Business names

I am currently writing and teaching a course at Sheridan College on “Small Business Photography”. This is a 12-week course on running a small photography business.

And today I thought I would touch here upon one of its subjects: the name you choose for your business.

Your name needs to be:

  • Simple;
  • Preferably, easy to pronounce;
  • Easy to remember;
  • Available as a business name in your jurisdiction.
  • Suitable for all your markets (if your chosen name means an act of procreation or something similarly unsuitable in French, and Quebec is part of your market – then best not choose that).
  • It must be available as a domain name – otherwise do not choose it!

Your name is a large part of your brand identity. So I would avoid business names that are:

  • Too grand. If I called my photographer business “The Canadian Institute For Photography”, that would ring many alarm bells with each client, one they discover it is just me and my assistants.
  • Plagiaristic. “Kodax” would not be acceptable (nor wise, now that Kodak is basically bankrupt).
  • Too cutesy.
  • Too generic.
  • Likely to be dated soon (“That’s so 1980s”).
  • Too long (it has to fit on your business card!)
  • Suspicious (“Honest Photography”, “In-Focus Images” – these raise questions you should not be raising).
  • Inappropriate (“Blow-Up Babies” – a real studio name)
  • And do avoid names that compete with the wrong market.

That last point is worth expanding. What is your market? The Sears market? Then by all means call yourself something that sounds like the Sears studios, like “General Photo Studios”.

But I think that as a photographer you are probably in the photographer business, not in the photography business. So, advertise yourself. While my company is officially called “MVW Photo”, I usually use “Michael Willems Photographer”.  Simple, available (see and clear.

Whatever you do – do decide on a name, and on the other hand don’t obsess too much.


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