When you purchase your cruise ship ticket, it says in the fine print that you are agreeing to being photographed. Photography is the only service offered on board that passengers do not ask for, but it is a huge cash cow for the cruise-lines and thats why they have it.
All the photograpers “jobs” go by rotation, and by your rank. This includes, printing, photoshoots, galleryshifts, inventory, costume shoots, and D&P (which is printing passengers photos…)
Cruise-lines pay photographers a pitiful amount, and more and more cruise lines are hiring photographers from places like India and Mexico. They pay them even less then the British, Canadian and South-African photographers (for the same job). The cruise line claims its because of the how much the dollar is worth in those countries….but by that rational shouldn’t I as a Canadian photographer be paid more then what i had been, considering the Canadian dollar and USD are almost at pare and the cost of living in Vancouver?? That is the main reason I quite ships, after the Canadian dollar started to be worth 80+plus to the USD, I quite. I was like… why am I working in a place where I am tried like a second class citizen for no money?
Anyhow back to the photography aspect. During a cruise your job as a photographer is pretty much to harass the passengers non-stop, some cruise-lines are worse then others for this.
This is your typical cruise as a photographer.
1.) Embarks: shooting all 2000+ passengers coming on-board , usually using a cheesy backdrop. You start shooting at about 9 and don’t stop till everyone is boarded. The passengers board pretty fast so you have to be ready, being quick to exchange batteries for the flash, and changing memory cards is essential, it was even harder back in the day when I had to use film. Some people are grumpy from having to line up for hours, others are exited about starting their cruise. Its not the most flattering picture but it sells because people like that it has the date and ports of call on the photograph. If you screw-up embarks for whatever reason you just end up doing it over and over again until the manager is satisfied.
Out of all the Embarks I had to shoot, Steward Alaska is the worst. You start at 10 and you finish at 9, and your in a stinky tent all day as people trickle through. One Australian photographer I worked with ended up lighting insents and playing music to pass the time (did i mention he was a hippy?). And when the PSD (passenger service director) saw this he flipped out and gave him a verbal warning.
2.) Next day is usually a sea day, so you spend the whole day in the gallery selling the embark photos and telling people where the bathroom is or where the buffet is. Later in the day you start setting up for formal night, The photographs bring out all the heavy lights and poles set up all the back drops for portraits around the central ship area. But the back drops are partly rolled up so people can see what kind of backdrop it is with out it being fully exposed …or else some idiot will take pictures of himself with a disposable camera in front of the backdrop and or possible step on the backdrop causing it to collapse. After the photographers are finished setting up, they usually spend an hour getting dressed up in their formal gear, have a quick smoke and psych themselves up for the formal night.
As a photographer you stand in front of a backdrop all night photographing a huge line of people, saying the same-thing over and over, trying to make people look good in their portraits. You either end up staying at the backdrop all night or depending on which ship your on, or you end up in the restaurant. The restaurants hold up to 200 hundred + people and you have to photographer all the tables.
You photograph each couple, trying to avoid the waiters (who hate photographers) and plus all the ugly crap on the table, and the candles, then you trying to get half of the table to stand up and move behind the half of the table to get a group shoot. This is so fun because people love having their dinner interrupted. You get a lot of comments like “i cant have my photograph taken, that’s not my wife, I’m wanted by the FBI,” and so on and on and on……
Now every-manager wants you to get as high roll count or as many photos as possible because it means $$$$ revenue, and it goes to the managers bonus, (you as the photographer get a “shitty” commission, which remains pretty much the same if you make budget or not.)
After your finished with the restaurant your back out to your backdrop to continue doing portraits. sometimes if your a new photographer you just stay in the restaurant all night.
(the manager usually collects all the roles or memory-cards and prints them while your still shooting,)
To survive formal night some photographers, carry a flask with them or hide drinks behind their backdrop, or sneak quick smoke breaks. If your in the restaurant and you can make friends with one of the waiters they will sneak drinks to you. Its always fun to watch the photographers work who are half in the bag.
Some of the male photographers would create challenges or games for themselves. The would approach a table or a couple at their backdrop, take a picture extreme close up of some womans clevage and say something like….”oh sorry that one didnt turn out” and take another. So the manager would get all random pictures of boobs. Or the photographer would take his camera into the bathroom take a picture of some poo… so the manager would be printing away and would getting a nice image of shit.
After your done shooting its back to the gallery, to put up all the photos you just finish shooting. your done formal night usually at 12 midnight
Day 2 (if your lucky its not a sea day….seadays are boring and they suck!!!)
Horray, its a port day! If your turn to shoot gangway you have to wake up at around 6, to be one the gangway when the ship docks to photograph everybody getting off the ship. Your usually done around 11? or whenever you make your roll count quota, if you don’t have enough picture (say like if its raining) you have to stay out longer. If its your turn to print you say on board for a couple of hours printing.
Some ports like Alaska you have to stand out there in a bear or moose costume, and if its sunny your sweating your ass off in a old bear costume that smells like farts and if its raining your in a damp musty bear costume that smells like farts. In any case its smells like farts. The only good thing about the costumes is nobody can see how hung over you are….until you puke inside the costume.
If your not in Alaska and your in a Mexico, and if your lucky enough to have an jerk as a manager he will make you dress like a stereo typical Mexican…..Mexicans just love seeing pasty white photographers dress up like that, I’m lucky i wasn’t lynched!
Every port has a gangway shoot! Its on rotation amongst the photographers so you may or may-not have to shoot it!
Depending on where you are in relation to the word will dictate what photo-shoots you have to do,
If your in Alaska , you have to shoot decks, you wake up again at 6 and photograph people standing on the decks in front of the glaciers, this can be a trying experience because its always a cluster f*ck, and very crowded so you have to be able to move people around. However it does make for a nice photo and they do sell very well.
Decks in Panama is a different story, your sweating your ass off and so is everybody else, the view is cool but all the passengers are over weight and in bathing suits so you have to throw a life ring in front of their guts just to make it look half decent.
During the evenings, you have to do more costume shoots, either dressing as a pirate or god forbid a lumberjack and attack people as they come out of the restaurants. When you do that sorta photo shoot your completely tanked. A photog who’s a friend of mine “mentioning no names” after he had finished drinking a bottle of tequila gold he replaced the tequila with his urine, so he was being photographed with passengers with his bottle of his piss.
So after a week or so of gangways and casual portiats and deck photos, its a final formal night which is wrapped up by champagne waterfall photo shoot..
The final sea day is all about selling, you have a big line all day people buying the photographer complaining about the prices, 10 bucks fro 8×6 and 20 for and 8×10 and that’s just the people who actually buy them, every grandma and their sister just ends up stealing a load of photographs. And whatever doesn’t get sold ends up being burnt in the incinerator.
When I started working on cruise ships everything was printed 8×6, in privious years it was 4×6 and 5×7, but over time Cruise lines got greedy and now almost everything is getting printed 8×10 and has nasty looking borders.
My biggest pet peeve was the coupons. Travel agents would had out these coupons for two free 8×6 pictures. They would try and use them for portriats with the managers wouldnt want because the managers dont want to lose money. Or people try and redem the coupons for cash (because apperantly they never had ther photo taken) thats “SOL” ….because they have no cash value.
still want to be a ships photographer????