If you love traveling and want to see the world, you may have considered working as a photographer on a cruise ship. On the down side, the hours can be long and the living quarters cramped for ship's staff. As a photographer, part of your day would be spent in shooting, part in developing and part in sales. You might even have to dress up as a pirate to pose with passengers as they disembark. If you think such work sounds right for you, consider whether the pay would meet your needs as well.
Cruise ship photographer salaries vary based on a variety of factors, including position, cruise line and contract rate. The biggest factor is the pay structure. Most cruise lines offer a base salary plus commission. Therefore, your pay relies on a combination of how well the passengers like your photographs and also what percentage commission you earn. Other factors that will affect your earnings are the length of the cruise and the passenger profile. Passengers on a seven-day, well-heeled senior-citizen cruise will buy more photos than those on a two-day college "beer cruise."
Cruise Photography Positions
A variety of cruise photography positions typically is available. Many ships require that you start at the bottom, even if you have extensive photography experience elsewhere. The one exception is if you have experience on another cruise ship. The starting level is junior photographer; from there you can move up to photographer. The cruise photo team usually also includes an assistant photo manager and a photo manager. Some ships employ a videographer as well.
Junior Photographer Position
As of June 2011, the Crew-Cruise website was hiring for a starting position photographer with several major cruise lines. These positions paid $700 a month plus commissions, estimated at about $1,000 per month. However, photographers receive free room and board while on the ship. Another perk: free air travel to the ship -- but not a return trip home. Such positions include six to eight weeks of vacation and require signing a six-month contract.
According to CruiseShipJob.com, the typical salary range for a junior photographer is $1,100 to $1,400 a month, depending on cruise line, commission and size of ship. Cruise photographers earn more, $1,800 to $2,500 per month, and assistant photo managers make $2,200 to $3,200. Videographers make $2,200 to $2,800 a month, while photo managers earn top wages for this field, $2,400 to $3,800 a month. Although these salaries initially might seem low, many people actually save a significant portion of their salaries while working on a ship because they do not have a lot of other expenses, including housing and food.