Is Travel Photography dead? What I’m Doing About It

International travel is partially reopened. Depending on where you travel from and where you travel to, you probably have to quarantine when you arrive at your destination, as well as when you arrive home. 28 days of being stuck indoors is probably not an option for most travel photographers like me. So where does that leave us if this the new temporary normal?

Doubling down locally

This is probably a no brainer. However, there’s a good chance that before 2020, travel photographer were probably getting paid by companies of all kinds to fly into your hometown and photograph your stomping grounds. Why should a local business go through all the trouble of paying for flights, accommodations, food allowance, car rentals etc. when they could hire a local photographer?

Of course, if you’re used to excitement of world travel and epic destinations, this might sound like a drag. But one day, you might be happy you grew your local client community. Just imagine if you already had half of your business from local vendors rather than all of your business all over the world. You’d probably be pretty thankful!

The industry will change for a long time, maybe forever

Read that again. Things are different now. I do think that vendors all around the world will rebound and need media assets once again. I just think it’s going to manifest a lot differently than before.

Is that really such a bad thing though? I think most travel photographers are guilty of not having explored their own backyards enough. We’re always thinking of the next great destination. The next unbelievable travel experience. What if you didn’t really have to travel all the way to Asia, or Europe, or the Middle East to have life changing experiences?

How much time have you really invested in your own country? You can maximize this and see it as an opportunity to re-imagine what’s possible in your own nation. Ultimately, one day the boarders will open up, quarantines will be a distant bad memory. You’ll be able to enjoy a new country, but will you look back and be proud of how you pivoted? Will you be content with your creative efforts to try new things and overcome adversity?

I know I might not do everything right. And so far I’ve fallen on my face a lot this year. I know I’ll look back and know that I’ve tried and exhausted every last creative idea I had .

It might be time for that career switch after all

If you’ve been stuck in the travel bubble for a while now, what do you think about your lifestyle after being forced to slow down and be in one space for a while? Is traveling all the time really as great as you thought it would be? Or is the change of pace a blessing in disguise?

Travel photographers are some of the hardest working people I’ve met. We almost never sleep, and navigating airports and strange cities where no one speaks your language can really take a toll on you when you’re simply trying to do your job.

Perhaps there’s other avenues of commercial photography that you’ve never explored that you may find just as rewarding, if not more. Maybe there’s a way to better balance travel and work while still making a livable wage without all of the chaos of constantly being on the road.

You may be reading this and already know that you prefer the fast pace, high stress, quick turn-around lifestyle. That’s totally cool! Me too. I’m just learning that I also enjoy it from the comfort of my home occasionally as well.

Sometimes surviving is winning

Let’s face it. Unless you’re already a billionaire, you’re probably not getting rich this year. The thing is, if you can survive this time and be ready to pounce on opportunities once they eventually present themselves, you’ll be way ahead of the competition. A lot of people are going to be forced to tap out. If you can just survive this period of time, refine your skills, strengthen your ability to be patient, you’ll win in the long run.

This is where I think a lot of travel photographers will do well. Generally speaking, our overhead is very low. We travel too often to have an office. We likely don’t have many employees – I contract much of my work. We’re also extremely adaptable. It’s the nature of the job to thrive in uncertainty.

It’s time to dust off those old hard-drives and let you old photos make money for you

If you haven’t already invested some time into growing your stock photography library, now is probably the best time in your career. Instead of having tens of thousands of old photos sit on your hard-drives where they aren’t doing anything for your bottom line, it’s time to put them to work.

The pain with stock photography is that it takes a lot of time. Once you get to the point where you’re basically just adding shoot by shoot, it’s fairly low maintenance. The initial setup of going through your old images and selecting photos through thousands and thousands files can be time consuming. I can’t think of a better time.

My stock sales have increased about 50% since March. It’s still hit and miss but I believe stock photo sales will increase greatly by the end of this year and leading into next summer. There’s a really good chance a lot of people will be relying on stock photos to write blogs and post filler content on their pages. You don’t want to miss out on a huge potential surge of stock sales, you’ve already done the hard work of creating the photos. Now you just need to post them for sale!

Outdoor recreation is larger now than ever

People have been thriving outside. The mountains near my home have been busier this year than any other summer I can remember. People are just happy to be outside and exploring new trails and engaging with their friends in a safe environment where viruses are unlikely to spread effectively. That means there’s more new photographers than ever heading into the outdoors.

Are you taking advantage of creating helpful articles, creating courses, teaching? These new photographers are going to need to learn from somebody somewhere. Why not you? If you think you have a lot of experience and wisdom to share, why not invest some time into helping the emerging younger community grow in this time as well. It’s not just good karma, it’s good business karma.

One day you might be hiring a new assistant, or contracting more jobs, maybe you’ll be selling a new course bundle. You’ll benefit from investing into your community if you are intentional about it. Someone might even thank you!

Social media

I personally don’t like social media. It can be a huge time suck and it’s clearly awful for mental health. That’s why I spend most of my time of this blog instead of scrolling on social media. That said, it is a powerful tool. It’s a huge lead generator for a lot of people and businesses. Chances are if you’re a travel photographer, you probably have a pretty good handle on how to use social media.

A lot of companies are looking for social media managers and people who can help get organic engagement. I have had many existing photography clients happy to have me manage and grow their social accounts such as Youtube, Instagram, and Facebook. I’ve spent a lot of time learning the ins and outs of those platforms for my own business. Why not help grow someone else’s business? The benefit of course is that it’s all completely remote.

Have a little faith

At the end of the day, things have to get better. Some resemblance of normality has to eventually work its’ way back into our lives someday. You can either choose to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and plan for it. Or you can succumb to the overwhelming darkness and just give up. The choice is obvious. Have a little faith, choose to believe things will be alright, the just might be.

This Camera Bag is a Chameleon Adapting to All My Adventures

This shapeshifting camera backpack can adapt to almost every adventure, no matter what I’m shooting or where.

I’m not much of a gear head. Some people love talking about gear. That’s totally fine it’s just not usually a huge talking point for me. Here’s why.

If I’m fixated on the gear I’m using and the equipment I do or don’t have with me, I’m probably not as focussed as I should be on creating. Thats why, for me, the perfect piece of gear is something you don’t have to think about at all. Something that adapts to you, your adventures, and your environment.

I’ve had the F-Stop Ajna 40L Camera Bag for about 7 months now. In the Rockies, that’s all 4 seasons ha! I’ve used it as my primary camera bag in a variety of settings. From glaciers in the dead of winter, to valleys in the middle of summer. I’ve used the Ajna camera bag on photo commissions, and video commissions.

My loadout is always changing from shoot to shoot. Depending on the primary goal, the trip type, the weather, the season, etc. I can think of almost no scenario where the Ajna wouldn’t thrive.

What’s in the Bag?

Camera Equipment

On a typical photo/video shoot I usually have two full frame camera bodies, a 35mm 2.8 prime. A 24-70 f2.8, a wide angle f4. Mavic 2 Pro. Ten spare batteries. A spare mavic battery. Two GoPros. a Rode shotgun mic. A Rode LAV set, and miscellaneous camera accessories like tape, cleaning supplies, microfibre cloths.

Outdoor Equiptment

On any given shoot, I will always carry a lightweight Gore-tex rain shell, and a down puffy. Weather is unpredictable and a rain jacket and insulation might be the only thing keeping you alive in an emergency.

I also always have lightweight gloves, two buffs, and a light wool touque. This might vary depending on the location or season. However I always include this when I’m home in the Rockies. It can be 30 degrees in the valley and 0 degrees on the mountain.

10 Tips For Shooting Into The Sun For Dramatic Images

In addition to that, I also have a first aid kit with essentials. Emergency gear repair kit. A small foam seat-pad (luxury among mountain people). Snacks or meals depending on my expected time out. 2-4L of water. As well as a map, compass, and emergency communications device.

Variations

Variations to this, or add-ons might include helmets, rope, a tent, hiking poles etc. This all really depends on the specific kind of shoot, and what I’m shooting.

What’s great about the Ajna camera bag is that I don’t have to have one bag just for climbing, another bag for snowshoeing, another one for backpacking, I can just change the way I load the straps gear straps and the bag just adapts to whatever it is I’m doing.

Limitations

The only limitations I can imagine for the Ajna – yet haven’t personally experienced – is the load capacity for multi-day winter objectives like ski-mountaineering, winter backpacking trips, or anything involving the need to carry winter camping equipment and winter layers.

In my experience, I wouldn’t ever be able to have all of my camera equipment and all of the extra insulation and camping gear fit into 40L. I would probably need something closer to 80L (mind you, I would only use about 70L of 80L – I prefer to have extra room for ease of access).

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Photos and words by Ryan Richardson.

12 Binge Worthy Adventure Series You Should Be Watching Right Now

Take your mind off the craziness for a while and treat yourself to these rad series.

Photo by Cody Townsend.

The Fifty Project – Cody Townsend is a pro free-skier attempting to ski the 50 classic descents across North America. Each episode takes you inside the process of not only skiing down these epic couloirs, but the process of getting there safely.

Watch on Youtube.

Photo by Netflix.

The Horn – Zermatt is one of the busiest mountain communities in the world. Access to the alpine is ridiculously easy. That means there’s a lot of accidents and a lot of rescues. This series is raw and uncensored. It’s a great reminder of what can happen in the mountains if you’re not careful.

Watch on Netflix.

Photo by RedBull Media House.

The Fourth Phase – The biggest snowboard production in history. Traveling along the Pacific weather cycle from Japan, Kamchatka, Alaska, and finally the Tetons. The making of this production is nothing short of extraordinary. This series is an eye opener of what it takes to film in remote locations.

Watch on RedBull TV.

Photo by Netflix.

Night On Earth – Until recently, no one could have imagined camera technology being so advanced that we can literally film scenes in the dark. Because the animal kingdom is so active after dark, this is an amazing way to see how animals truly behave.

Photo by Netflix.

Night On Earth Shot In The Dark – Behind the scenes of how these filmmakers managed to capture some of the most stunning wildlife shots ever recorded.

Photo by National Geographic.

The Big Freeze – Northern Canada really gets its’ moment in the limelight with National Geographic’s The Big Freeze. Recorded at the edge of the Canadian Arctic where the ocean freezes.

Watch on Youtube.

Photo by National Geographic.

The Making Of The Big Freeze – Wildlife filmmaker Bertie Gregory films this series in one of the most remote regions on the planet. The making of this mini series is almost more incredible than the series itself!

Watch on Youtube.

Photo by Salmon.

Salomon Freeski Tv – This series is like the perfect background series to have on all day long. It’s kind of like having Friends playing in the background while you clean, cook and chill. The visuals just get better and better after every season and episode. Once you’re finished this series you’ll feel like you’ve traveled the world twice over.

Watch on Youtube.

Photo by National Geographic.

America’s National Parks – We can’t all be at these National Parks all the time. This series is a great escape.

Watch on Disney+.

Photo by Joonas Mattila.

Endless Winter – The problem with chasing snow around the world is that your carbon footprint contributes to the melting of it. If we plan to ski powder forever, there must be a way to do it without the negative side-effects of travel.

Watch on Youtube.

Photo by National Geographic.

Life Below Zero – Granted, this series is a little unimpressive if you live in Canada like we do. As I write this, it’s 30 degrees below zero in Alberta. It’s mid March. For those of us not fortunate enough to live so far north of the equator, this is a great series shining a light on how remote communities and people live off the grid and brave the cold.

Watch On Netflix.

Photo by Getting The Shot – Stevin Tuchiwsky

Getting The Shot – We’ve only just produced the first episode, however we will be filming new episode monthly. If you haven’t watched the premiere, check it out! If you have, subscribe to our youtube channel and make sure you have the bell turned on so you get a notification as the next episodes get released.

Watch on Youtube.

Let us know some series we might have missed on this list. What are you watching?

Comment below.

8 Gift Ideas for the Photographer In Your Life From $18 to $366

A lot of pro and amateur photographers alike have tons photography equipment and gear. Finding gifts for photographers can be overwhelming, we’re here to help!

A lot of pro and amateur photographers alike have tons photography equipment and gear. Finding gifts for photographers can be overwhelming, we’re here to help!

Peak Design Slide Lite Camera Strap $67

I actually have three of these straps. So even if the photographer in your already has one, I can personally vouch that they can use one more.

Creative Calling by Chase Jarvis $18

Everybody should read this book, especially a photographer though! Chase Jarvis as adventure photographer – entrepreneur and his stories are guaranteed to light a fire of inspiration!

F-Stop Gear Ajna Backpack $340

Even if the photographer in your life already has a camera bag, it isn’t this one. The Ajna backpack is the Cadillac of outdoor photography packs. It climbs, hikes, overnights, travels, you name it.

Paul Nicklen’s Born to Ice $78

Photographers are usually pretty focused on their own work. However, there are legendary photographers out there who have the power to inspire almost everybody. Paul Nicklen is such a photographer. Born to Ice is his life’s work, and it’s an incredible one.

Jimmy Chin’s Master Class $120

The camera wielding legend behind the Free Solo documentary has an in depth and incredibly valuable course on masterclass.com. Learning from a living legend has never been so easy.

DJI Osmo Action $366

The first action camera with a forward facing screen. This action cam takes selfies to an entirely new level.

Hydro-Flask Thermos $57

First rule of photography – coffee first.

Micro SD Cards $50

If there were anything a photographer couldn’t have enough of, micro SD cards is it.

10 Tips for Shooting Into the Sun for Dramatic Images

They won’t teach you this in photography school. Here’s 9 tips for shooting into the sun for dramatic images and how to do it right.

People are often surprised when they ask me, “where did you go to school to learn photo and film?” – then I respond by explaining I’m 100% self taught. Trial by fire. Here’s the thing though, there’s a reason I didn’t go to school to learn tricks of the trade. Shooting into the sun was the biggest reason. Let me explain.

When I began entertaining the idea of a career in photo and film I started looking into school. I spoke to some profs. I looked at some course outlines. Something caught my eye. “Using natural light and avoid shooting into the sun”. This made no sense to me.

I hadn’t been shooting long at the time but I knew that the images I loved most were almost always backlit (the key light is directly behind the subject). It was one factor among many, but I just knew school wouldn’t be for me after I learned more about it. I’ve never looked back, and some of my favourite photos are still shot right into the sun. Here’s how to do it right. (Not according to traditional schools).

1. Make Blue Bird Days More Interesting.

Shooting into the sun is a great way to make an otherwise high contrast and harshly lit photo into a more interesting and dynamic photo.

Queen Mary Basecamp in Kluane National Park, Yukon. by Ryan Richardson

2. Create Silhouettes by Exposing to the Sky in Low Light.

Silhouettes are dramatic and timeless. Exposing to the brightest part of your composition will under expose your subject when backlit by the sun.

Shot in the remote Highlands of Iceland during Crossing Iceland Expedition. By Ryan Richardson

3. Create a “Sun Burst” Effect by Closing Your Aperture.

Closing your aperture to F/11 – F/16 will create a sun burst effect giving the sun in your photo more shape and definition. Don’t forget to position the sun against something like a rock, tree, horizon, person, etc. The sun burst will look more dramatic if you have it “breaking” against an object or subject in your image.

Taken by Ryan Richardson in remote Utah during a recreational trail run.

4. Try Under Exposing and Pulling Shadows Out in Post.

Even if you’re not creating a silhouette, try under exposing a little and then pulling out your shadows in post. There’s more information in lowlight than highlights. That means you can still have a lot of detail in your shot even after pulling your shadows and the sky looks totally natural just as you shot it.

Cross-country skiing in Milton, ON shot by Ryan Richardson

5. Using Shallow Depth of Field for Real Lens Flares.

Tasteful sometimes in Hollywood, but almost never done well in photography is lens flares. Make sure your lens is spotless, and your aperture is wide open. For best results you want a fast lens like a 2.8 or 1.8.

Product shoot for Wuxly Movement shot by Ryan Richardson

6. Applying Other Rules to Your Composition.

Don’t forget to still consider rules like “leading lines”, or “rule of thirds”. Including traditional rules while intentionally breaking other traditional rules is a recipe for interesting photos.

ACMG Yamnuska Mountain Guide demonstrates ice climbing during the Southern Ontario Ice Festival on assignment for Arc’teryx in Northern Ontario. Photo by Ryan Richardson.

7. Shoot Into the Sun After the Sun Sets.

Using leftover available light it a great way to create dramatic photos. Try exposing to subject and blowing out the highlights a little bit. This technique looks great in the winter when you can see a person’s breath, or ice particles in the air.

Athlete portrait shoot in Milton ON.

8. Celebrate Over Exposing Subjects.

This is of course the exact opposite of under exposing your subject like previously mentioned. Obviously variety is the key. Try a little bit of everything.

Shot on assignment by Ryan Richardson during Trans Namibia Expedition. Namibia, Africa.

9. Pay Attention to the Way the Sun-Light Wraps Around Other Elements in Your Photo.

Watching the sun interact with other elements like people, and foreground is the coolest thing for me. I just love watching the way the sun makes interest shapes and colours around the environment as it sets behind the horizon.

Shot on assignment in remote Africa. Photo by Ryan Richardson.

10. “Paint” Your Subjects in Post.

When you expose to the sky you’ll be under exposing your subjects. Know your camera and it’s capabilities in post. The more megapixels the better in this case. Make local shadow adjustments by painting your subjects to your desired exposure. In this photo I pulled the shadows on Hailey and I and lifted the exposure.

Couple hiking on coast Georgian Bay on the Bruce Trail.
Shot on a multi-day hike on the Bruce Peninsula in northern Ontario.

Thru Hiking the East Coast Trail

A photo essay of my thru hike along the (ECT) East Coast Trail (220km) in Newfoundland.

A photo essay of my thru hike along the (ECT) East Coast Trail (220km) in Newfoundland. I hope these photos transport you to the east coast where myself, my partner, my Mom, and my mom’s best friend Anna attempted to thru hike the length of the ECT.

Three hikers walking past iceberg.

We began our thru hike from the south, starting in Cappahayden. As soon as we arrived to the trailhead we almost immediately spotted Icebergs off in the distance.

Hiker setting up tents near ocean.

We pitched our tents near Cappahayden where we would get a full night’s rest before beginning the our thru hike the next day.

Hiker traveling on trail.

We lucked out on weather the first day. It was reported to be the warmest day of the season so far. We had heard horror stories of how wet and technical this section of trail was. We were happy to be travelling this section with favourable conditions.

Three hikers walk alongside ocean.

The next day a thick fog rolled in off the Atlantic. The fog acted as air conditioning, the temperatures dropped considerably. Most of the views along the coast were left to our imagination. The fog was so thick we could rarely see the ocean.

Two hikers walk through fog.

The following day the cold fog had turned into a cold rain. Much of the trail was exposed to the open ocean making the wind another challenging element.

Three hikers walking in rain.

It was never the wind that slowed us down though, just the trail itself. The trail was a small single track hardly wide enough to fit our packs through in places. The trail was almost always slightly slanted towards to ocean, and it was never straight or level. It was some of the most challenging terrain I had ever walked on.

We were never given any trail names. I suppose because we never saw any hikers on the trails.

Hikers in cabin eating food.

A local introduced himself as we walked through his town and invited us to stay at his cabin along the trail. East coast hospitality is unlike anywhere else. You can expect most locals to invite you into their home for tea, water, and even dinner. As if that isn’t kind enough, we had locals offer up their home, and even buy us a case of beer.

Hiker next to dirty trail shoes.

Our gear finally had the opportunity to dry out before we hit the trail again.

Hikers walking up muddy trail.

I wish I could say the sun made an appearance again so soon. However, the rain continued and the trails became more and more difficult to navigate.

Hikers walking through bushes.

Finally, the fog burnt up in the sun’s rays. It was never as beautiful as our first day on the trail again. However, after almost four days of rain we felt as if we were on a beach in Mexico.

Hikers alongside ocean.

The ECT traveled out into the ocean along capes that would poke out into the ocean. We would walk along these capes until they eventually led back into little inlets where towns and villages were located. Nearly 75% of the trail was entirely wilderness.

Hiker walking near small village.

The villages were home to as few as a dozen people. I couldn’t help but wonder how beautiful these little inlets would look under a fresh dusting of snow in the winter.

Two hikers walking away from small village.

Hailey and I were leaving directly to Iceland from Newfoundland. Our legs began giving out, our back and shoulders were in agony. The anticipation of hopping on a plane to thru hike across the entire country of Iceland was beginning to worry us.

Hiker walking at sunset near ocean.

After thru hiking 170 km, all four of us decided to end our hike. With 50 km to go before reach St. Johns. We felt as though we could physically finish the ECT thru hike. However, we knew the cost be too high, there’s no way we could begin our thru hike in Iceland in such rough shape only a few days later.

Hiker walks alongside ocean and island.

Thru hiking the ECT is truly one of the greatest experiences of my life. Like so many places, it’s the adventure that draws us, but it’s the people and the culture that brings as back again and again. I can’t wait until I’m back in Newfoundland.

When Firing Your Clients is a Good Idea

It costs 5x to 25x more to find a new client than to retain an existing one. So why would you ever want to fire a client? Well, buckle up.

It costs 5x to 25x more to find a new client than to retain an existing one. So why would you ever want to fire a client? Well, buckle up.

The 80/20 Rule

AKA the Pareto principle which states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. In the case of your clients, typically 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your clients. Conversely, 80% of the time you spend is catered to 20% of your clients. We all know the ones…

The ones where your contract clearly states one revision. You’re a professional, you know the pre production was extensive. Yet, the client insists on revision after revision after revision. What’s worse is they’re expecting you to do it for free even though your written agreement states only one revision is included in the price agreed upon.

They’re the client that tries tirelessly to nickel in dime every aspect of every shoot. Before, during, and after the date of the shoot. They pay late. Some clients even try to avoid signing contracts all together.

You Owe it to Your Preferred Clients

You actually have a responsibility to your other clients to fire problem clients like this so that you can better serve your best clients. They deserve it after all. The 20% of your clients paying 80% of your revenue should be royalty to you. Short of cutting off your own arm, you should be willing to do anything for them.

You should be willing to do anything for them.

They’re the clients that would never dream of asking you to do something “for exposure”. They pay you on time. They admire your professionalism when you explain the ins and outs of a contract to them. Most of all they respect you, and you respect them.

If you have trouble clients that are impeding on the quality of service you provide to the clients that you wish you had more of, then you need to fire those bad clients immediately.

What if You Don’t Have Dream Clients Yet

You’re never going to get to the place where you have outstanding clients that respect the hell out of your business if you can’t respect yourself. You’ll know… After you’ve put in the time, you’ve been in trenches, you’ve done the hard stuff and now you’re demanding a little respect. Stick to your guns. The clients you want to have will admire you for it.

It’s better to have one outstanding client than ten bad clients.

Out With the Old and In With the New

Listen, I get it. We have all been there. You have to do a lot of stuff you don’t want to do when you’re on the long road to becoming a full time photographer and filmmaker. You work jobs you don’t love, you work for less than you’re worth. It’s a reality unfortunately. However, don’t take that baggage with you.

This is what I mean.

If you were once the $500 guy. To some clients, they might always see you as the $500 guy. You’re going to evolve, you’re going to get better at your craft. You’ll continue to pick up new skills and become more sought after. When this happens it can be awkward telling old clients that your prices are going up. There’s a right way to do it. Still though, it can be awkward and doesn’t always go over well.

Thinking of your dream clients though, how do you think they would feel if they knew you were shooting a full day commercial project for $500 if you’re charging them $3000 for the exact same thing. Is that fair to the client shelling out $3000? Of course not. It’s also not fair to you.

It’s also not fair to you.

You know you’ve worked your ass off to get to the point where someone is willing to pay you what you’re worth. Don’t let clients from your past de-value that. If they don’t understand that, and if you’ve done everything in your power to communicate with them… you need to fire them!

There’s a common theme here. You need to be constantly be thinking about what’s best for your preferred clients, and also for you.

A Natural Parting of Ways

Sometimes it’s not as dramatic and black and white. Sometimes you begin working with a client in hopes of a future that you both imagine together. Maybe it’s partnering with a startup or a smaller brand. You might give them a break on some shoots, maybe they trade some of their product or services for your services.

You’re happy to do it at the time because you believe in the direction it’s going, the doors its’ opening. It may feel mutually beneficial for a while, so why not. Well, time changes things. Maybe you don’t require their services anymore and the exchange that once worked doesn’t really make sense for you now.

Sometimes you just have to go with your gut, there’s not always a perfect formula to know when it’s time to move on. Making yourself available for something new can be tough. You might even make the wrong move. Some of this is guess work, and that’s okay. The most important thing is you do what feels right for your clients, for you, and for your business.

Your Photography Business Name Can Make or Break Your Business

Sound dramatic? It isn’t SEO and brand identity is everything in today’s world. Here’s how to make sure you’re making the right decision when it comes to choosing your photography business name.

Should I Use my Name or Create a Unique Company Name?

This depends on your goals long term and there are pros and cons to both.

Pros and Cons for Using Your Personal Name

Example: Ryan Richardson Photography. vs. Life Outside Studio.

Branding

Using your personal name immediately makes differentiating your business from other similar businesses much easier. One of the toughest parts of running your own business is creating a brand that separates you from your competition. This is usually done by focusing on a particular niche, and creating a strong brand with very consistent marketing.

The nice thing about using your own name is that you already set yourself apart from the competition because every person is clearly completely unique. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and frustration by building your business around your name. Unless your goal is to grow a photography or a filmmaking business that can grow beyond just you, or operate without you.

Using a unique company name like Life Outside Studio for example would allow you to partner with other creatives. Down the road you might want to contract on additional free-lancers or create an agency. Maybe you you’ll want to host photography workshops around the world but you don’t want to be the one teaching them.

Example of How This Can Go Bad If You’re Not Careful…

There’s a successful landscape photographer who markets photography tours in his name (which I won’t mention here). This photographer markets these photo tours as if he will be the one hosting and teaching them, when in fact he hires local photographers to stand in for him.

Many of these clients feel cheated and disappointed when they fly around the world to be taught by their favourite photographer only to learn they won’t even be meeting him.

Personality

This is really similar to “branding” because any company with good branding should have a personality attached to it. Personality is just a lot easier to achieve as a person rather than a “business”. Another way to think of it is by being personal. People prefer to deal with other people than with a “company”.

Think of all the times you’ve tried contacting a service provider and it takes for ever just to speak to a human rather than a machine. That’s kind of what happens when you build up a company instead of building up your own name.

Are You in the B2B Business or the B2C Business?

Who is your client? If they’re another business like you then marketing and operating your company as an established business might be more achievable. You can contract additional help and solve a lot of your client’s problems either by yourself or with a team you commission to assist you.

If your client is direct to consumer, maybe it’s more approachable if you’re a person rather than an “entity”. Example: If you’re hoping to work with athletes directly, they’re likely more keen to engage with you if they see you as a person. Where as if you’re hoping to work directly for the brands and companies that sponsor athletes, you might have better luck building up a company with more services and specializations to offer them.

Flexibility

When you have a company, you’re not your work. You can evolve, you can offer new services and try new things. You can kill different avenues of your business that might not be serving you and or your team anymore. You can launch separate sub sections or divisions of your company to remain specialized in a number of different areas without deluding the perceived value of your brand.

I’ll paint a bit of a picture so that makes sense. If you are Ryan Richardson, shooting for National Geographic one day and working on quarter million dollar productions for commercial clients, how would it look if you saw that same photographer offering $25 LinkedIn headshots on Kijiji the next day? Brand consistency is everything when it comes to your own identity. You can’t mess that up or else you’ll loose trust. Once you lose trust, you might not recover.

The benefit of company name is that you can create divisions that operate under the umbrella of your company but specialize in separate areas. Guitar companies do this, Fender has their budget division, Squire. Phone companies, Telus has Koodo. Goodlife has Fit4Less. It’s all the same company but they create a little distance so they can play to different markets without hurting their stronger image. You don’t have that flexibility any other way.

Freedom

This comes back to your end game, your goals long term. I wanted to create a company I can put in auto pilot and walk away from for a year, and still thrive. I can grow it, or shrink it, pause it or go full throttle when ever I want. Removing yourself from being front and centre gives you the freedom to pursue other ideas or interests or business pursuits.

That’s why most entrepreneurs intentionally stay behind the scenes. It gives them the freedom to lean into what’s working and pull back when things are going nowhere. If you market your business with your name, you have to be committed and full on, all the time.

In Summary

There is no right or wrong approach. Actually there is. There’s no wrong approach if you work backwards from your goals and really consider what you want your business to look like in fifteen years. If you look long term and choose what’s best for you based on some of the points and consideration above, you’ll do the right thing.

Remember, whatever you decide. Take a second and celebrate your decision. You’re on your way to working for yourself and you have to take time to celebrate the little wins!