Boat chain, docking yard

Cruise Ship Photographer – What You need to Know Before Applying

Zoe Butters Business technology Leave a Comment

Is it Right for you?

There are many factors to take into consideration when thinking about a career as a cruise ship photographer. Before jumping into the nautical world of photography, its good to know a few thought provoking tips and tricks.  Many ships photographers start young, the reason for this? No ties.

If you have just graduated from uni, living at home with parents or fancy a change of career, think about what you will leave behind and how this might impact your performance during work.

Most of the time, expect to share a small cabin. This induces claustrophobia and the loss of personal space and time can cause irritability.

Are you a people person? A personable and outgoing attitude will benefit you tenfold. Getting that photo of someone sat in a restaurant waiting for food can be a tricky challenge, especially if you don’t have a big smile on your face and a loud voice. Quick tip? Merge making jokes and being slightly pushy, people love a bit of cheek.

I hope you don’t mind working long hours and being awake for sunrise. This job role requires stamina, a positive can-do attitude and lots of hard work. Colleagues will not appreciate constant moaning.

Cruise ship photography

You’ll be standing on your feet, a whole lot. You rarely get the chance to sit down and when you do, its for a very short amount of time. Invest in a good pair of shoes and be prepared for a few blisters and tired feet in the first two weeks.

Establishing Which Fleet and Being Aware of Contract Terms

Before applying for a career as a Cruise Ship Photographer, establish the fleet. Whether it’s P&O, Cunard, Carnival, the list goes on.

Read reviews, do your research and always ask questions. There have been cases in certain companies where shore leave is not granted. The main reason many people take up this career is for the travelling, so getting shore leave is a must.

Shore leave also grants you that bit of space for yourself and many wonderful locations to explore and take advantage of. So this is a must.

Find out the equipment you will be using. Nikon and Canon are the most commonly used manufacturers but check on the ships preferences. Educate yourself. Lighting, flashguns, tripods, Photoshop, Lightroom. These skills will all have a valuable part to play.

Does the ship allow deck privileges? Some fleets will allow staff to eat in the buffet, use a select few passenger facilities and allow non-uniform after a certain time, others however have strict rules and regulations.

Curfew? This can range from ship to fleet. These are all the questions you need to be asking.

Cruise Ship Photographer

 This job requires a proactive attitude, thinking on your feet, and being friendly and approachable. You will meet some amazing people and see some incredible places, sometimes however, the pressure can build, for example, you are given a set amount of photos to get and you don’t hit your target a few times in a row. This can be frustrating, nevertheless you need to get up, brush yourself off and carry on with a positive energy. You will often find with this attitude, you get it back.

There may be digital advances whereas photo’s no longer need to be put up on boards in the gallery, this is where you will be spending most of your time.

Assisting customer needs, displaying exceptional customer service, helping with stock takes, selling, cleaning etc. the general duties of working in retail.

When out taking photos this can range from stocks to birthday parties, to private events hosted by the captain and more. Sometimes you may have 10 shoots scheduled in one day, so a nimble and fast approach will do you well.

Boat chain, docking yard

Do not take rejection personally. For me, this is a biggie. You may get 100 no’s in a row. This can be disheartening; the trick is to let it roll off your back. Think positively about the next person you will ask.

Make sure you have a backup memory card in your cabin. There have been times where I had forgot to replace it the night before and I’m doing a shift on gangway at 6am. No memory card in your camera is not going to rub people up the right way.


 Be savvy. This is all kind of self-explanatory. Stay in groups; don’t wonder off to parts you don’t know, don’t walk around with a DSLR in your hand and so on and so forth.

You will visit some amazing locations, but if you miss the ship, you can bet on locating in the next port to be a grueling task. Fortunately it has never happened to me, but as you can imagine there are many stories out there.

Book yourself on tours. You may be able to become a tour escort. This involves counting passengers and making sure everything runs smoothly for the tour guide. It also means you can take part in the tour for free.

A sunset over the ocean

If you do book on a tour, talk to passengers. Find out what they like and dislike, get a few photos once you become friendly – this can only mean brownie points from both your boss and passengers.

Sun cream! This one I always forgot yet it’s so important. In some cases it is possible to be issued a disciplinary for a very red face, so cover up.

Have Fun!

It may be a roller coaster of emotions, meeting friends for life and at times emotionally draining, but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

For me, I learnt some valuable lessons. It challenged my skills and mental abilities, taught me a good work ethic, developed and grew my emotional maturity and intelligence and questioned my values, morals and beliefs.

There will be those off days, but the great thing about that is, you may meet someone, whether a waiter, passenger or shop assistant who completely changes your thinking. And that is something that is hard to forget.

Get out there, do your research and enjoy. It could be the best experience of your life.

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Zoe is a BA Hons Photographer who has sailed the world as a cruise ship photographer, honing her skills on Adobe products and creating wonderful landscapes and urban artwork. She enjoys teaching Adobe tips and tricks to markITwrite readers who want to learn design and its principles and art.

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