Your domain name as a photographer is your most important thing you own online.
If you’re going to have a serious website for your photography on the internet, you ought to have a photography domain name. Computers on the internet communicate and locate things by IP addresses… a series of numbers such as 126.96.36.199 or 188.8.131.52. Not real intuitive, is it? Imagine if you had to know all those numbers each time you wanted to visit a website…
Enter the world of domain names. A domain name is a friendly name that references a particular location on the internet. My photography business can be found at hockleyphoto.com and there’s a good chance you got to this website by typing techphotoguy.com into your web browser software. hockleyphoto.com and techphotoguy.com are domain names, and you should have your own domain name for your web site.
The Unhappy Alternative to Your Own Domain Name
You can have a website without having your own domain name… you can end up with a site like yourname.wordpress.com or weebly.com/yourcompanyname – but it’s kind of like if you ran your photo studio in the back corner of someone else’s office. You have to abide by their rules, their restrictions, and if they move, go out of business, or decide to change their policies, you’re screwed.
Given that a domain name should cost about the same as a decent lunch, it’s a valuable investment in your online presence. In addition to your website, your domain name can be used for email so instead of being firstname.lastname@example.org, you could be email@example.com or something similar.
Photography Domain Names: the Registration Overview
As I mentioned above, a domain name is simply a pointer to a place on the internet. Regardless of where you choose to host your website, you should register your own domain name. It goes something like this:
- Dream up some potential domain names for your website.
- Go to a domain name registrar’s website and see if your preferred name is available.
- Register the domain name for one or more years.
- Configure that domain name to point to your website.
Once you’ve purchased a domain name and configured it to point to your website, internet users will be able to go to whatevernameyouchose.com and get to your website!
Registering a Domain Name: the Details and Recommendations
Let’s take a more in-depth look at choosing and registering your domain name.
What makes a good domain name?
A good domain name:
- is related to your name, business, or slogan
- will be as short as possible (for when you type it, put it on a business card, etc)
- can be easily spelled (for when folks hear it out loud)
- doesn’t use the .info or .biz domain endings, as those have traditionally been used frequently by spammers and scams
Brainstorm a variety of ideas. Since domain names have been available for decades, there’s a good chance your first couple of choices have already been registered… but get creative. You’ll see how to check availability in the next section as we look at registration. If you get completely stuck on domain names, drop me a note and I can help you out with some ideas. Let me know your name, your company name, your photography/locale/slogans or anything else of relevance.
How do you get that name?
Regardless of where you’re going to have your website hosted, I recommend that you register your domain name on your own. Most web hosts will let you register a domain name at the time you register for web hosting, but I prefer having my domain registration and web hosting separate since it makes it easier if you ever change web hosting companies. In addition, some less-than-scrupulous web hosts will actually register the domain in their name rather than yours, again making it painful if you choose to work with another company.
Lots of companies offer domain name registration. I’ve had good experiences with some and terrible experiences with others.
I currently recommend Namecheap for domain registration – they house most of my domains. They’re affordable, straightforward, and honest.
Registering a domain with Namecheap is pretty straightforward… just head over to their site and put in the domain name you’d like to use. They’ll tell you if it’s already registered or not… and if it is, they’ll offer some alternatives. Play around a bit and find a name that works.
Go ahead and make the purchase… you shouldn’t need to know any real technical details. You’ll create an account with Namecheap and then make payment via a credit card. Once you’ve made the transaction… congratulations! Now you have a domain name and you’re going to start looking more legitimate on the internet.
Now that you have a domain, it’s time to link that domain name up to your web hosting service that will house your website. Hit that link to find out more…
You’ll register your name for a period of time, after which you’ll need to renew your registration. Most domain name registrars will let you know (several times) when it’s time to renew your domain name. ↩