What Does your Flickr Name Say about you?

Photography: Giant Gingko

Join Flickr and even before you get down to selecting images, organizing sets and adding tags, you’ll be asked to choose a username. It shouldn’t be a task that demands too much effort. After all, image-lovers are coming to see your photos, not look at the label you’ve chosen for your Flickr stream.

And yet it matters. Not because people might be put off by a bad username or dismiss your images because you’ve called yourself a string of numbers instead of something identifiable.

It matters because when publishers use your Creative Commons-licensed images, they have to put a credit on them.

As we’ve mentioned before on this blog, we’re not giant fans of Creative Commons — we want you to make money for your pictures not let other people make money from them for nothing. Used carefully though, sharing your images for free can have a valuable marketing role… provided you get something in return.

Your Name is Worth Something
That something shouldn’t just be the pleasure that comes when you discover that someone else likes your photos enough to use them. It should be the attribution: advertising that tells people that you did this, not someone else. That helps to spread your name, build a brand and let potential buyers know that you can do even more when you get paid for it.

The whole idea of a credit is that anyone who likes your pictures knows immediately who you are and can find you to commission or buy more of your images for themselves.

That’s not likely to happen if the name under the photo is “3459ght_boy” and there’s no link to more of your work.

Your credit then needs to be a name that people can remember and find on Google when they want to see more of your pictures. Yes, it might be the norm that people who use CC-licensed images on the Web link back to the photographer’s Flickr stream, but it’s not a rule, not everyone does it and you can’t rely on it, especially when it’s the only benefit you’re getting.

Finding a good name isn’t always easy, of course. Some Flickr members seem to deliberately choose names that provide a certain amount of anonymity. They’ll pick a pseudonym like “Delboy63” or “[email protected]” that might look cool or have some sort of connection to who they are. Unless you already know who that is though, names like these are completely unhelpful to everyone else.

That’s a deliberate choice and if you’re looking to hide, it’s a fair one.

User your Middle Name
Others though might want to show who they are but find that names like “John Smith” and “Paula Jones” are long gone, and that they have to be more creative. The usual choice is to add the year of birth. So if you can’t have “John Smith” maybe you can have “JohnSmith73.”

It’s a popular way of doing things but not necessarily a smart one. A number in a name screams “Internet!” It suggests that your images haven’t been published anywhere else and that you’re not known outside the world of photo sites and online exhibitions.

That might be true but when you’re advertising yourself, you don’t have to broadcast it.

If you have a middle name, then this is the time to use it — or at least an initial. There were probably lots of John Smiths born in 1973. There are likely to be fewer John Denzil Smiths, John D. Smiths or even J. D. Smiths. All of those options look more professional than the sort of tag that indicates your fame has yet to spread beyond a computer monitor.

One-word names have the same effect. They can work for artistic images but they don’t necessarily inspire confidence in a buyer looking for someone to create photos that are commercial rather than creative. Banksy can get away with it because he stencils on walls. If you want to get paid to take portraits rather than make art, it might not work for you.

If you still struggle to create a name that reflects who you are and which hasn’t been snapped up already, there is an insurance policy you can take out. Make sure that your profile states clearly that you expect any CC-licensed images to include a link back to your Flickr stream… and put your full name at the top of the page as well.

6 comments for this post.

  1. Gary Thom Said:

    While I agree with pretty much everything you said, the one part I would question is the single word name.

    For example, I go under the name Afulki on Flickr, and have http://www.afulki.com as my web-site (Afulki Photographs as the title of the website), I don't normally bother with the "Photographs" qualifier on places that the connection seems obvious.

    Gary Thom
    Afulki Photographs

  2. Troy Mullens Said:

    OK, I admit it, I scan quickly and move on. So much to do and so little time.

    However, I am setting aside an hour or so to fully explore your site.

    thanks for sharing your knowledge,

  3. Adam Maas Said:

    Riffing on one's name can work fairly well. My website and also my flickr name are riffs on my last name (Different spelling, same pronounciation). Mawz and Maas.

  4. Igor Said:

    Whenever I can I just use the name of my website as my login/screen name.

  5. Robinn Said:

    Hey i did have a similar thought that is the reason i changed my username m2digital to robinn . But your post has gone one step forward in teaching there will be so many robinn so i should be unique by putting my family name. But dont you think if i suddenly change my name after 2yrs in flickr , i will loose my identity and people my think who is this new guy. Do mail me n please let me know once again thank you so much for all the wonderful post .

  6. Gary King Said:

    As helpful as the article was as food for thought... It's useless to me. Even my middle name is taken. All variations that I can think of that'd lead to myself as well. Even aberrations of my middle name.

    Hell this is probably the same problem the other Gary has.

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