A business needs to have an identity—talking-heads call this “branding.” The most important, is its name. Photographers are artists and artists often do not think of themselves business people—even recoiling from the idea. But, even if you are not planning on earning money from your photography, if you want to become recognized for your work, you must create a consistent identity. I am going through the process myself, so I will try to give you some insights into my thought processes.
First and foremost, you need a name. In this Internet-age, for most of you, your given name won’t work; you’ll need to find a name which makes you unique across the world—a web domain-name. And in the evolving modern era of social-media, you need a moniker on Facebook and Twitter—as well as the myriad new, relevant social platforms.
- Pick a name
- Register an associated domain name
- Identify social-media services and closely matching names
First a name. The name should be unique (and must be unique, as I’ll get to, later). As artists, the work we do is personal. It needs to be immediately associated with you and your work; so using or incorporating the name your parents gave you ties you, personally, with your work.
If you are lucky enough to expand your business to include other photographers, they may not be comfortable advertising themselves under your name. This may not be a big deal since other creative businesses use founders’ names (Ralph Lauren, Geffen Records, etc.)
Alternatively, you can make up a name. The challenge is to pick a name that will stand the test of time and conveys the personal sense. Emerging photographer David Pascua has done a great job in choosing “Captive Eye Photography” as the name of his photography site—while not using his name, he has incorporated the allusion to visual arts.
If you have a brick-mortar business—or otherwise live in a cave—then your naming issue can end, here.
The Internet and Social Media “Restriction”
In the modern era, we have to consider Internet domains, Facebook fan-pages, Twitter handles, and any other important Internet social-media service. Ideally, you want to be consistent with the identity, strive to have the same name across the services. This is darn-near impossible these days, but that is a goal.
First, and (still) most importantly, get an Internet domain name that closely matches the name, you’ve selected. Hopefully, you can get a “.com” domain (or one that ends with your own country’s “top level domain (TLD)” if you are outside the US). This is challenging because you have to share this “namespace” with the whole planet; but this is important enough that you ought to consider your name based on availability of an appropriate domain name. I use Domize.com to quickly test for and show domain name availability. If you can’t find the exact name you want, pick one that is close.
- Pick a business name
- Find a matching domain name
- If an exact one is already registered by someone else, check to see if that person’s business could be confused with yours (are they also a photographer?). If so, you might consider looking for a different name.
- If not, try variations of your business name. For example, For David’s “Captive Eye”, he chose TheCaptiveEye.com.
- Identify important social-media services
- Secure associated name within each service
Next, to add to the complexity, you’ll need to consider the influential social media services. Today (and this could change) Facebook and Twitter are the most important social services to consider if you have any desire to turn your hobby into an avocation. If you want to gain the attention of other photographers, then you will want to make a name for yourself on Flickr, Google+, 500px, and others.
First, Facebook. If you already have a personal account on Facebook, you might consider creating a “Fan Page” specifically for your new identity—personal pages are limited in the number of “friends” you can have (5000, at the time of this writing); but Fan pages can have as many fans as you can get. Go to “Create a Page” and follow the prompts. A Fan Page is like a simplified personal page that is open to everyone on Facebook. It is a place to post information that want your fans to know about. After the pages a few “Likes”, you can set the page’s nick name so that people go to the page via a simple URL, e.g., http://facebook.com/BillLeePhoto.
Having chosen a domain name, try to keep consistency with the naming by acquiring a Twitter handle of the same name, e.g., @BillLeePhoto.
Do this for each of the social-media services you’d like to feature and become actively involved. You may not be able to do this for every service, of course, but decide how important that service is, who your likely to be confused with, and how important it is maintain naming consistency for each service (if you can’t get it).
What Did I Do?
I wanted to incorporate my own name into my photo-business identity; but “Bill Lee” is too common a name (just ask, Spaceman, Bill Lee, or rich guy, Bill Lee). Though I wouldn’t mind being confused with my late grandfather—after whom I was named—there is already a billLeePhotography.com and he appears to have a burgeoning photography business of his own.
I finally decided to go with “BillLeePhoto”, figuring it was distinct enough. I wasn’t crazy about the abbreviation of “photography”, but it allowed me the freedom to use the “Bill Lee Photographically” tag-line, and still make sense. I was able to register the domain and got the Twitter id, and Facebook Fan page, using that name. I felt pretty good about being able to do all that and put this web site together.
Then, today, I met someone and watched as they typed the URL into their browser and the browser tried to pre-fill with “billleephotography.com” … doh!
Less than optimal. The question now is, should I change it? I was thinking of BillLeeCreative.com, but that diminishes its obvious tie with photography. Let me know what you think. For the moment, there is a lot of additional work to do!