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Cruise ship photography Martin Brookes - part 2 of 1 2

Published 01/05/2001

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The challenge of convincing people to have their photograph taken is made somewhat easier as there are so many Americans on board, and generally speaking they like being photographed. On the larger ships there tend to be more nationalities amongst the guests, so if you can speak Spanish, Portuguese, French or German, that is an advantage. Latin Americans also particularly enjoy posing for pictures, but unfortunately the worst are the Brits. That famous British reserve seems to make them run from the camera, but we'll let them off. Obviously, customer service is paramount, and dealing with people who speak little or no English can be tricky, so anyone from the Basil Fawlty School of business need not apply. I often wonder what dear old Basil would have made of our guests. When these Americans go on vacation, they pack absolutely everything except their brain! We often get silly questions or comments, such as "What time is the midnight buffet?", "Do these stairs go up?" or "Is that 9PM in the evening?".

There should be no myth about shipboard photography. This isn't high value, artistic, creative work. The aim is to shoot as many pictures as possible at the highest quality as possible. I have heard shore-side photo managers describe our job as a "picture factory". On a busy formal night, when a couple comes to a portrait background they will be in front of the lens for about 30 seconds, in which time the photographer will take two or three images in two poses.

So, I'll let that sink in, and talk about ship life. Ship life is not for everyone, and it can be very stressful at times. Our contracts run for six months at a time, after which we can take up to six weeks vacation before renewing the contract. Here is both the first advantage and disadvantage - you get six weeks holiday in one block, giving you a lot of opportunity to do whatever you want for your vacation. However, you do have to live on the ship for a long time, in conditions that can be oppressive sometimes. You will share a cabin with another team member, and the cabins are small, with no window, although on the newer ships, crew facilities are getting better. Most cabins will have a bathroom with shower attached, and a television. If you are easy going, and tolerant of other people (ships attract a wide variety of characters) and can "make do" then you will have no problem with these issues.

To make up for all of this, the social life is excellent. Everybody on the ship works hard and parties hard too. I get to visit great ports, eat wonderful food, go to the best clubs, drink lots of very cheap beer, and generally have a great time. The crew is very multinational, usually comprised of more than 60 nationalities, and the photo teams often include Brits, Canadians, South Africans, as well as some Eastern Europeans. This is one of my favourite things about ship life - meeting so many people from different places - they say variety is the spice of life and I would agree!!


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The job does have its benefits photographically too. First off, I can think of no other way of getting so much experience of posing people. Sure it's only pretty basic posing, but you get to repeat it hundreds of times, on fat people, thin people, tall, short, young, old, families, couples, individuals, EVERYTHING!!! This is all very valuable real experience, building rapport very quickly, getting smiles, especially from children who often don't want to have their picture taken. We do get to be a little bit more creative when we shoot weddings. Weddings take place on the home port day, and they request a photographer to record the service, reception and then shoot at locations around the ship. We get paid $40 per hour for these, and it adds a nice bonus to your wages. Weddings are my favourite part of the job, because I can try new things, be creative and do something different!

Also, you can add to your personal image collection, as you will visit many new places. It is often difficult to pick up a camera when you finish work, but sometimes you can get some very nice images, and of course you have the advantage that you can keep coming back to the best locations each week!

There are lots of opportunities in the cruise industry now, it's growing fast. All the major cruise lines have a string of new ships being built, and all of these will need photographers. If you're unsure of what path to take in life, need a change, or just fancy trying something different, then why not give ships a go?


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1st Published 01/05/2001
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