Nowadays, it’s vital for just about everyone, especially artists, to have their own website. Whether you’re selling your photography, showcasing your art, growing your audience, or monetizing your craft, having a website is a great first step. If you’re looking into building your own photography website, you’re probably wondering how you should choose your photography domain name. You might also be wondering what all the fuss is about — why is a domain name so important?
This guide will explain how to optimize your domain name for your photography business by walking you through:
- How to choose a great domain name for photographers
- Why domain names are important
- Why domain names matter for photographers
Before diving too deep, let’s get our bearings straight and establish exactly what domain names are and why choosing the right one is an important step when creating a photography website.
What are domain names?
Simply put, your domain is the name you type in to find your website. It’s your website’s address. For example, Constant Contact’s domain name is “www.constantcontact.com”.
What does all this mean for you? The domain name you choose is important.
How to choose a photography domain name
Choosing a domain name is both art and science. It involves creativity, as well as research and brainstorming.
That goes for everyone, for every kind of domain (not just photography domain names). In order to choose a domain name, you need to think about:
- What makes a good domain name good? When a domain name is strong, what makes it so?
What makes a domain name strong?
Since picking a domain is a combination of art and science, there are many factors that contribute to making a given choice strong.
Best practices for choosing a domain name
When considering all the different types of domain names you can come up with, try to create one that is:
- Memorable: Above all else, you want your online address to be easily remembered. A great way to accomplish this is with brevity. Catchiness can also help (see below).
- Shorter is generally better. Optimal is 6-14 letters or characters.
- The fewer the words or letters, the easier it can be to remember.
- Timeless: This is harder to pin down, but you want your domain name to be something that can stand the test of time.
- Avoid using current buzzwords in your domain name.
- Don’t include a date or year in your domain name.
- Keep it simple.
- Direct, accurate: Your domain name should accurately represent what your website is all about. There needs to be a direct relationship between what your business is and what its home address is.
- As a photographer, that means that your domain should reference something about you, your work, photography, etc.
- If you already have a company name, you should strongly consider using it for your domain — if you can.
- Personal: You might also consider a personal touch. Because art is such a unique and individual experience for all professional photographers, the right domain can invite them into this space — even if that special touch is just including your name.
- It’s very effective to include your name, or a pseudonym, in your domain.
- If there’s a word you often use to describe yourself or your work, this could be strong as well.
- Catchy: A catchy domain name can be a good idea as well, as long as it also satisfies the criteria of accuracy and directness. Catchiness might come from wordplay, such as rhyme or alliteration. Depending upon your specific personality and photography style, it can add a real punch to your domain.
- Intriguing: You want to generate intrigue. You want to make sure that your domain is interesting, thought-provoking, inspiring. To do so, you might consider striking language:
- Vivid nouns (instead of “photo” use portrait, still, film, polaroid, selfie, etc.)
- Powerful verbs (cultivate, revive, synthesize, perpetuate, etc.)
- Words with multiple meanings
There’s crossover between these considerations, as many of them prioritize what’s captured in the first few: memorable, timeless, and accurate.
Beyond these positive factors, though, there are also some things you want to avoid.
What should you avoid?
Generally, you should avoid things that create opposite elements to those listed above. That is: you should not choose a domain that has little to do with you or your business, nor something that’s hard to remember or boring.
Off-putting domain elements
Be sure to steer clear of:
- Numbers (unless relevant)
- Hyphens and underscores
- Homophones like “know” and “no” or “real” and “reel”
- Obscure language
- Offensive language
- Words spelled phonetically and
- Using numbers as letters (e.i.: w3nt, L1V3, h0und, etc.)
The general principle underlying these is that they all pose risks with respect to accessibility, sensitivity, and clarity. Remember: you want something timeless and easy to remember. Anything based on a trend is unlikely to age well; profanity has the potential to offend; numbers and punctuation can be hard to remember, and homophones can lead to misspellings.
Importantly, these general principles (positive and negative) apply to anyone choosing a domain. For a photography domain, in particular, you should think about how your work, in particular, might relate to these ideas.
So, based on all these criteria, the question comes down to…
What do you want to emphasize?
Think about the first thing you want people to know about your portfolio website. Think of the thing you want them to remember about it. Think about what you want potential clients to say when they refer someone to your site.
What is it?
You might be committed to having people remember your work in vivid detail. If so, it might make sense to consider a theme-based domain.
A genre or theme
If your photography portfolio revolves around a particular genre (such as wedding photography), or you tend to emphasize certain themes in your photography, you might consider working that into your photography domain name. You might try something like:
If your work is location-specific, you might even consider building that into your domain name:
A genre-, theme-, or location-based photography domain name emphasizes the work itself rather than the photographer(s) who produced it. For this reason, it can be a great idea for collectives or artists who value anonymity. But it can also work for artists who want their own presence to be felt.
If you want to make sure that your viewers remember your own relationship to your work, you should consider including your name, nickname, pseudonym, or some other reference to yourself in your domain name.
Your name, your work
It’s no secret that many photographers include their own names in their domain name. Often, this name is also paired with a form of the word “photography.” For instance, some ideas you might consider include:
- Photography domain: YourNamePhotography.com, PhotographyByYourName.com
- Photographer domain: PhotographerYourName.com, YourNamePhotographer.com
- Photo domain: YourNamePhotos.com, YourName.photos
You might also consider something related to photography, like:
- StudioYourName.com, YourNameStudio.com
- PictureYourName.com, YourName.picture
Any of these options could do the trick for you. Or, you might prefer something like just your own name as a domain name. Whatever you choose, that decision needs to be informed. It will influence your online presence for the rest of your life, and beyond!
What your domain needs to do is thread the needle, harmonizing the essentials of your site.
Note: You may have noticed that a few of those weren’t a “.com” website. YourName.photos and YourName.picture use a different TLD (or Top Level Domain). These are possible to create and really help make your domain unique.
Why domains are important
Before you decide on your name, take a step back. Let’s discuss why the domain you choose is so important.
Domains are essential to everything that happens online. A domain name can often be synonymous with a company, and a domain name is important for all the same reasons a company name is. Domains are important because branding is important.
The power of business names
What’s in a name? Everything.
Another way of thinking about branding is name recognition. That’s what you want for your domain: you want people to recognize it; you want people to know where to go (and why!). The photography domain name itself can do a lot of that work for you.
Name recognition means that people have a strong sense of what a name guarantees. In the case of a given brand, audiences and consumers associate the name of a company or professional with a reputation.
In some cases, a brand name (and reputation) can be so prolific, it becomes synonymous with a generic product or basic necessity of everyday life! Some of the most well-known offline examples of this phenomenon are:
- Band-Aid (adhesive bandage)
- Q-tips (cotton swabs)
- Kleenex (tissue)
The best online example of this is Google: the company, and domain, which became a verb.
Your domain is, for all intents and purposes, a brand name. But most of all, your domain name is the name of your website, your online home.
Why domains matter for photographers
Domains matter for photographers because they matter for all professionals. They matter even more for creatives, though, because branding and aesthetics are inextricably tied together. Branding is an aesthetic concern, first and foremost. But not every professional can say that the majority or entirety of their work is connected to aesthetics.
Artists, by definition, must!
That’s why your choice of photography domain name is so critical.
How your domain ties it all together
In addition to thinking about your domain name as your name and address for your digital home, you can also think of it as the address of your studio, your gallery, and your storefront. As the address for your website, it can house as many (or as few) of these functions as you need it to. Your domain name collects these functions, imposing order on what could easily be chaotic.
A domain is many things, as you can see. It’s a name, a location, and a brand. But it’s also a unifying force: your domain name is what packages your website for others in a quick soundbite.
It’s also a jumping-off point.
For the many, many people making a website today, all across the world, a domain name is one of the first things they’ll think about. That initial step is so important, not least because the domain name will live on forever (as long as you own it). Your domain is what validates your new website; it makes the process feel real.
The perfect domain for you
So, what are you waiting for? You probably have a great idea for a domain name already. Chances are, you have plenty of great ideas! Why not go ahead and try some of them out? Once you find the perfect domain and claim it, you’ll be one huge step closer to realizing your goals. All you have to do is…
- Use the domain name search to discover if your custom domain name is already taken.
- Try using different top level domains (.com, .org, .space).
- Find one where the price, and extension, is right.
- Purchase your photography domain.
- Then, learn how to increase and drive website traffic to your domain.