photo department – an invitation to the professional photography
Photography is one of the most popular jobs on board for those who want to try this way of life, but not interested in the restaurant positions. Also, it is common that the more talented applicants see the limitless opportunities for practice, given by the endless line of models, high roll counts and training programs on board.
In practice, there are two different methods: Some companies set up their photo department, and others hire independent photo companies to cover the department’s duties. One fact is similar in both cases – no matter which you choose, you will find your expectations.
DUTIES ON BOARD
As an on board photographer, your daily job will cover the following main tasks:
That is one of the main roles on board, where you take professional images from the guests, with backgrounds, light techniques, props, and with the help of other equipment. Based on the fact that these images give the major part of the department’s income, you will have training before boarding.
Snapshots are more simple images, taken at many places of the ship, during the whole day. In practice, this location can be the gangway every morning, the dock with props, dining rooms, and all the similar places where you cannot use backgrounds and other equipment. These images are more simple, but provide a great piece of memory for the guests in good quality – no surprise that these are the second on the income’s list.
Taking the pictures is only the half of the battle – you also need to sell them. For this reason, there is a photo gallery on board, which you can imagine as a big shop. Here all the guests can find/buy their images, and your job is to assist then in this.
AREAS YOU WORK AT
For every cruise you will have your schedule shows the locations you will take pictures, and the other details as well. Let’s check these areas a little bit more:
The gangway is a typical morning duty where you take pictures to form the guests while they leave the ship on the gangway, and on the docks with different characters (pirates, or other costumes) and props (captain’s wheel, etc.)
This will take 2-3 hours only because almost all of the guests leave the ship just right after the clearance. Actually, it means a rush also, but you and your 6-7 teammates will be able to handle the crowd.
It is quite similar to the gangway, the only difference that you will complete this task during the day. You will see on your schedule the location where you have to go, and the prop you need to use during this photoshoot. At the site your only job is to call the guests and invite them to take the pictures.
It is the shortest task you need to complete. During the night (not every night) you and your 4-5 team members will visit the restaurants, go around the tables and take neat images from the guests at the tables. It sounds tricky, but you will use planned cropping, preset camera details, and effective methods to complete the task as fast as it is possible, with the best quality.
Professional photoshoots (portraits)
The portrait shooting is your most important job onboard. You will have a desired location on the ship, a background you need to shoot in the front of, and a sequence of poses you need to use. Maybe it sounds complicated, but your photo training will cover all the things you need to know, for example, the setups, technical details, and the poses as well, to ensure that you will take the images flawlessly.
It is essential to mention that this will be the time when you can gain hundreds of hours of posing routine, with different style, shape, and kind of models, which would be impossible on land.
There is no risk at all – You have to know that it is free for the guests to take the pictures, and they have to buy only those which they like. This way, you can skip a big load of stress, and you can focus on the quality of the images.
Just as we mentioned before, the gallery is the place where you can sell all of the images, and generate income for the department. The gallery is opened every night, and 2-4 of you are working there in rotation during the week.
During the gallery hours, you have to help for the guests to find their images (10000x ready photos are on the walls) assist them, and also use sale methods to sell as many pictures as possible. It is important to know that your salary will come from the income generated in the Gallery, and if the department reaches a „target income” during the cruise, then you can expect bonus as well – so no laziness in the gallery.
You would be surprised how many couples choose the ships as the location for their big day – I’ll tell you: Many!
To cover their need, there are specially trained team members, who are allowed to take pictures for them, which will be sold at the end of the cruise. Over the fact that it comes with an extra salary (can be 1000USD extra a month), the talented photographers also use it as a great opportunity to tune their style and become a professional wedding photographer on land.
Over the weddings, there are opportunities to manage private, pre-ordered photo shoots for the guests, who would like to take fully professional images. To cover this duty you will be trained by the company, and signed up specially for this duty (you don’t need to participate in the other duties at all)
WORKING HOURS IN THE PHOTO DEPARTMENT
Just as everyone on board, you will work 9-11 hours day divided by breaktimes. For example you will start in the morning and work on the gangway (8-12), than you are free to go until 4-5PM and take portraits until 11PM. A different schedule can be a free morning and a start from 1PM with the set up (preparing the backgrounds) a 2 hour break time and start the shooting again from 5PM.
No matter which schedule you have, the whole team finish at the same time around 11PM every day. Also there is a big advantage in the photography: As you can see you have 3-5 hours every day to spend on the beach, which is less predictable at the other departments.
Based on the fact that these cruise ships never stops, you have to work seven days every week. For the first time it sounds a lot, but actually there is no sense to have a full days off (nothing to do on board during nighttime, when all the others are working).
REQUIRED LEVEL OF EXPERIENCE
Believe or not you don’t need a qualification at many of the vessels. The reason is simple: no matter how experienced you are on land, on board you will work according a plan, which is mostly different from the land based methods (it is not possible to take 10.000+ shots on land within 5-7 days)
Of course it is important only for the professional land photographers, who already developed their own style. If you take pictures as a hobby, and basically interested in photography than you can use this knowledge as an advantage, because it will be easier to learn the new tricks.
TRAINING BEFORE BOARDING
As we mentioned you need to complete a 7-10 day long photo training on board, or land, which can be at Miami, onboard or Mexico (such lovely places). This college will organized by the company, and cover the following topics:
You will know your equipment – cameras, lights, backgrounds, etc
You will learn the posing sequences – which is the foundation of the flawless work on board
You will know the gallery, the accessories you can sell and basic sales techniques to reach a higher revenue
You will visit the docked ships every day, to observe how the theoretical knowledge works in practice.
Maybe it is sounds a lot, but this training will ensure that you can cover your duties from the first minute you step on board. At the end of the training, you will have your certificate and the name of your designated ship, where you can continue your work (of course the training period is paid)
The exact language requirements are depend of each vessel and cruise lines, and based on the typical nationality of the guests. Luckily most of the cruise lines are designed to serve American guests, so the proper English knowledge will be essential. You must speak English at least on a conversational (B) level, and able to understand complex sentences/orders, and answer. Your language skills will be assessed during the application process, to make sure that you won’t face with difficulties on board, plus you have to complete an independent test (Marlins) according to the maritime law.
These requirements are the similar for each position, so there is no chance to step on board with Basic English. The main reason, that you might be able to complete your duties without communication, but you will have secondary/ and safety duties, where the proper communication is mandatory.
Most of the companies will provide you all the equipment you will use during the work from the camera, to the backgrounds. These are free of charge, but you must take care of them and use them on the proper way. Some of the other companies requires to bring your own camera, which need to fit the requirements, or they will provide them for you on a good price.
Most of the time you can expect a fix salary with the end cruise bonus based on the team’s performance.
Your first 3 months will be your „trainee” period when you can calculate with a 950-1100USd fix salary, plus the bonuses.
After the 3 months you will be nominated to be a „photographer” and your salary will be higher with an average 200USD/month.
As a wedding photographer, you can expect your income based on the sales of the wedding albums, means you will earn 1500-2000USD each month, and as a trained private photographer you can calculate with 2500USD in average.
The photo department gives you the most predictable career on board. That means you can start as a photographer, and in 1-2 contracts (based on your talent) you can be a wedding and private photographer on board. You will find your managerial opportunities also, because in 2-3 contracts you can reach the department manager position.
Of course there are many of us who realize the other opportunities in this work, and know that the experience you gain on board can be the foundation of your professional career later on land.
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