Saturday, 9 February 2013

How to become a Cruise Ship Photographer: Questions I've received

Following my contribution to the article about cruise ship photography in Digital Photographer magazine, the amount of emails I'm getting about the job seems to have increased. So I'm going to write this blog answering lots of the questions I have been asked, which I think may have the added advantage of driving more traffic to my blog! It's 6 months since I left ships already so the knowledge that I have is out of date and I know things are already changing a lot in terms of money and benefits so these are my answers as at the end of 2012.


How do I get into cruise ship photography?

I worked for a company called The Image Group, they are the second largest company after Ocean Images. Just Google the names and you'll find the way to apply. Working for one of these companies means that you could be sent to a number of different cruise lines where the photography is a concession, meaning they pay the cruise line to be there and you are not treated quite the same as the ship staff. It also means that if you find your dream job is not photographer but another department, you have to wait 6 months after resigning before you can apply.

Cruise lines like NCL and Princess employ their photographers directly and I have friends who have moved from Image and been much happier with the conditions. Your pay is more reliable, all your flights are paid for and you can get training and promotions ship wide.

Dubrov
Dubrovnik, Croatia

I've heard it's really long hours, is it that bad?

Yes, it can be. But I survived it and still partied and met boyfriends. Basically you have to WANT to do it. I have friends who quit after one month because they said it's slave labour and I can absolutely see why they said that. You work like a dog and, particularly in your first contract, make no money for doing it. But I wanted to prove to everyone I met when I first arrived, who saw me as old(er) and weak and over-weight, that I could do it! You have to have this kind of attitude to get through it. Once you've done one contract you'll be fine.

Can I make money?

I don't know how to answer this question any more. Photography is a dying industry. I've learned that the average pay on one of the top earning ships, Oasis of Seas, has on average gone down $100 for each 7 day cruise over the last 3 years. Image have stopped paying for your flight to the ship, which always is the more expensive one it seems, and usually requires a hotel stay. I also hear they've cut the team fund that used to allow us guaranteed fun as a team every month.

Honesty, I would just recommend looking into the cruise line employment. On the NCL website, now advertising for photographers, it clearly states as an advantage, that they are going to pay for both flights. Also if you work for the cruise line and photography takes an even bigger crash, they aren't going to get away with paying you nothing, and you could just look into moving department.

LSP  009
LSP studio

If you can give me some advice on how to introduce myself, what skills to emphasize in my resume, etc?

When I left I found myself training people who didn't seem to have held a camera before. So push a general interest, show a few portrait examples and you're good. What you really need to be showing is anything that says I can survive this! So any long periods away from home, particularly travelling, they don't want anyone getting homesick! Any tough labour jobs you've done, long hours, that kind of thing is really going to help in your CV.

How much it's cost you all together for the training? (from someone's who made it through to the Image training session)

If you're worried about costs just at the training then I'm worried for you! Please note you won't have your first pay until a month into your time on board and even then it'll be nothing! But in training go and have a good time! Image will pay for your flights, accommodation (think hostel) and food!

Silhouette  006  
Celebrity Silhouette

Do I have to pay for a Nikon body before starting the job?

No, if you are a user of another brand yes you need to own a Nikon body as part of Image's requirements but that last I heard they were still helping with the payment of that being instalments off your pay. This is along with the cost of uniform, one of the reasons why people make nothing first contract and why the first contract was changed from 6 to 8 months, to give people a chance at saving something!


So how was your time when you were working there, and how come you've quit?

I have to say my time on ships has affected everything in my life, but it has also deterred me from making photography my profession. I couldn't make it work on land and now I've just seen it struggle with the big industries on ships and the struggling is affecting the way people are treated and many of the enjoyable aspects of the job so I hope that explains why I have quit, and please go back through my blog to read other stories about it when I made the decision last year.

But I learned that I want to deal with people, not computers, on a day to day basis. That I love working in the holiday industry and that I would rather travel over anything else in my life. Which is probably why I'm going to have to go back to a different department eventually. Let's see...


So this was my questions answered post and it's updatable so if I get any new questions I'll just add them in. Good luck to anyone reading this hoping to start their 'ship-life', you'll love it!

10 comments:

  1. Hi Sarah,

    I was searching for the cruise ship photographer and woow, found your post.

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful piece of knowledge Sarah, I hope it will help me a lot (fingers crossed) :-)

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  2. Hello there,

    I`m an ex-image employe as well. Also, on the photo above i can see Vito, i used to work with her on Allure. :)
    Anyway, good luck to you where ever you are :)

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  3. I guest being a photographer on a cruise ship is not a hard work.. Well, not to be misunderstood, I'm just pointing out the different beautiful places all over the world that could be too much for a photographer's view and perspective. I really enjoy your shots though, cheers! :)

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  4. So good to find this post! Passed 3 interviews with NCL and currently awaiting my response. I am so stressed, been a whole long week of waiting! Fingers crossed!

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  5. Good luck to everyone reading this post!!

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  6. This is such a useful post. i really loved it.

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  7. Useful post and well written as well

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  8. i am having my first interview tommorow. i'm so damn stressed and i think i will go crazy with stress... What are the questions they ask you ? i'm from mauritius and i am scared of the working conditions...

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  9. hey sarah i really love your blog its inspiring i also love your photos they are wonderful. also i am from jamaica i would like to apply for the position as a photographer...but am not getting useful online maybe its hard to do it from the Caribbean could u help direct me to a certain hiring agent or do you have any direct contact please let me know via email jmaniechung90@gmail,com thanks. i am peter chung by the way

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