Seamus Phan signature

It seems convenient for us to license stock images for our various communication programs. But having tried that for a long time, I have been building my own stock library.

Even with my bad myopia, I have always been a good visual communicator and an experienced photographer since the 1970s. I have used 35mm equipment, then moved up to 6×6 and 645 medium format equipment and also 4×5 (inch) large-format view cameras. Although I was never into studio lighting, my style has always been available light photography. Each photographer carries his own preferences, and his own unique style. I am happy to be a high-key, available light photographer (and increasingly, videographer).

The need for images has always enveloped us, whether we are internal or outsourced communicators. The proliferation of “royalty-free” stock images made it rather convenient for marketers to license these and use them in their communication materials.

I try to be as prudent as possible in reading the fine print in many such libraries, especially having read various horror stories in the news or online about the various land mines one could land into. If you simply do an online search for “royalty-free”, you can find many issues and challenges surrounding this concept of “royalty-free”, which is way too complex for an old man like me.

Moreover, the idea of having no complete control over the use of the images at will with full liberty, with many restrictions placed on the use of such materials, made me rethink my online properties.

Therefore, with the advent of the digital camera and increasingly usable cameras in smartphones, I began to slowly build up conceptual visual images that I can use here and there for communication materials, whether online or offline. It was tedious at first to import my own images into many of the older content, but hey, effort always triumphs when given time.

As with any photographer, I own the full rights to these images, and I can use them with full liberty in any creative way I intend. The only attribution, should I care to include them, will be my own name. And along the way, I improve my own photographic skills, and rekindle an old hobby. Why not?

It is not easy to build your own stock library, or anything for that matter. It requires having some kind of equipment on you often. These days, camera-equipped smartphones are more capable and approximate some of the shots you can get with older compact cameras. Good-quality mirrorless digital cameras are also coming in smaller physical forms and great images you can use – even license them to stock libraries if you wish.

Photography can be a skill, or a hobby. And for the rare few, the creative and visual talents will even bring such a skill to great heights. Digital photography has empowered just about anyone to shoot usable images easily, and all it takes is practice, and more practice. It is really like cooking, that’s all.