Business Part 2: Whatcha Gonna Call It?

p.s. In case you missed it, be sure to read Starting Your Photo Biz Part 1: You Sure ‘Bout That?.

Photo credit: Banalities

Picking a Name

Basically, when it comes to naming a photo business, you’ve got two choices:

  1. Use your real name.
  2. Make something up.

Both have points to recommend them, but which is right for you? Let’s just see…

Why Use Your Real Name?

There are plenty of reasons to use your real name as your business name:

  • It’s easy for people to remember you and find your work if they’ve met you
  • You may already have some name recognition as an amateur
  • It’s neutral: not linked to any photography style or trend
  • You don’t have to think up some clever studio name

Why Make Up a Studio Name?

Of course, there are also reasons to use a studio name instead:

  • You have a common name that lots of other people also have
  • You work with a partner
  • You hate your real name
  • You plan to change your name when you get married/ convert/ have the surgery

Excuse Me, Is This Name Taken?

reservado-smFirst things first: whether you want to use your real name or a studio name, check to see if it’s already taken.

  • Google it. See how many people or businesses are already using the name you want.
  • Do a fictitious business name search. Most states have a business search function on their websites. If the name you want isn’t registered, it’s probably up for grabs.
  • Do a domain search. Sites like GoDaddy and Network Solutions let you search to see if a certain web address is available. A simple, easy-to-spell web address will be absolutely crucial for your business.

Changing Your Name

hello-smWhat if you really want to go by your real name, but 3 photographers and a mass murderer are already using it?

You can change your name in ways that make it unique, while still being basically you.

  • Incorporate your middle name if you have one. For example, fashion and lifestyle photographer Verity Smith goes by Verity Jane.
  • Use your initials. Max S. Gerber may not sound great, but you can’t beat MSGphoto.
  • Drop part of your name. If you have an interesting first or last name, go by that (like Naoe or Topol).

Making a Name for Yourself

licenses-smIf you decide to make up a studio name, the possibilities are practically endless. Here a few ideas to get you started:

  • Brainstorm with friends. Having someone to bounce ideas off helps you sort the good ideas from the bad.
  • Try a name generator. Sites like WriteExpress let you plug in a word, then come up with variations. Not of all them will be useful, but it gets you thinking in different directions.
  • Combine your names if you work with a partner. Using both your last names is always a good option (like Trujillo-Paumier and Auda & Coudayre).
  • Use your Flickr or Twitter name if you already have an online following. Having some name recognition can give you a leg up. Be sure the name sounds professional enough to draw big clients, though.
  • Advertise your niche if you specialize in only one kind of photography. For example, Turn2Photography specializes in racing photos.

Things to Watch Out For

peterpan-smThere are one or two pitfalls to choosing a studio name. Look out for these:

  • Beware of overused, cliché names. Steer clear of names like the ones suggested by WikiAnswers or Yahoo Answers.
  • Don’t get too trendy. Sure, you love it when you’re 20 years old, but will you still love it when you’re 40? Or 60?
  • Don’t change your name. It’s hard on a business, so be sure to pick something you’re going to feel good about for a long long time.
  • Don’t limit yourself to one niche (like child portraits or food photography) unless you’re certain you want to do the same thing forever and ever. Your style may change, or you may want to branch out later on.

Photo credits: jenny downing, Waifer X, Eugene Hood Photo, Erik Charlton.