Cruise ship photographers enjoy many perks that other photographer's don't, including free board and lodging, medical insurance and the opportunity to travel to exotic venues around the world, according to photographer Keith Cooper of Northlight Images. This makes cruise ships the idyllic setting for photographers who are just starting their careers. They also have beautiful backdrops for their shots, whether it's pristine beaches in the Bahamas or sunsets at sea. Though, if you work as a cruise ship photographer, you can expect to earn wages that are relatively low compared to most photographers.
Qualifications and Education
Although aspiring cruise ship photographers don't always need formal educations to showcase their skills with elaborate portfolios, many still earn bachelor's degrees in photography. It also behooves you to work as an assistant photographer after graduation to learn the technical skills you'll need to work independently as a cruise ship photographer. Other essential requirements for this job are patience, artistic ability, an attention to detail, as well as business, customer service and communication skills.
Pay for Play
Photographers earned average annual salaries of $36,300 as of May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2012, a cruise ship photographer usually starts out making between $1,200 and $2,400 per month, according to Keith Cooper. This equates to $14,400 to $28,800 per year if you work year-round. In 2013, Cruise International reported average monthly salaries of $2,000 to $2,200, or $24,000 to $26,400. Concessionaire companies usually hire photographers, not cruise line companies, so your salaries will be based on their pay scales. An example of a concessionaire company is Ocean Images -- the company that refers Keith Cooper to many of his assignments.
Although concessionaire companies hire you for cruise ship jobs, you may earn more on larger cruise ships -- Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian -- as these larger companies likely have bigger budgets to pay the higher wages. You can also earn more tips on bigger cruise ships because they carry more passengers. If you are self-employed, you may get more referrals from passengers aboard on these larger cruise lines.
The BLS predicts a 13 percent increase in jobs for photographers from 2010 to 2020, which is about average. Jobs for cruise ship photographers are likely contingent on the economy. People are more likely go on cruises when the economy's strong, as they may have better jobs and more disposable income. Moreover, the more passengers these cruise lines book, the greater likelihood they'll need additional photographers.