Upcoming Events. Random Thoughts. Changing business models. Changing Names.

I asked my peers on the advisory board, "what will I talk about for an hour?" 
They responded, "You'll fill the time, the problem will be getting you to shut up."

By Austin Photographer, Kirk Tuck ©2014

First off, events. While I question their wisdom the Association of Texas Photographic Instructors asked me if I would give the keynote speech for their convention/conclave/gathering in Austin this year. I have agreed. The speech will take place at the Texas State Capitol in one of the auditoriums large enough to comfortably seat 300  high school photography students and a like number of their instructors. The topic of the speech is largely up to me but I have been given a bit of direction. It was suggested that I show a few images and tell a few stories to establish my bona fides, my legitimacy to speak at all.

Imagine the peril of trying to come up with a speech about photography that will graceful span the interests of 300 high school juniors and seniors along with an equal number of adults who've been in the teaching trenches for various lengths of time. Kind of analogous to picking out music for mixed audiences.

The task in front of me right now is to go through tens of thousands of images I've either shot recently or have digitized from the film days and narrowing the torrent down to a trickle of 100 or so. Then I have to put them into some kind of coherent order and figure out how they will illuminate whatever the heck I choose to talk about. Which, of course, brings me to the next point on the agenda: What can I really tell kids today that is unfailing true and also valuable?

That the business used to be more profitable? More fun? More challenging? And ask them to turn the lights out when they leave? Or do I reach past the confines of my own ego, grapple with my own relentlessly approaching intersection with mortality and conjure up good news for a whole new generation?

The problem is that none of us who've lived through the transitions and who lived enmeshed in a certain work paradigm can be nearly as prescient about what is being created right now by the very generation who are inventing it.  I may learn their visual language (I've tried to find the Berlitz CD's) but they invented the language and are native speakers. I scoff at social media marketing while they are immersed in it (hopefully) and pushing and pulling levers that I don't even know exist.

I'm all set to tell them to diversify and get into video and design but that brings up a very salient question that I need to grapple with myself. To wit, is the world of still photography dead or highly diminished? If that's the case how is it that I'm still doing jobs? And if I am still doing jobs why couldn't I market to a wider swath and get more jobs? And if I got more jobs wouldn't that prove that photography is not really dying it only needed to be re-approached and re-united with a business model that works better on both sides of the transaction?

So, if you do corporate head shots and you've done them for while and your volume drops does that mean the market has ebbed away or does it mean that you haven't changed the way you market your product and you are loosing important mindshare? Are you still sending out e-mail blasts long after that well has run dry? Did you lean on direct mail back in the early 2000's but haven't tried new mix of media to reach new markets? Maybe you stayed on your spot and your potential markets shifted around you. It's entirely conceivable that the markets still need what you are selling but the players have changed, the way of reaching the new players has changed, and if you can find the new approaches to the landing zone you'll earn back the business that you presumed had become extinct.

I'm leaning toward telling them that business has always had the same rules: Invent something people need or want and sell it to them in a way that they can understand. But to sell to people you have to be clear on what you provide. What do you deliver, as a value proposition, that's different from what everyone else is selling? Is your lighting unique? Do you work with a make up person (when doing portraits) who is a valuable synergistic partner for your skills? Are you fun and funny? Can you make people relax enough to take your great direction? Can you turn the client's "brilliant" creative concepts into visual art? Are you a reliable partner for an ad agency? What makes your product (vision) and services unique?

I've been saying for years that each generation of artists grows up with their creative counterparts. A person just starting out in photography today, just graduating from school, probably has scores of friends in related fields like graphic design, web design and advertising. They may be interns right now but in the blink of an eye they will be associate art directors and quicker than you think they evolve into senior art directors, art buyers and partners. And the relationships that are forged in the beginning seem to have a way of lasting and growing and spreading. Kinda of like Linked In is supposed to do only in a genuine and real life way.  It's a process of aging together into affluence.

I might tell them that each generation grapples with scary change and that what follows is a new normal that they can build on. I see the last 13 years in the economy as a strange disruptive cycle that exceeds everything we've seen in ages. Because it wasn't just about a financial services meltdown it was about the retirement of an old technology and the introduction of a whole new way of thinking about technology. Gone are the Marxist constructs of power going to the people who own the tools or the factories and they've been replaced with a paradigm that's not yet totally up and running but it's based on aggregating value from mass distribution and fractional payments for enormous sharing. Will it work? Maybe. But my generation won't be the ones to ride it hard when the kinks are ironed out. That's going to go to the generation just coming into the markets today. The future is super bright it's just that most people don't have the right sunglasses.

But the thing I know I'll tell them is to constantly prepare for change, to constantly experiment with new ways of doing old things and old ways of doing new things. To go out and try stuff and mess up and improve and try again. The victories, I am certain, always accrue to the brave, the determined and the prepared.

The big event is Friday, February 7th, 6:30pm at the State Capitol Building. Austin, Texas. Hopefully the Texas Rangers will keep the hecklers and protesters away.

On another note: I'm mulling over the idea of changing our regular business name to The Visual Science Lab and relaunching the business. The thought process is that we are emphatically doing more stuff in more different ways than before. We're hooking up with other creative services providers on projects and then separating to work on solo work. Having a business with the name "photography" in it seems so antiquated and limiting. We're too small to get a big conference room at a hotel, gather a large focus group of targeted creative services users and dig down for hours and hours looking for an answer. Then it dawned on me that I have a very talented group of defacto experts here on the blog and I could query them.

So here are my questions: To market to new clients, ones whom we've never work with before and for whom my company has no name recognition, which sounds better, more modern and more effective for a company that actively markets both still imaging and motion imaging (including all the necessary disciplines therein):  Kirk Tuck Photography or The Visual Science Lab ? Toss your votes into the comments and we'll see how the consensus pans out.  I'm partial to the Visual Science Lab but I've lived with the other name all my life and it may just be stale to me...

Random Thoughts: Somehow being ill last week really focused me on the future. I've pretty much recovered though I am not quite up to eating an anchovy pizza with jalapeƱos just yet. But I keep thinking about how to continue to gracefully continue a career in such a weird and physical market. I was pondering this on Saturday morning as I loaded my car with lights, stands, sound gear and cameras for the quick shoot across town. I was moving slow. And when I got back home I hit the couch for a necessary nap. This is an anomaly and it's random but I wonder when I'll run out of energy to load up hundreds of pounds of gear and head out on locations day after day.

On the other hand that's the work I really like to do. I like it more than sitting behind the computer working on files or messing around with writing assignments. I just wonder if photography careers are time limited by dint of exhaustion and waning spirit.

A camera thought: I was downtown for a much needed walk today. It was 70+ degrees and sunny here in Austin and everything felt so positive and new. Construction everywhere. I took a camera that I haven't written enough about here because I'm loathe to leap to its defense or to appear to proselytize it. That camera is the Panasonic GH3. I've spent a lot of time over the past week diving back into its menus and checking out all of the customization options. But today I finally understood why I really enjoy that camera enough to have two of them (and pine for one more). It's because it fits perfectly in my hand and it does everything without drama or over complication.  I want to love the OMD EM-1 and I am convinced that it makes wonderful, incredible images but I remember my experiences with previous generations of Olympus Pen cameras and I just find all of the custom functions, function buttons and deep, deep menus to be overwhelming. I know, everyone tells me that you only have to set everything once and then just use the quick menu but what they generally mean is that you assign the buttons to the tasks you generally use one time and you'll just need to remember the buttons.

But that's not the way photography ever worked well for me. I would need a laminated card with the changes I had made and I'd need it for a while. With the GH3 the optimizations aren't as Draconian or complex. And the camera body itself seems molded for a man of about five feet, eight inches of height with average sized hands. Any smaller and the buttons are pushed together, any bigger and the camera becomes a burden.

There are a few glitches to the GH3. The color of the EVF rendering doesn't match the (more accurate) color of the rear LCD. And the finder optics aren't at the level of the VF-4. But that's about it. The rest of the camera just seems incredibly straight forward, fast and usable to me. I squired it around with the Pana/Leica 25mm f1.4 on it today. I think I shot three images during the entire walk but it really didn't matter. If I saw something great I felt confident we could get the shot. Today, the walk was the important thing.

In my mind this is a camera that pushes you to pre-edit. You really start to look only for stuff to shoot that's worthy of the camera and of your own time. There's enough junk out there without grinding out more useless imagery. Maybe I'll tell them that at my speech...

Layers and layers of photography...


Anonymous said...

your right about the Olympus menus. I have a card for my EM5, just haven't laminated it yet.

Michael R

Ananda Sim said...

Push the boundaries once in a while otherwise the staleness is too obvious to customers. I prefer Kirk Tuck but maybe not "Photography" because every person and their cat has that suffix, regardless of amateur or pro status, regardless of passion for creativity or passion for income. I like the name Kirk Tuck, it sits well on the mind and is a special name for a person. But more, if you are a single artist business, it brands you. VSL or some other name is so Kellogs

James Pilcher said...

"Visual Science Lab" is so much more 21st Century. Although "Photography" tells a prospect exactly (part of) what you do, "Visual Science Lab" does not limit the imagination. Go with VSL Kirk. Oh, and think about this: You already have a VSL blog going to promote your reinvented company!

Jim said...

Thoughts on the name change. First I see your point on the limitation of having "photography" in the name when you've expanded into video, etc. OTOH having "Lab" in the name makes it sound like you are processing film. It works for the blog because in the blog you are processing your thoughts on things visual. Unless you are going into a full scale branding promotion any name change should unambiguously reflect the services you offer. Anyone seeing the name for the first time shouldn't wonder what it is that you are doing or be confused into thinking it is an old school photo lab. Just my opinion.

Hal Knowles said...

Kirk this post suggests to me that you are already well on your way to a fantastic keynote...run with it!

As for the business name, I vote Visual Science Lab all the way! It not only resonates with me on a more visceral level, but just as you already stated, the name is way more adaptive to serve diverse clients in our rapidly changing world.

I own a GH3 and an E-M5 and I love them both for their unique personalities. It sounds like I am about your size and I agree that the GH3 just feels right in my hands. The control dials and buttons fall perfectly into comfortably accessible positions without needing to readjust my hold on the very nice grip. Interestingly I think I may have smaller hands than you and other GH3 bloggers like Andrew at Camera Ergonomics and I actually find it most comfortable holding the grip with my bottom two fingers, using my middle finger for the shutter and using my index finger for the top deck buttons. While this may sound a bit risky with only two fingers on the grip it is really firm and fantastic as the bottom of the grip rests almost dead center in the heart of my palm for added stability. My only complaints are exactly the same as yours on the EVF, but its totally overshadowed by the rest of the excellent package!

Mike Rosiak said...

From your description in the previous post, it sounds like you had a touch of food poisoning. (Had it 30+ years ago - thought I'd die, and wanted to.)

I think that "Kirk Tuck Photography" is a bit "yesterday," but using the VSL name loses YOUR name, and doesn't say what business you're in.

Visual Science Services by Kirk Tuck?

Settling on a business name is hard.

IRA said...

Have you considered a variation like "Kirk Tuck Productions"?

My gut reaction to a company named Visual Science Lab is that it'd be a bunch of guys with pc's and they'd probably be smart and get the job done and it'd be "fine". But it's not a name that suggests passion.

Kirk Tuck Productions sounds more to me like you're hiring someone with a vision. At least less limiting than Kirk Tuck Photography.

Bill Beebe said...

Kirk Tuck's Visual Science Lab

Anonymous said...

Visual Science Lab sounds good but do you feel comfortable that new clients can find you without a name that spells out what you do? VSL could just as easily be the name of a printing business or even some research entity associated with that state university down the road from you. It doesn't really scream out "we do photography & video & related services," etc. etc."


WookieeGunner said...

I know I'm a no-nothing that has no good opinion, but I think your photos should be a history of your equipment. And here's why, these kids are people who live in an era where technology changes in the blink of an eye. And they are there to witness it. You know as well as I do, your bona-fides mean nothing to the adults. They will agree or disagree with your message based on their opinions, not some photograph. The kids though need to know that you understand about the change that they are seeing every day. That you are talking to them from inside that tornado, riding it with them, not standing outside telling them "In my day this is how we did things."

And if you do change the name, revamp this blog first. because what is going to happen is the first thing a new client does is Google your company which is going to send them here. And here has no way to get them to you. At best it can get them to your Google Plus profile. You need to make sure this info: http://www.kirktuck.com/site/Contact.html is just a click away.

dave said...

My take on the future of professional photography is that while equipment no longer differentiates pros from amateurs, people who know what they are doing take much better shots than people who do not.

Today most DSLRs are bought by parents with young children who do not think camera phones are good enough.

However, having a good camera does not mean you good pictures.

I think a growing area in professional photography will be providing those willing to make the investment in their skills the ability to take good pictures.

The model will be that the pro will build a portfolio and reputation for a specific style and then amateurs who want to be able to take photos and video like that will pay to learn from them.

This happens today but I think it is going to grow in the future and will strongly include integrating still photography with video.

The reality today is that the only people who want to watch the video most people shoot is people who shot the video or the subjects - everyone else says: "oh god, another long boring video".

rlh1138 said...

'Kirk Tuck's Visual Science Lab'. Keeps the Tuck name out there for folks who know you, but.. says you're not standing still. And, it sounds very cool.

My 2 cents.


Unknown said...

Re your company name, and putting myself in the position of a potential customer, when I see the word 'photography' I think still pics only. I might phone to ask, if I want a video service, but I'd likely not bother. On the other hand, "visual science" conjures up images of hardware...sensors, scanners, printers, etc, etc. Maybe something like The Visual Arts Lab.......that makes me think of images...of many types. Anyhow, good luck, and keep the articles coming. I'm of a similar age and can relate all too well with much of what you say.

ODL Designs said...

Evening Kirk,
Thought I might enjoy a bit of reading before bed, and I was treated by an interesting article.

On the naming for your company, change isn't a bad thing, and when done properly (informing existing and past clients of the change. and using the opportunity to reach out to new ones) it can have a positive impact on immediate business.

However, simple practice would be not to obscure what one does, "The Visual Science Lab" is a neat name but does it immediately let readers know what you do? I bring this up as smaller businesses have limited communication budgets and we need to use as many opportunities as possible.

So if you choose to change the name, make sure your supporting elements contain what you do in a very immediate fashion.

SEO practices would also suggest keeping what you do in your domain name. When one searches "Photographer Austin" in Google you are currently in 7th place. Not bad, but after the first few many people lose steam, if you could push up to the top 5 you would get more inquiries.

I know a lot of people may scoff at online searches, however my Graphic Design firm represents Canon Canada, LG Electronics, Tefal, Rowenta, Schwarzkopf Professional etc... and many of these came from their marketing reps searching online. This is mostly due to the average marketing rep now being in their late 20s and 30s, they have been gGoogle-ing most of their lives in an "on-demand" market.

Another consideration is to build a separate site for your video, Kirk Tuck Video/Productions/Motion etc (again remember if possible keep what you do in your name). For my product work (up until I took my old site down in prep for its relaunch) when one searched for a local product photographer both my design studio and my photography website showed up side by side. However I only get calls for the work from my Photography site, this is because people have one thing in mind when they are looking to partner with someone, and when given the choice between a jack-of-all-trades and a dedicated specialist they more often choose the specialist and you then get the chance to upsell.

Anyways, I could go on, if you have any questions Kirk I would be more than happy to answer them as you have given me at least a couple of years of good reading as well as the benefit of your experiences.

All the best.

Bill Stormont said...

Perhaps there's a third choice, name-wise: Kirk Tuck's Visual Science Lab. Put your name in smaller script against the larger Visual Science Lab type on your logo, where it will remind everyone (if they didn't already know) who owns and runs the business, while also promoting the VSL brand. By itself, if I didn't know who you are, The Visual Science Lab might suggest a place I'd visit for new eye-glasses. Either way, here's a toast to your (continued) success.

Jeff said...

Maybe keep it to 30-45 minutes and use the remaining time to talk with them. They asking questions may seem like having no net, yet their questions give you answers to what they're thinking, as can you asking questions. How do they feel about their images in an ocean of images? Do they see video (or film) having any relevance or use to still photos (or to them)?

George Bishop said...

VSL gets my vote . . .

Andrea said...

Go with "The Visual Science Lab". I find it more appealing that the usual "Mr. X Photography".

npatricksmith said...

"Visual Science Lab" doesn't describe what you do. Look, I'm a regular person (read: not a photographer). If I saw that name in an ad or google result, I'd assume that it describes and actual lab -- a lab that has something to do with science. I know what people imagine when I say "science lab", and it isn't what you do.

Anonymous said...

I'd say neither.

The problem with both names is that neither of them is likely to be modern and effective at the same time, and for the same potential audience. They may both be equally ineffective, but for different reasons.

From the proverbial layman's POV, which in this case means those potential new clients, "Visual Science Lab" does not say anything at all. In fact, to them it is likely to be confusing, and therefore they may end up not even finding you.

They are not likely to associate photo- and videography (their needs, your products) with "science," let alone "science lab," or even "visual science lab," unless they already know you personally or by your existing reputation.

The Visual Science Lab may work as a funky title of a blog aimed at your peers and industry fans, but it may not work as well as a name of a multimedia-graphy business. You could as well name it "Kirk Tuck Meat & Enterteinment Ltd," and it would yield similar results.

I have actually done some small scale experiments with that. Not with Meat & Entertainment literally, but with something quite close. The social media is actually a kind of a safe "science lab" for that.

I've tried various witty tag lines on some social media platforms and I ended up attracting new followers totally new to me but whose interests were also totally irrelevant to the message I was all about. All based on a word in the "business name." When I changed the name, I started getting different, more relevant audience. As you've sometimes said yourself, people don't read so good. But my point is, the potential new clients are likely to behave exactly the same way.

So based on my experiments, my marketing experience and my gut feeling, I'd say save the Visual Science Lab for this blog only, and pick something different for the actual business. If you wish to be witty and stand out from the crowd, by all means do so, but pick words that are at least somehow relevant to what you're doing. Unless, of course, you do wish to become a mad scientist.

Chances are, of course, that you may already have massive enough a peer marketing inertia and massive enough a metadata buildup all over the online and offline world to counter the effect of a confusing business name but still, it still might have an undesirable effect among the potential new clients.

G Gudmundsson said...

The Visual Science Lab is a cool and modern name. So I'd use that. On the other hand, you also need to remind people that there is a person - vastly experienced, creative and reliable - Kirk Tuck -behind the scenes.

The Visual Science Lab
Chairman & CEO Kirk Tuck

Pulling your leg a little, but you get the idea... you are the main man, that needs to be in there somewhere..

best regards (thanks for a wonderful blog)

Yoram Nevo said...

I vote for VSL !
It's mysterious, it's sexy, it's futuristic and it's ... VISUAL.


Don said...

Re. the keynote speech; talk for an hour on how much better 'full-frame' is than APS-C or micro 4/3. They'll lap it up...


Gregg Mack said...

Kirk, There's a 3rd choice that I think would make for a nice change: Kirk Tuck Photography & Video.

Howard said...

If I was intending to hire a photographer/video company, VSL would not get my attention. The visual portion OK, the science portion huh, and the lab portion, why do you do experimentation. VSL works here, however so would many other names, as it is basically a closed loop. You just might lose people, as potential customers, who know Kirk Tuck the photographer, but have never heard of VSL. If you were just starting a new name may work, not so sure at this stage.

Anonymous said...

My simple take on it, i suggest something along the line of The visual science factory, so that you can keep the blog as a true lab

Gregg Mack said...

Now that I think about it, I like this slightly shortened version better: Kirk Tuck Photo & Video.

Alan Kett said...

Hi Kirk. Glad you're feeling better. I had the same problem about 2 weeks ago: violently sick for 24 hrs and then it passed quickly. I think I got my bug hanging out with our 3 & 6 year old boys. The dreaded daycare mystery virus.

On the presentation, you mentioned culling 100 images as candidates for your talk. I assume you'll be running those in the background and not talking to each one. My business experience tells me that one Powerpoint slide per 5 minutes of presentation time is about right.

I do think your insights into where the business is going are spot-on. The kids are the ones who will truly embrace the new ways as native speakers. Our generation may be fluent, but we'll always speak it with an accent.

On the name thing, my suggestion would be "Kirk Tuck Visual Arts". Keep the name recognition you have in your regional market, drop the photography, replace it with something the covers video and stills, and lose the "Lab". As one of your other contributors wrote, "Lab" sounds like you've got a workshop full of probes and sensors.

Anonymous said...

After reading your blog entry I'd say you have the core of your speech already drafted. I love the message, and think by simply expanding on what you've already posted you have your speech.

How about "Kirk Tuck Visual Productions". I agree with you and the others that 'Photography' as a business name is a little limiting now that you've expanded your business, but also agree that keeping your name out there is important. Besides, Kirk Tuck is a very cool name and is easy to remember.

I'm in total agreement on the GH3. I love mine for its excellent imaging performance both on stills and video, the size and ergonomics, placement of controls, intuitive operation, etc. The camera just feels good in the hand and performs even better. And with the 12-35 f/2.8 and 35-100 f/2.8 lens attached everything is balanced perfectly. But I agree that the newest generation of EVF would be nice to have.

Nick in Mass. said...

Thoughts on possible, new business names…

I agree with the commenters that say that "Visual Science Lab" may work for an open-ended blog, for a business name, while provocative (Hmmm…wonder what they do?) it's at least un-descriptive, and, at worst, confusing or misleading.

Like someone mentioned, it could imply to some that you're a film processing lab. Even without that specific inference, "lab" for some people will imply "experiments" as in, "Is this guy going to experiment with my money?"

You mention "images" a number of times throughout the post. This is more general and inclusive than "photographs" or "photography," which, i assume, is why you use it as it encompasses your video work. So why not, "Tuck Image Solutions," or, "Kirk Tuck Image Solutions," or, "Kirk Tuck Image Innovations"?

Another suggestion is to think of your business identity in two parts, the name and a tag line. "Kirk Tuck Images; Photography and Video Solutions for Business." Or something. GIves you a chance to explain/expand on the name without asking the name itself to do too much.

Whatever the new name, if you do follow through on the name change, be sure to explain the change and give a heads-up to your existing customer base so they're not surprised by it or think you're heading off into some totally different business or direction. They'll want to know that you're still going to be working with them as you have been.

Good luck! Business names are tough.

James Pilcher said...

After scanning all of the other comments, I've had the thought that "Visual Science Studios" may be another interesting choice. The word "Studio" implies to me an active and creative place, while "Lab" sounds quiet and academic.

Tom said...

Perhaps "Kirk Tuck Visuals" or "Kirk Tuck Visual Productions"? It would not surprise me that your name is very much out in the market through your blog and work, so why not keep your name out there is some way. "Visual Productions" doesn't limit to still photography, but sounds stodgy. "Visuals" is a little breezier, but by itself doesn't really convey what the biz does (which is why you leave your name in the title.) Thanks for a great blog.

Michael Meyer said...

You wouldn't be the first photographer with a "lab;" to name just one: back in the 1960's Kim Han Yong had a studio in Seoul: Kim Han Yong Photography Research Lab. He had a retrospective a couple of years back at the Museum of Photography, Seoul; I wrote a review of the catalog. At the time and in his market, there was incredible experimentation going on with photography as a tool for marketing and advertising purposes and his studio was a sort of visual laboratory.

I think that the ongoing paradigm shifts that you've talked about here on your blog have created a similar environment for experimentation. VSL might be an appropriate name from that perspective (and it sounds forward thinking and cool to me). However, as others have mentioned, it isn't the best from an SEO standpoint and less savvy clients may not grok what you're saying with the name.

For my own part, I use my own name for my personal projects and a studio name for my commercial projects. Neither the word "photography" nor "studio" appears in my business name, FWIW.

Good luck with the choice.

Anonymous said...

Kirk, about the E-M1 and the laminated sheet...

Here is how my E-M5 behaves after I've set it up once:


Sounds easy enough? In that article is a link to the setting instructions.

Still, since you are using so many different cameras, I guess that a laminated sheet is still a good idea.

Best regards!

Kirk Tuck said...

Keep the suggestions coming. These are all great ideas and it's obvious I haven't totally thought through the process very well.

Does SEO still exist? I thought the word "photographer' was so ubiquitous that everyone had it in their titles and keywords... :-)

Anonymous said...

Hey Kirk, my votes/suggestions:
Kirk Tuck Photo & Video
Kirk Tuck Visual Productions.

I hope you'll comment on how your presentation was received.

Kirk Tuck said...

James Pilcher!!! I love Visual Science Studios. That goes right into the "A" pile. Thanks.

Kitchen Riffs said...

I've never understood what Visual Science Lab means. It sure doesn't mean images to me, which is what you do (both still and moving ones -- video). Definitely keep the Kirk Tuck name. It's your trademark, and you've worked long and hard to establish it. I can see losing the "photography" label, maybe replacing it with visuals or images (Kirk Tuck Images/Visuals), although neither one is as immediately understandable as photography. Whatever you decide, you don't want to confuse your customers. Visual Science Lab is confusing. Kirk Tuck Photography is clear and intuitive.

Doug said...

Kirk: Don't give up your name if you rename your business. Incorporate it somehow because it's interesting and memorable. Visual Science Lab is too lengthy and sounds like a research facility in New Mexico. Just my two cents. :)

As for the GH3...I finally was able to handle one recently and it is very nicely designed. Far more comfortable to hold than my Nikon D7000, for example, and easier to manipulate than an Olympus EM-1. Plus, I love the fully articulating screen. Price is dropping as we speak and I'm tempted to try MFT. Any experience with a long lens solution? Is 100-300mm any good? Totally mixed reports all over the web, etc.

Anyway, thanks for a great blog!

Michael Matthews said...

For crying out loud, don't delete "Kirk Tuck" -- that's deleting yourself, the single most valuable thing you have for sale. In fact, add it to the name of the blog, even if in smaller type as a lead-in line: "Kirk Tuck's Visual Science Lab".

It's your ability, talent, your unique individual service that you offer, not something with an inscrutable generic name. As Gregg Mack points out, incorporating both activities in your business name is good. It explains what you offer and helps people find you.

Unless you plan to sell the business to someone else and slowly reduce your participation, a business name without your name is throwing away 30 to 40 years worth of goodwill (the asset kind).

Chris Rusbridge said...

If you can get across what you wrote: "Invent something people need or want and sell it to them in a way that they can understand", that would be great. If you can couple it with "and make the something they need or want something you love to make" and show them how and why you love to make images people need or want, that would be getting close to that over-used work "awesome"! Good luck,

Carlo Santin said...

If I didn't already know what VSL means, and I wasn't particularly photography savvy, I would have no idea what a visual science lab is. Sounds like a a bunch of scientists sitting in a lab doing some freaky stuff with rays of light. VSL is a cool name for a blog, but not a business. Kirk Tuck Photography does sound a bit dated though. Sorry, I have no other observations beyond that.

Frank Grygier said...

I like Visual Science Lab or the suggested Visual Science Studio. Thanks to" Photographically Curious" for the valuable resource.

Ash Crill said...

Real SEO (not the constant war waged between spammers vs Google) is not really dead, it has just morphed into what it was all along - common sense.

Make your website transparent to search engines, give them plenty of information and content about who you are and what you do, create some buzz on the web so that other sites can vouch for your authenticity, and you are set.

The point is for people to find you when they are searching for Austin TX photographers, etc. The search engines need to trust your website to show you for such queries.

Avoid anyone who tries to sell you SEO.

Ananda Sim said...

It's like The Mansurovs changing their name to... What the heck did they change their name to? I cant remember. Don't chase the corporate sounding name - there are heaps of faceless corporates, there's only one Kirk Tuck brand this well known

Anonymous said...

My vote goes for (Kirk) Tuck's Visual Lab, or the even smoother Tuck Visuals (provided this latter still makes sense in English).

Science is indeed needed in your business, but can put some people off track as to what you actually do.


PS: The 'lab' part somehow hints me of attempts, many attempts - menaing only some of them successful.. Personally I'd steer clear from that word in a business name, unless you're a chemist.

Mario Mirabile said...

A lot depends on how much value is tied into the "Kirk Tuck" brand. If it's significant, you shouldn't abandon it. As other's have suggested, removing the restrictive "photography" tag and replacing it with "imaging" or "visuals" or whatever will maintain your existing brand value while allowing you to steer perceptions of the business in whatever direction you want. I like "Visual Science", but for me it sounds more clinical than creative.

Ron Nabity said...


Probably one thing you could stress with the keynote is the best skill is the ability to learn and re-learn - you have plenty of photos and stories about that topic. Who knows what, specifically, they will need to know in 5-10 years?

Re: your business name, the most important thing is to remove all FUD (fear uncertainty and doubt). If the potential customer doesn't get it right away, they'll probably click on to the next one.

If the name (like VSL) is not clear and might need an explanation, then it's probably not the one.

I would vote for something simple and complete, like "Kirk Tuck Productions - Photo & Video" or something like that.

My 2¢ anyway.

ODL Designs said...

Hey Kirk,
I came back and continued reading people's suggestions. I agree the word studio is a strong contender as is does relate to both photo and video services.

As others have mentioned while VSL has a following online it may not translate into new business. However after a long career in imaging your own name Kirk Tuck would work well:

Kirk Tuck Studios

I have always believed one puts our name on things we are proud of.


Dave Jenkins said...

I think I would go with Kirk Tuck Visual Productions if I were you. Or simply Kirk Tuck Productions. Don't lose the value and recognition factor of your name.

I myself am going back to Dave Jenkins Productions, the name I used for the first 20 or so years of my business.

Dave Jenkins said...

Following up on Ron Nabity's suggestion, Kirk Tuck Photo/Video Productions may be slightly prosaic, but it is both clear and comprehensive.

Merle Hall said...

I've been reading your blog for some time and the "Science" part of VSL always escaped me. I don't get the impression that you do any science. To me, it seems to be very much an art.

Regardless, I somewhat agree with Ananda Sim in that "Kirk Tuck" would be simply sufficient. I always try to think of how a person would communicate to another when they want to use your services: "Call Kirk Tuck". Regardless of what other name you might give your business, they will acronym-ise it: "Call VIS" (or VSL or Vwhatever) or they will ignore the business name and still: "Call Kirk Tuck".

As for "Imaging", the definitions I find when I look it up appear to be related to psychology or medicine or possibly graphic arts (as in scanning). Anyway, to me it just seems odd.

Or maybe it's time to create a new term? What says both still and video image capture?


Anonymous said...

Yup, that's the winner.

Anonymous said...

Sounds a bit like a video rental or camera retailer.

Anonymous said...

Good alternative to the apparent stigma that "..Labs" infers.

Anonymous said...

Agree. "Lab(s)" is the volatile variable here. I kind of like the shorter hybridization: "Tuck's Visual Studios" or the like.

rrr_hhh said...

I'd go with Kirk Tuck Visual Sciences Lab. That way you get the best of both world : your name is still there for those knowing you, but you get a taste of the new with the Visual Science Lab.
(Sorry if it was already suggested, i didn't read all the previous comments and good luck with the change)

MartinP said...

As everyone seems to be suggesting, Visual Science lab is not the name for a photography business, maybe something to do with lasers and holography.

Bearing in mind that a new client will search for the proprietor, directly after the new business name shows up with the old one, if you drop Kirk Tuck from the name then they will assume that you are hiding something. Bankruptcy? Copyright scandal? Not a good impression to make in the five seconds available for their decision to click further, or not click. So, with your name, with continuity, with pride in reputation, "Kirk Tuck PhotoVideo Productions", or something similar.

Alternatively, float off the video and production side with "Kirk Tuck Photography, trading as InsertMegaNameHere Video Productions". That way you can advertise for video-specific jobs without people ignoring you because of a non-specialist, still-photography connotation. It would make the paperwork more painful though.

Dave Jenkins said...

Back again! Sorry! Can't keep my mouth shut!

When I started my business in 1978, I named it PhotoMedia Productions. Much as I liked that name, within a few years, I renamed it Dave Jenkins Productions because I found that when people wanted my services they were looking for Dave Jenkins and not finding me. My clever name was actually getting in the way of my business success.

Whatever you do, do not give up that all-important name recognition.

theaterculture said...

Late to this party, but my two cents:

Cent number 1: Everybody likes the Paul Simon album Graceland. Just have that on standby at the talk, and fire it up if necessary.

Cent number 2: Visual Science Lab is your brand, and it makes a great deal of sense to me to role it all together; your instructor-blogger profile will feed your clientbase if you let it. You might go for a "clever colon;" something like VSL: Media by Kirk Tuck, to pump up your searchability.

I wouldn't necessarily expect you to provide photo lab services under that name, and most of your potential clients who either aren't photography lovers and/or have no memory of the Reagan years won't either. With a name like "VSL" what I WOULD expect you to provide is things like graphic design and complete visual communication strategies. Too bad you don't live with somebody whose an ace in the first regard... and I might expect to be able to call you and get advice, either in-house or by a standing referral, from an experienced pro in brand-management and/or art direction. Whether that's a way you'll be positioning yourself, or something you might work with somebody else to provide...to me the name makes it sound like you'd be not-quite-an-ad-agency, but more than a photo studio.

Chris Gibbons said...

Kirk, greetings - I've been reading your VSL blog for a while now, and, until now, not seen a need to comment. You write sense; I read, I learn.

But two comments. if I may.

First, don't talk to the students at the Big Bash about business models. Rather tell them the stories, like printing the 4 x5 images that you've just given us in the post after this one. Inspire them with the heroics of the business. The reaction you want in the youngsters is "Gosh! That sounds fantastically difficult, and extreme, and when I try it and get it right, brilliant!"

And explain to them that we can all be boring, ordinary technicians, who know our f-numbers, and so on. But if you want to do anything like photography really well, you have to think of yourself as an artist, as well as a technician. This is what you write about every time I visit your site - the art, not the technicalities.

So my second comment, or suggestion, is that if you rename your business, it should be "Kirk Tuck Visual Arts".

Leave the blog as VSL - the Lab where stuff can be batted back and forth, where the experiments happen - but if I were to hire you for stills or video, the end result - the promise of the offering - would be art, not product.

Good luck in any event.


Timothy Gray said...

VSL is a cool name except it removes Kirk Tuck from the equation. What about Tuck Visuals? Kirk Tuck Stills & Motion?

Jim Waite said...

Hi Kirk,

I have been in a service business in an unrelated field for over thirty years. I had never incorporated and ran my business as a DBA for many of those years. About eleven years ago, a name conflict arose, forcing a name change. The change was EXPENSIVE. Letters to a large current data base, Advertising, Stationary, Advertising, Checks, and did I mention Advertising. It worked and it didn’t. Even to this day, I will run into people that we serviced years ago, that thought I had gone out of business and were using someone else.
A couple of years after the change, I re-inserted the old name into the phone book and referenced the new name. That helped.

I guess what I’m saying is be very careful. I would strongly suggest that you retain at least Kirk Tuck in the new name. I assume that you have a core customer base that knows you primarily by your name. I’m sure that you would be keeping your current URL and forwarding it to the new, maybe a landing page that explains the change.

How about: Kirk Tuck's Visual Solutions or Kirk Tuck's Visual Services.
I also liked the idea that was mentioned about two variations, one for photography and one for video.

VSL has brought you a well deserved following and pushed you into other interesting areas. I for one really look forward to your daily thoughts. Great fun. But has VSL increased your basic business? Has it delivered new business clients or new portrait work. Where does most of your business come from? Will a new name deliver new customers as well as retain your current base? Are you just bored with the name? Does a name change make good business sense?

I hope that I haven’t overstepped any bounds.

On another note, I ordered your business book. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been shooting theater productions for about a year. I haven’t been charging for the shoots, but I recently received calls asking for my rates for promo shots and shoots. I hadn’t a clue. Thought maybe your knowledge could help.

As Always, Thanks!

Jim Waite

Anonymous said...

Well this 29 old thinks "Visual Science Lab" is a fantastic name. Perhaps you might want to play it safe and call it "Kirk Tuck's Visual Science Lab" but that's your call.

I'm only a part-time pro but I love your blog and appreciate all the time you put into it.