Updated: Nov 13, 2020
As mentioned in the title, the appeal of working on a cruise ship as a photographer is great. There are many benefits and drawbacks in doing something like this. I have recently finished a 6 month contract onboard Cunard's Queen Victoria and wanted to share some of my experiences and insights on undertaking such a role.
The travel opportunities provided by a job like this can be exceptional. This is dependant on the ship you end up on some ships only go to a few ports so if this is something you are interested in doing I would strongly suggest doing your research beforehand. For me I was very lucky to join the ship while it was on its world voyage. I went to plenty of exotic locations and travelled to 23 countries in my 6 months on board.
This is the main advantage of this job, if you're into travelling going to sleep and waking up in a new place every other day is an incredible feeling. Although you won't get long to experience the port usually. Most of the time the ship will stop in the port for one day, occasionally overnight (again depends on the ship).
Another great advantage to this line of work is the social life and the potential networking. You will meet people from all over the world with all sorts of different backgrounds. Some of the people you meet may also give you some work onboard or in the future.
The social life (especially with crew) is very intense. You will be spending most of your time onboard surrounded by the same people. Not to mention you will more than likely be sharing a cabin with one of your colleagues. This can be great, terrible, or anything inbetween. It really depends on the people and what kind of person you are.
The food you can get onboard generally depends on the ship. I know on Cunard ships you will be eating in the staff mess. The food quality here is ok- it can be good but it can also be bad. You can request to eat in guest areas on occasion and the food is great here. I've heard on P&O ships you can always eat in the guest areas so it very much depends on the ship as to what kind of food you will get.
This for me is one of the main disadvantages of this job in terms of the hours you work. As mentioned briefly before you will be working 7 days a week sometimes up to 12 hours. A large portion of your time will be spent in the photo gallery selling the photos you've taken. Port days are the best days as you will get the day off (you may have to do some photographs on the gangway for a few hours in the morning) and just work in the gallery in the evening.
Formal nights will be the busiest nights workwise this is when you will work the hardest for sure. Everybody wants their picture taken when they get dressed up and these will tend to be on days when you are at sea so you'll be working all day. Expect a late finish and a night full of posing people, not to mention setting up and packing down all of your lights and camera gear.
The best part about this job is the private shoots. Different companies have different activities for photographers but the company I worked for (TSP) allows the photographers to do private shoots. These are much more relaxed you can spend more time with the guests but it's hard to get bookings for them. This is also where you can expand your portfolio and make some commission.
Here are some examples of my work from private shoots;
As you can see the clientele you will be working with is varied and any experience you have beforehand of working with families or people in general is essential. You will have a captive market and the key is to speak to as many people as possible to get as many private shoots as you can.
Working on ships is a different way of life and as a photographer you will be working long hours. All in all the experience is great fun, but hard at times. I will be writing more about my experiences on board and about some of the ports I visited in more depth.
Thank you for reading,