If you’re a new photographer, this free tutorial will help you name your photography business.
One of the most common questions we get from newer photographers is “How should I name my photography business?” and that’s the topic we’re going to tackle today! So whether you’re creating your first website, social media account, buying business cards for the first time or re-branding and looking for a fresh new start, you’re in the right place!
Let’s get right down to it:
We believe the best strategy for naming your photography business is to name your business after yourself.
Here are four reasons why we think it’s the best idea to use your own name:
Think how many high-end brands in creative industries much larger and more powerful than ours use their name for their business. We figure if it’s good enough for million dollar brands, it should be good enough for us!
In fashion, it’s Kate Spade, Michael Kors, Jimmy Choo, Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs, Dolce & Gabanna, etc. In cosmetics, it’s Estee Lauder and Bobbi Brown. The list could go on and on. But what do all of these brands have in common? Their value is in their name. You’re going to invest more in a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes or a Loius Vuitton handbag than a generic version of either.
Can you find big brands and companies who don’t use their founders’ names? Sure. But you’ll never see a woman hug a generic brand purse from Wal-Mart, sigh, shrug and fondly exclaim, It’s a Faded Glory Double Pocket Zip Purse!
But is there a good chance she’ll feel like hugging her brand new blush and gold Kate Spade clutch? You can count on it. The Kate Spade name demonstrates where the VALUE is. The value is in the brand. And what the brand is known for. Can we find a blush bag with similar size and function from Walmart? Probably. Are we going to invest the same amount of dollars and enthusiasm? No way.
Imagine you just won a raffle for a brand new blush and gold Kate Spade clutch. How do you feel?
Now imagine you won a Faded Glory Double Pocket Zip Purse instead. Do you feel the same way? Probably not!
Why? Because high end brands know that their value is in their name.
We believe it’s the same way in photography. In a saturated market, where many photographers are all using the same cameras with the same lenses, the only thing that differentiates you from the photographer down the street is YOU. The value is in YOU.
When you’re first starting out, your personal network is your most powerful network. That’s where the overwhelming majority of your early business will come from. The people you already know. People you work with. Your friends from church. Your family members. Your high school and college friends. Friends of friends. You want to make it as easy as possible for family and friends to refer you to their family and friends.
When you name your photography business after yourself, it’s one less thing they have to try to remember. If you want to grow your business beyond your personal network, it matters what those people tell other people about you. And it needs to be simple. And easy to remember. Here’s why: If it’s too complicated, they won’t know what to say, so they’ll either say the wrong thing, or they just won’t say anything at all.
Here’s what we mean: When we were making the transition from elementary school teachers to professional photographers, it was probably confusing for our personal network, right? They knew us as “Amy and Jordan, the elementary school teachers” not “Amy and Jordan, the photographers.” So, when they saw a brand new Facebook page pop up and behind-the-scenes photos of us in their News Feeds, they PROBABLY thought, Huh? Wait. Whaaat? I thought Amy and Jordan were elementary school teachers…
Again, the narrative shift from “elementary school teachers” to “photographers” is a heavy lift on its own. Think about it. If it takes someone seven times to remember your name, how long would it take for them to remember that you CHANGED CAREERS ENTIRELY. Much less that you’re good enough or trustworthy enough or professional enough for them to refer you to other people — and that’s just going from A to B, from “my friends, Amy and Jordan, the elementary school teachers” to “my friends, Amy and Jordan, at Amy and Jordan Photography.” Remember, getting your personal network to remember THAT is enough on it own.
If we decided to give our business a clever, cheeky name — like Seeing You Through Our Lens Photography — because we wanted to be original and not “like everyone else,” it would’ve been infinitely MORE confusing for our personal network to do three things:
1. Recognize that we’d made (or were making) a career shift.
2. Remember our business name.
3. And refer us to other people.
Our bet is you are in the same boat. Maybe your friends and family are used to thinking of you as an accountant or a college student or an architect or a stay-at-home-mom. Getting them to think of you as a photographer is one important step, and getting them to know where to send people is a second important step. We believe naming your business after yourself helps simplify that for the people who are most likely to refer you.
They’d have to say something like, “My friends Amy and Jordan are photographers. Their business is shoot. Lemme look it up. Umm… one sec… It’s something about a… What’s that part of camera again that you put on the front? A lens. Yeah, that’s it! It’s something about a lens. They’re new. That’s why I’m having trouble remembering their name. I think they just started a few weeks ago. BUT THEY’RE REALLY GOOD! TRUST ME! I mean, I haven’t been to their Facebook page yet. Again, I think it’s brand new. Ya know what? I’ll just text you their info.”
That scenario doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in you. And they’ll probably forget to send the text. And that friend will definitely forget what words they should punch into a Google or Facebook search.
One of the best things that could happen to photographers is for their clients to have such an amazing experience with them that their clients can’t wait to tell their friends and family about them.
Something like “You’re engaged?! You HAVE to call Amy and Jordan right away! They were the best decision I made for my own wedding day. Seriously, you HAVE to have Amy and Jordan at your wedding! They’re worth every penny and more! Amy and Jordan made us feel so comfortable (and we normally feel so awkward in front of a camera!) but they made the whole thing feel so fun! I’m in LOVE with my photos! You need to book them NOW!”
Because photography is so personal, clients are naturally going to use our names when they talk about us. It complicates the referral if they keep saying “Amy and Jordan” while describing their own experience, but then finish things off by saying “So you have to call Seeing You Through My Lens Photography.”
Let’s play a quick game! Get a sheet of blank paper and divide it into two columns. On the right side, write the names of all the photographers you admire. If their business isn’t named after them, move them to the left column. (Our bet is you can use a pen for this, because you probably won’t be moving almost anyone!)
If most of the photographers across the country you admire are going by their names, there’s probably something to that, right?
Here’s the problem: As a new photographer, you might not want to name your photography business after yourself — even if it connotes MORE value than a whimsical name — because you don’t FEEL valuable as a photographer yet. Stop that. We give you permission. No more I’m a ph-ph-otographer. Because by letting your insecurities have top priority, you’re undervaluing yourself.
One of our past workshop attendees — who’s KILLING it now and we’re SO proud of her by the way — is named K.C. England. Which is one of the coolest names ever, right? So you can imagine our surprise when we found out that her business name was Leaving a Mark Photography. WHEN HER REAL NAME WAS K.C. ENGLAND.
That’s like Kate Spade deciding to call her business Carrying It Around Hand Bags. But K.C. really struggled and wrestled and debated with the name change, because her business name meant something to her. It was sentimental. She really did want to leave a mark on people’s lives. That’s a true reflection of her sweet heart. Just like Seeing You Through Our Lens Photography could have a heartfelt meaning behind it. Maybe we wanted to communicate with out business name that even if no one else sees you, we do, and we want to show you have special you are by how we see you, even if you don’t see yourself that way.
That kind of heart for others is awesome.
But we think it was costing her valuable business, and actually KEEPING her from leaving a mark on more people’s lives, because a business name is more than a business name.
It’s a mindset.
And for K.C. that shift was everything.
Because after our workshop, she went from being cute and whimsical and kind of like everyone else, to unique and exclusive and special… like she is.
Here are screen shots of her first and second business name and brand:
Which one do you trust more?
Which one will you spend more money with?
Which one will you remember?
Which one reminds you of a big box store and which reminds you of your dream handbag?
When K.C. England changed her business name, she established that the value in hiring her was HER. She was the thing worth investing in. She was the part of the business you could trust. She stood behind her work. And that not only made her business sound more high-end, valuable and trustworthy, it also made it easier to remember and refer.
If you’ve been thinking about changing your business name for a while now, what are you still waiting for?
Note: There are a few circumstances under which changing your business name to your personal name might not make sense.
1. If you have an established business with plenty of name ID and you’re crushing it. Those people DO exist. However, they’re typically the exception. Not the rule.
2. If you’re a TEAM of photographers in an associate program or larger media company, like Revel Media Group, for example. Outside of that, take your first and last name (or first name and a middle name) and make it happen!
After we hit “publish” on this post about how to name your photography business, we received tons of really thoughtful follow-up questions from photographers (via email, social media and blog comments) about specific situations where they need additional clarification — and we’re happy to help!
Keep in mind that with any advice we or someone else gives you, it probably applies solidly to 80% of readers and could apply to the other 20%. But maybe not. You’re the only one who can decide that for yourself.
Here are the five most common follow-up questions/concerns we’ve gotten about how to name your photography business:
That didn’t stop Daniel Swarovski from naming his company Swarovski Crystal. Or Christian Louboutin from putting his name on the bottom of the shoes. Or M. Night SHYAMALAN from making movies. Or Idina Menzel from being, Idina Menzel. In her case, it actually made her MORE famous that John Travolta messed it up! In our opinion, it’s easier to remember a hard-to-spell or pronounce last name that it is to remember the parent company of someone with a hard-to-spell last name. A movie by M. Night Shyamalan is easier to remember than A movie by Seeing You Through My Lens Films.
Legally, you’d probably have to ask an attorney to investigate whether or not that business name is already taken. In that case, you might not have a choice but to pivot to something else, like your first name with your maiden name, or your first name with a middle name (or fake middle name if necessary!) Remember that people are discerning enough to see quality through a name. And there are already great examples of two successful people who have the same name.
If you watched the 2017 Academy Awards, La La Land was on Hollywood’s biggest winners. Every time Emma Stone or Ryan Gosling got up to accept and award, you’d hear them thanking their choreographer, Mandy Moore. Not THE Mandy Moore, the actress from one of our favorite shows, This is Us. Mandy Moore, the choreographer. The one on So You Think You Can Dance. No relation to Mandy Moore, the actress. One Mandy Moore hasn’t prevented the other from being successful. They’re both killing it in Hollywood. And they each have work so solid that they haven’t let going by the same name prevent them from building names for themselves. If you name is John Doe and the guy down the street is John Doe, your name can’t be the differentiating factor. So let you work be. Then, you’ll be the John Doe who shows up on time and gets the grass cut well. Not… The other John Doe, don’t hire him! He’s the one who didn’t come for two weeks and let my grass die! If you’re the awesome John Doe, people will go out of their way to make sure other people know it. So just be that John Doe. Or like the Mandy Moores, you can both stand out, make a name for yourself and become respected for your work (even if you both live in Tinsel Town.) So if you want to name your photography business after you, go for it! And work your tail off to be the best Mandy Moore in town.
Speaking of middle names, our dear friend, Melissa Jill, is a REALLY successful wedding photographer. Jill is her middle name. If you have a really complicated last name and you just don’t feel comfortable using it no matter how many famous complicated name examples we throw at you, then maybe consider using your middle name or (gasp!) a fake middle name. Amy’s maiden name is Finocchiaro. FINOCCHIARO. Like Pinocchio with an “F”. That’s tough to spell and pronounce. Her middle name is Katherine. If she didn’t like the way Amy Finocchiaro Photography sounded, and rejected everything we said in #1, she could always go with Amy Katherine Photography. Or if she thought that was just AWFUL, she could pivot to Amy Lynn Photography and that would work just fine. Mostly because none of your friends know your real middle name anyways, and “Lynn” is much easier to remember and connect than something longer. Our main point here is using a name makes you easier to remember, cuts confusion and establishes more value in your brand.
This is a fair point, but it’s also a REALLY narrow, specific one, too. Because since most small businesses fail within the first few years, statistically, there are only a few “established” businesses in every industry who’ve been around long enough where this will matter. In this case, you might have to weigh the potential loss against the potential gain — and that’s something only you can decide. Also, CONGRATS! If this is you, you’re killing it! Keep it up! Don’t fix what ain’t broke!
When we changed our LLC from Amy Demos Photography, LLC to Amy and Jordan Photography, LLC it was as simple as this: Our lawyer drafted a quick amendment to our LLC articles and then we submitted it to the State of Arizona. When we got confirmation of the change, we swapped it on every platform we could, showing the organizations (like Facebook) evidence that our LLC was the same, we were the same exact business, but we’d just changed the name we were doing business under. It wasn’t a problem. We bought new domain names, and had the old ones re-direct. For a while, maybe the first year, you could even put on your website and social media outlets “Formerly known as _____________ Photography.” Pretty soon, people will start to forget your old name business ever existed in the first place.
At the end of the day, since we don’t know all the specifics, you’ll have to take all this information, digest it and then do what’s best for you and your business. We hope this gives you some helpful guidance when you name your photography business, and know our heart for everything we share comes from a place of wanting the best for you! Go get ’em!
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