Is Your Photography Name Actually Hurting Your Business?

What to name your photography business is one of the first questions any entrepreneur has to answer before venturing out into the freelance world. Many photographers simply use their full name as their business name, but could that be the worst decision ever? Today, we discuss some of the most important things to consider before making the jump into being a full-time photographer.

When the custom website design company Wix reached out to us with a sponsored video idea, we thought it would be interesting to not only talk about what makes a good website, but also some of the other topics many people completely overlook when starting their business. The video above is part one of our series "How to Build a Website," and in it, we discuss what you should name your business and how you should brand your photography company. This is part one of a four-part series, and if you want to follow along, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube Channel or at least check out the "How to Build a Website" playlist.

Naming Your Business

One of the main topics discussed in the video above deals with how you name your business. There are two trains of thought here: you can name your business after you and brand it as you the artist, or you can name your business anything you'd like and brand it without any association to you.

If you name your business Patrick Hall Photography, then it's very clear who you are and what your business does. This can be great if you want to be known as an artist, you plan to be the lead photographer on every shoot, and you want potential clients to book you because of your personality and creative direction. The main problem with this method is it can be very limiting if you ever want associate photographers under you, which is often the case with large wedding studios, and if you ever decide to sell your photography business, very few people will want to buy something heavily branded as a specific person. Some genres of photography like editorial, commercial, and fashion might be better candidates for full-name branding, while others, like wedding, architectural, and event photography might actually benefit from a more ambiguous name.

Using a more ambiguous name may be more valuable in the long term

What is an ambiguous name? That's basically any photography company name that doesn't depend on the actual name of the photographer. A good example of this is Lee Morris's wedding company "Charleston Wedding Photography," which also uses the same domain name. Wedding photography works well for this, because most of your clients will not expect any specific photographer to show up the day of the wedding, and in this case, because the name uses strong keywords associated with a specific city, it will do very well in attracting potential clients looking for a wedding photographer in Charleston. It undermines Lee Morris, the individual, brilliant, creative artist, but it now has more commercial viability and can handle multiple weddings on a single day.

The other major advantage to a more ambiguous name is that if you wind up building a very successful business with tons of SEO and a high ranking with Google, it's going to be much easier to sell a company called Charleston Wedding Photography over one called Lee Morris Wedding Photography. There are some exceptions to this rule, like our friends over at Lin and Jirsa Weddings, which is named after three lead photographers and operates as a large studio with many associate photographers. However, in most cases, if you want to build a big studio that doesn't require you to personally take photos at every gig, you might want to name your business more generically instead of after yourself.

Specializing Your Business

The other main topic in this video deals with marketing your skills and selling yourself as a specialist in your field of photography. While I wholeheartedly recommend photographers becoming as well-rounded in all genres of photography as possible, I do not recommend making a single website that shows off all sorts of genres of photography.

Most clients want to hire a specialist. If you are getting married and spending more money than ever on a single event, you don't want a jack of all trades capturing your wedding day. Most brides, especially those with larger budgets, are going to want a photographer who specializes in wedding photography alone. This doesn't mean you can't also simultaneously run a headshot business and a family portrait business, but your wedding clients do not need to see those images. Instead, I recommend photographers create multiple websites for each genre of photography they want to make money shooting. By doing this, you can market specifically to each niche clientele without making yourself look like a jack of all trades, master of none.

Back when I was living in Charleston, South Carolina, I had several websites that specifically targeted different genres of photography. This allowed me to price my time based on the going rate for each genre and not on one standard rate for my time. On my wedding website, I could charge $500 an hour, while on my family portrait website, I could charge $300 an hour. If the going rate for headshots in my area was $600 a session, I wouldn't want my portrait clients to know that I was only charging $400 a session.

There is also a hagiarchy in photography that is a bit of a taboo topic for most photographers. Big commercial clients almost never want to hire a photographer who shoots weddings. It's not because they don't respect them or feel like they aren't capable of shooting larger jobs, but it's because they know weddings are the entry point for many photographers and don't want to risk a high-paying commercial campaign on someone who mainly photographs weddings. In reality, there are actually a lot of wedding photographers who also shoot commercial jobs paying five figures, but all of them have separate websites advertising their commercial work with no mention of weddings at all.

Obviously, it costs more money and time to build out four different photography websites instead of just one. However, by specializing and separating your work into multiple different websites, I guarantee you will be able to secure jobs from your competition more easily as well as charge more for the work you are doing in each one of those fields.

Design Your Own Custom Website

If you want to test drive a website from Wix, head over to Wix.com/fstoppers and try out a site for free, and then save a little if you decide to upgrade to the full site. As mentioned above, we will soon be releasing episode two of "How to Build a Website" with Wix, where we talk about the specific features and sections you should have on your photography website. Stay tuned for that video and leave any comments about your experience building your photography website below!

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14 Comments

Vladimir Vcelar's picture

Well, if my name would be PHUQUE PHOTO or something, then yes. Generally, my difficult to pronounce Russian name actually starts a pleasant conversation that broke a lot of ice.

Brian Jones's picture

Great article Patrick, and this seems to be an interesting series for photographers who are not comfortable with building a website. I'm not a fan of Wix or any other 'free' website builder, but it is great to see you reaching out to those who are needing help in building their portfolio and online presence. Now, if we can just get photographers to stop chasing the Likes, and actually build and grow their own platform (website), not someone else's.

Regarding branding. This is a tough choice to call, and you can go either way, but as you mentioned, you will want to think of the overall mission and vision of your company. While there is nothing wrong with choosing your name as your photography business, it really does not set you apart from a growing field of other photographers doing the same. It's hard enough to stand out in this field, starting with your name can help.

Patrick Hall's picture

I think for your name to work, like all other photographers that have come before, you really have to create work that stands out from everyone. It’s def hard work but it can be done. The key is becoming an expert in a certain field or having a viral set of images that everyone knows or recognizes. Let’s call it the Jill Greenberg effect :)

Most of the people I know use their name as the name of the business, unless they are part of a studio.

"The key is becoming an expert in a certain field or having a viral set of images that everyone knows or recognizes."

Well, yes that is true. But many people are doing things the way they've always been done, doing things the way their client wants or copying / imitating / emulating or being inspired by other photographers. There is very little originality out there.

Aleksey Zozulya's picture

Constantly thinking about this topic... specialization and branding are clearly more effective marketing strategies... but haven't made a decision to fragment & rebrand yet.

Drew Peacock's picture

I learned this the hard way. Turns out "Indecent Exposures" doesn't paint the most positive picture for my business. I'm in the process of re-branding to "School Shooter" since I specialize in yearbook portraits!

Pawel Paoro Witkowski's picture

Specialities changes over time, as well as great ideas for cool name. In time something that you invented in the past might be childish and silly. Brand that stick to your name is building your business around your person. Yes in the early stages of business development it could be better to have name that states something, but in the end it depends on if you want to be the end selling product - you as a photographer - or stick to things that you've started, and hard to say if you willing to do it in after 10 years from now? I started from some invented names, and then switched to other invented name just to end up creating brand around my name. Your name will never sound silly, and I believe that's why biggest photographers out there also go this path.

Lee Christiansen's picture

I wanted to call my company Sticky Pictures - until friends advised how that may sound to a less innocent ear... :)

Lee Ramsden's picture

haha good call. Do you offer a laminated option :)

Lee Ramsden's picture

I would suggest not just the name,
another rabbit hole to go down is photographer Bio's / about pages

How many say
Since using a camera for the first time at the age of 2,
i have been passionate and love photography..

My faves are the self titles, like master of light,
creator of light,
mast light shaper.
Think by toning it down a bit and just be you, not this mystical photo wizard
connects better.

Stuart Carver's picture

"The Lens Fettler"

Thomas Herbst's picture

Regarding having the same name across multiple platforms, what if you want and can get the domain containing just your name, however e.g. Instagram does not have it available, BUT @yournamephotography is available. Is it too much of a leap to make the connection between these two or should they really be the same?

Looking forward to the rest of the series!

Patrick Hall's picture

Yeah obviously you can take whatever you can. In an ideal world you'd have everything the same but sometimes a domain name is the most valuable with "photo" or "official" or "real" added to your other social media channels.

Ted Mercede's picture

I first started with using my last name "Mercede" as Mercede's Photography, but after doing a search on my website for that, found out I was buried under pages and pages of Mercedes car dealers and car reviews. Quickly got rid of my name being part of the business.