When starting a photography business, there are a lot of details to address. People tend to focus their planning on legal and financial matters, often giving company naming less consideration. But this is a mistake, especially since your business name can be the first impression for a potential client. In fact, names are so important that large corporations spend tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars every year on name creation and research.
Luckily, it doesn’t have to cost you anything to have a great photography business name. Here are a few steps you can take to come up with a lasting name that matches your company’s personality.
1. Look At Your Business
You want your name to match your business as much as possible, so it’s important to take note of how you work and how you differ from competitors. Some questions to ask are:
- Do you have a speciality, particular style, or something you’re known for?
- Are you location-based or able to travel for clients?
- What kinds of names do your competition have? Do they seem to follow a common theme or style? Better to stay away from anything similar. You want to differentiate yourself as much as possible.
- How do your rates compare to those of your competitors? There’s no right answer here. You just want to get an idea where you sit on the spectrum from affordable to exclusive.
- What are your future plans for the business? This is especially important to consider, since you don’t want to outgrow your name. The auto repair shop, Just Brakes, started out with a single location servicing only brakes. But now their name no longer embodies their offerings as they’ve expanded into other auto services. Whoops!
2. Look At Your Customers
To create a name that appeals to your customers, you need to first understand a little bit about them. This is essential because people generally buy at an emotional level. So jot down some of the things they value.
If you decided in the previous step that your rates lean to the more affordable side, your customers might value getting the most for their money. If you cater more to a business clientele, flexibility and dependability might be key.
This can be a fairly quick exercise if you generally have one type of client. But what if you serve several markets? Let’s assume you’re a photographer who specializes in wedding, architectural and sports photography. Those are three distinct client types, so it’s better to consider them separately. In this case, you’ll want to create a separate buyer persona to understand each and see if there’s anywhere they overlap.
Finally, you’ll want to give some thought as to how your customers will find you. Will you advertise, and if so, in print, radio or on the web? How important is word of mouth to you? All of these factors can affect the success of your business name. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to say, remember and spell your company name.
3. Time To Brainstorm!
Now that you have some good background information, it’s time to let the ideas flow. You may want to warm up by jotting down some of the more obvious ideas. Start with your name, common photography keywords or location cues.
Next, set up a spreadsheet or document so you have room for different name “buckets.” At the top of each bucket, place a keyword, value or differentiator that you identified in your research. Then start listing every possible idea you can think of.
When you feel like your ideas have dried up in one bucket, move on to the next. The key here is quantity. Once you do this for all of your buckets, start over again on the first and see if any new ideas spring to mind. Company name origins can come from anywhere, so consider anything a possibility. The first rule of brainstorming: there are no bad ideas.
At this point, many of your ideas will likely fall into either the functional or experiential category. Think Toys R Us and United Airways, respectively. These types of names are straightforward, but can be too common or generic sounding.
Take the time for another brainstorm around evocative and invented name ideas. Pandora and Kodak are examples in these categories. These can be more of a challenge to come up with, so here are a few tips and resources to get you started:
- Use foreign words. The Swahili translation for “build” was the inspiration for the game Jenga.
- Try some word associations. Pick a word and enter it into Visual Thesaurus. This can usually lead you down a rabbit hole of words and ideas you never would have thought of.
- Start combining buckets. Look at your different lists and see if any words sound good together.
- Incorporate numbers, but make sure there’s meaning. People love a good story.
- Reach into thin air. As the demand for new names increases, companies are getting more creative. Making up your own words is fair game.
- Use abbreviations, initials or parts of names.
- Turn to mythology or history – both are ripe with name ideas.
4. Evaluate Your Ideas
Once you have a good list of ideas, it’s time to whittle them into a shortlist of favorites. If you can narrow down your list to at least ten options, that’s a good place to start. You may have a couple standout favorites at this point, but don’t get attached yet. At this stage, your names need to pass a few tests.
The first, most basic test is to type each name into a search engine to see if there are any matches. If there are, don’t panic just yet. You’re mainly looking for matches in your geographic area.
Next, you can search the U.S. Trademark Database to see if anyone already owns each name. It’s not the most intuitive site, so it can take a bit to understand. But the most important thing to remember if you find a match is to look at the categories the existing registration is for. If they don’t apply to your industry, you most likely can use it. You can always consult an attorney if you’ve found the perfect name but are unsure if you can use it.
Lastly, you want to pass your name options through a couple of filters. If you’re having a hard time deciding between several names, you may want to rank them for each filter. Is the name easy to say? Easy to spell after hearing it spoken? Is it memorable?
To help answer these questions, you can get feedback from friends and colleagues. You may find they stumble over pronunciation or be unable to remember a name three days later. The Wordlab forum is another resource where you can discuss and evaluate your name ideas.
Naming your photography business can seem like a daunting task, but it can also be a lot of fun. Once you choose a name, you’re on your way to communicating your company’s personality in the market and with your clients. Your business name can also act as a beacon to help guide future decisions.
If you’ve had naming challenges or suggestions for other methods, share them in the comments section below!