How To Become A Cruise Ship Photographer – The 1st Step

The First Step: The Job Application


Below are what I know to be the minimum qualifications.  As with many things in life, these are subject to change.  For more info, do check with the Agency.

  • of legal age = the Agency people say that the limit is 18 to 32* years of age (but please read the Anecdote below before you lose hope)
  • a photographer = someone who knows the fundamentals of photography and is actually capable of taking decent, sellable photographs
  • in good health = fit to work and travel; any health conditions stable and under control

Unimportant but perhaps useful anecdote: Although the people at the Agency might tell you that the age limit is up to 32* years only, don’t let that stop you. I know someone who was 3 months shy of turning 34 when she did her 2-day interview, and was a month away from turning 35 when she actually got her act together and flew to Miami for her first assignment. 😉 Also, at my batch’s Hiring Session, there were 3 or 4 people over 32 years of age — 1 got hired and 2 didn’t, for reasons not relating to their age. The reason for the age limit, I’ve been told, is that those 33 and older are considered “risks” due to possible health issues. If you’re healthy and fit, and the Principal agrees to hire you, who’s to say you’re not right for the job?

Your Resumé and Portfolio

As with any job application, the first step is to prepare your resumé or curriculum vitae (CV), with an ID-sized photograph of yourself. You can get free tips and advice on composing your CV by searching the internet.

New info added 2018: With regards to job application and resumes in general, I recommend the book “What Color Is Your Parachute? 2019: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers” by Richard N. Bolles. I had the 2015 edition. I highly recommend it.

And as with any photography job application, you will need to present your portfolio. For tips and ideas on putting together a portfolio, look to the experts by browsing photography books or by searching the internet.

FYI: My portfolio had 18 people photos and 1 still life photo, and was presented in a book of plastic sleeves where you can insert Letter-size or A4 sheets. I believe it’s called a Clear Book. The way I did mine was to attach the photo onto an A4 white bond paper and put the whole thing into the plastic sleeve. Simple. Easy.

Unimportant but perhaps useful anecdote: Some photographers in our batch of interviewees had very thick portfolios with about a hundred (maybe more) photos. Experts on job applications will advise you against presenting a super thick portfolio and I myself don’t recommend it. But if you have a lot of great photos, it probably won’t hurt to bring them all. Why do I say this? Because some of those with really thick portfolios in our batch actually passed the interview too.

Do Your Due Diligence

Visit the Principal’s website.  Learn about their company, understand the job better, and find the contact info of their representative or agent in your country.

Visit the Agency’s website. You may e-mail them, but it’s best to call and find out when you can drop by with your CV and portfolio. You will need to leave a copy of your CV with the Agency.

Remember: Whenever you visit the Agency or go through your errands to get your documents et al, always have these things with you:

  • A black pen or two:  Do you really want to waste time looking for a pen?
  • 1 or 2 valid IDs + photocopies of those IDs:  Driver’s license, SS ID, passport, seaman’s book, cedula, etc.
  • Several ID photos in different sizes:  Have a few of each — passport-size, 2×2, 1×1.  It’s cheaper and very convenient if you already have your ID photos with you.  Although you will always find small ID photo businesses nearby, whether you’re visiting the Agency or going to the Embassy or going for your medical, it’s better to have your ID photos already on hand.  At least you won’t have to exit the building.. then cross the street.. then have your photo taken.. then wait almost half an hour.. All that extra work and expense for mediocre and not-so-cheap photo services? Nah.
  • Exact change, especially if you’re getting your Clearance from the NBI.  Take note that you will need a different type of Clearance from the NBI.  Get your NBI Clearance for Visa Seaman or Visa Seawoman, NOT for local employment or for travel.  Remember that. 😉 Update 2019: There is now only one type of clearance. 🙂
  • Important personal ID numbers and information:  Social Security Number; Taxpayer’s ID Number; Residence Certificate Number (Cedula), with date and place issued; Passport Number with date and place issued and expiry date; et cetera.
  • Photocopies of other important documents that you already have, like your passport, valid IDs, training certificates, etc.
  • An umbrella.  Hey, you never know, it just might rain.  😎


Time To Visit The Agency

After you contact the Agency, whether by phone or through e-mail, they will want you to show up with your CV and portfolio. They’ll want to see you, talk to you, and maybe test you on your knowledge of photography and/or to assess your English language skill.

Relax. You don’t have to have advanced knowledge of photography. You don’t need perfect grammar or the articulacy of a call center agent.  (Believe me, I’ve met successful ship photographers with poor English.)

Remember: The Agency will want more people to be hired through them, but they wouldn’t want to waste the Principal’s time. The people who decide whether or not you get hired are the interviewers from the Principal.

Your visit to the Agency will also be a good opportunity for you to ask questions and to check out the Agency. You can also talk to ship crew coming in and out of their office.

Meeting with the Agency people should be treated like a job interview itself.

  • Dress appropriately. Smart casual is just fine. Formal business wear in this case would be overkill.
  • Be presentable. Look nice. Smell nice.
  • Be prepared. Have your CV and portfolio ready. Your portfolio need not be fancy, but do have your photos in an album or book – not loose and easy-to-lose.

Be careful: While the Agency people are not the ones to decide whether or not you get hired, you certainly do not want to get on their bad side. They have the power to not put you on the list of scheduled interviewees. I don’t know if that ever happens but, technically, they have that power. So play nice. Don’t be a prima donna.

So that was Step 1.  Now, click here for Step 2. 🙂

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