The largest barrier I’ve found for people getting their photography business started is choosing a name. Photography business names are hard, but in this guide, I’ll give you a step by step method for choosing your photography business name. I’ll also give you an awesome photography business name generator (which you can download for free below).
This article was last updated October 23, 2018.
But before you dive into this process, if you haven’t started your photography business yet, I want to give you permission.
You’ve Been Knighted
I want to give you permission to just use your personal name as your business name. Just use:
First Name + Last Name + Photography
Consider yourself knighted, an official jedi, a wizard at Hogwarts, whatever the heck you feel you need to have permission to do that.
So if that was all that’s holding you back, skip this article and go start your photography business.
But if you have already been doing that for a while and want something else, let’s get started.
It’s almost like there’s this giant amorphous cloud that surrounds us like a fog when we try to figure this stuff out.
I have a ton of friends with photography businesses that have spend weeks choosing a new name. And with a new name comes new brands, new websites, new photography portfolios, social profiles, wedding wire, thumbtack, ohmygodimfreakingout….
This happens to everybody. We make a list of a bunch of ideas and feel like if we choose the wrong one, our business might fail, or we’ll miss out on clients, or whatever.
Remember, your business name matters less than if you’re still going to be at this in five years.
But still we thrash about trying to consider various photography business names.
Photography Business Names: Quick Start Guide
According to Igor International, one of the premiere naming agencies in the world, we need to consider ten things when deciding between potential photography business names. Here they are in no particular order:
- Your name needs to do something for you. Decide what that is
- Separate yourself from your competitions
- Show the world you’re different
- Position your photography business to do the work you want to do
- Engage with your ideal clients in a positive and lasting way
- Be unforgettable
- Propel the brand forward
- Lend itself to imagery for marketing and advertising
- Be bigger than just photography
- Dominate your category
And while that’s the most simple checklist I can give you, I think we need to go deeper if you want to really understand how to pick a photography business name.
Truth be told, I went through the exact process below when I was choosing a name for Photo MBA.
Photography Business Names: Advanced Guide
When you’re serious about choosing a name, and you are since you’re reading this, it’s imperative that you know it’s going to take a minute. And there’s a good chance that you still won’t love it even after you’ve chosen.
But over time, the name comes to mean more and more. It will achieve escape velocity and really start to take off.
The guys at Fizzle advise started out by picking the least-worst option. Just choose the option that is the least terrible on your list. This is how Steve Jobs chose ‘Apple’ (this might actually be true).
Next, be willing to grow into your name a bit. Apple, Facebook, Uber, and AirBNB sound like the dumbest freaking names ever. They’re actually really stupid as names. But because of the work that went on behind them, they’re amazing. They’re icons.
The process below will help you pick your least-worst option and get some wear out of it.
Just Don’t Ask Your Mom for Help
Unless your mom works for Igor International, the world’s premiere naming agency. Then by all means, ask away.
You need to ask people who matter. I made that mistake when I started PhotoMBA and I should have known better. I *am* writing the guide on this stuff, right?
I got responses like:
“Looks like photobomb”
“Won’t that intimidate people?”
“Sounds like.. Kinda.. You know.”
Thanks a lot guys. Super helpful feedback.
Minus my own sarcasm, these people had no categories on which to judge the name I chose for my site, or yours for your photography business.
Luckily, Igor International has an amazing guide on this names and, in our case, photography business names. I’ve taken their categories and added one that’s supremely important for those of us doing business online (which, since it’s 2016, is all of us, right?).
The advanced guide for photography business names uses 10 categories:
Appearance – What does your photography business name look like when it’s written out? How would it look on a billboard or a photography business card? It might be easy to say, but when somebody reads it, is it focusing? Too long? Is there a cool design in the letters? My site name looks great as PhotoMBA, but as photomba, it’s confusing and that had to be taken into consideration.
Distinctive – Two really big considerations when making your name distinctive is that it must be distinct in that it represents the service your provide (photography), but also that it sets itself apart from your competition.
Using words like ‘photography’ and ‘studio’ in the name help in the first area. Don’t try to be so witty that people have no idea what you do. I have MBA in my brand name because I provide business education so referencing an advanced business degree makes sense.
Using something else to set yourself apart in the second area will matter as well. My friends Shane and Abby Cleminson use both of their names in their brand because they’re a team, which sets them apart. They also don’t hire out, which is another differentiator that is noted in the name. They were formerly Grow With Me Photography (primarily kids shoots) and Apple Tree Studios (weddings, portraits, etc.)
Depth – Depth is one of those cool things, that’s hard to tell at first, but becomes apparent over time. Names like Nike have depth. Did you know that Nike was the winged goddess of victory? I would speculate that her wings are the inspiration for the famous ‘swoosh’ logo. Your a sports logo and you’re named after the winged goddess of victory and strength? Now that’s depth you can grow into.
Energy – What’s the ‘feel’ of the name? Can you run a Facebook Ad campaign on just the name? When people say the name, does it prompt them to want to know more? If you made a t-shirt with just the name on it, would that be something you’d want to wear?
Humanity – Think of this as if your brand name were the nickname of one of your kids, or your best friend. Would it make a great nickname? “Apple” and “Uber” have a very cool humanity to them while more functional names like “America Online” do not.
Positioning – How does your brand name help to position yourself as a premium photography service (and be able to package your photo services and get paid like one)? How many of the important messages you want your clients to know about you does your name map to?
Sound – People will talk about your company. If you do any advertising or marketing with podcasts, TV, radio, or even get introduced at your local Chamber of Commerce your photography business name needs to be able to be said. This is for two reasons: not only how it sounds, but also can it be easily shared by others when they’re talking to somebody they want to see your work. Word of mouth is HUGE as a photographer and if people have to repeat themselves ten times when sharing your business name, they’ll stop sharing it.
The Test: If I call my grandpa on his 1991 house phone with the retractable antenna and tell him the name of my business, will he be able to understand what I’m saying?
“33” (Magic!) – Magic is that shock and awe of a brand. How evocative the name is. Names like “Yahoo!” and “Virgin’ are strong in magic.
For quite a while, I toyed with the idea of calling this brand something other than “PhotoMBA.” My other top name that I had in the running was to call it “Fotisto,” the Esperanto word for photographer. I felt like the the ‘magic’ of Fotisto is incredible and people would hear it and want to know more, to share it, and lean it when somebody said it to them. But, as you’ll see at the end of the article, PhotoMBA won for stronger positioning and energy.
Trademark – This is the most un-sexy category in this list. Just check to make sure nobody else already trademarked the name and you’re all set. Here’s a free search tool to see if your photography business name is trademarked. I’m not a trademark attorney, but if it’s trademarked in an area that has nothing to do with photography, you’re fine.
Domain – Can you get a domain that you like? If you can’t get a .com, or .net, go with .co. The .co maps in client’s brains as a “Co.” or company website. Just be sure that if they type .com on accident that it isn’t your direct competition or something they might confuse with you. Also, for domains, feel free to do something slightly creative with it and add a verb or other work in there as well (E.g. Facebook used TheFacebook.com for a while at first and I’m happy to use PhotoMBA.net because the .com wasn’t available).
Obviously, your name matters far less than whether or not you’ll still be hustling your face off taking photos and running an awesome photography business in five years. You can call yourself Firstname Lastname Photography and just get started today.
However, when you’ve got a big of experience, some amazing testimonials, and you’re ready for something bigger, this guide makes a huge different. Brainstorm a bunch of ideas and dig into the worksheet below.
The Photography Business Name Generator Worksheet
Time to take some action!
For the worksheet, you’ll use the chart as a way to evaluate a list of photography business names you’re deciding between. Feel free to add your direct competition to the list and see how their names stack up against yours. Assign up to 10 points in each category for a total of 100 maximum points.
Here’s an example of my score for PhotoMBA, when I first ran through this exercise:
Alright! Let’s download the worksheet and get started! The download link is below. Here’s how to use it:
- Write all your business name ideas in the left column.
- Score the names in each category; 0 for extremely poor, 10 for excellent. You’ll have to use your gut on these scores.
- Add up the scores at the end of each row to see which name performs best.
- Optional: give the worksheet to a few friends to have them fill it out as well. Compare your scores with theirs for more objectivity.
- Name your photography business and make a million dollars with your new great name!
- Share this worksheet on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest.