Stephen Lam

Stephen Lam

San Francisco, United States
Hong Kong, China
“My biggest lesson has been to be patient. There are no shortcuts to places worth going.”


I shoot news stories, sports, technology and portraiture.

One Shot

. SAN JOSE, United States. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
San Jose Police Deputy Chief Phan Ngo tries on a pair of women's high heels during the 10th annual “Walk A Mile In Her Shoes” event in San Jose, California, which was organised to raise awareness of sexual violence.
“During this event, I had already photographed lots of men in heels, but the highlight was when the deputy police chief showed up, sat on a bench and changed out of his boots while another man watched and smiled next to him. The oddity of a police officer in heels and the juxtaposition of the spectator’s reaction brought out a very light-hearted moment.”


My earliest memory of photography is of my father pointing this shiny and boxy object at my mom and I. As I grew older, I realised that the object was a camera, specifically a Canon FTb with a 50mm lens. My parents, both former school teachers, were always patient and forgiving when I would waste their precious film taking pictures of random objects that only a kid would photograph.

I learnt the fundamentals of exposure using that very Canon FTb. It was very basic back then: point, focus, and line up the two exposure indicators. I took pictures for fun throughout high school but had no idea what I was doing until college.

I attended San Francisco State University to study mechanical engineering but spontaneously decided to sign up for a photojournalism class during my junior year. I ended up enjoying the class so much that I switched my major soon after. I was very fortunate to have had extremely talented instructors, peers and mentors, who helped me along the way.

My first assignment was for a national sports magazine covering the San Francisco Giants' slugger Barry Bonds for his home run record in 2007. The magazine told me that they found me on the Internet and liked my work and I was flattered, excited, and terrified at the same time. It was a good experience for me, because I was able to see how it was to be a photojournalist, and I learnt the importance of sticking to your vision while delivering work above your editor’s expectations.

Working in the San Francisco Bay Area, I have covered my fair share of demonstrations but the intensity of the Occupy Oakland protest movement that began in 2011 is something that I will always remember. I have never experienced the level of violence that I witnessed during that time, especially somewhere so close to home.

I thoroughly enjoy the wide variety of my assignments because they all allow me to fulfil the essential duties of a photojournalist: informing and telling a story through pictures.

I love the fact that photographing for a news agency like Reuters means that I have a global audience. It’s amazing how quickly we can send an image around the world, so when taking pictures I always try to think of what I can do to draw the interests of people, whether they live 0.1 miles away or 10,000 miles away.

My biggest lesson has been to be patient. There are no shortcuts to places worth going.

I respect my parents for giving up so much for their children’s education. I also have great respect for the Pulitzer-Prize-winning photographer Eddie Adams for giving back so much to the photo community with the Eddie Adams Workshop.

I am deeply grateful for the fact that I’m surrounded by many great mentors and colleagues. It’s a small and competitive industry but also a close-knit family.

Behind the Scenes

. Oakland, California
Reuters photographer Stephen Lam shares a laugh with colleagues during a baseball game between the Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers.