Shooting a restricted space (expansive as it may be) on the high seas comes with a unique range of challenges if you want a productive shoot.

Here’s a few tips which might be helpful to both professionals and enthusiasts heading off on a cruise:

– Quickly become familiar with the ship and orientate yourself to its best vantages and the right time of day to be shooting from them.
– Shoot your first sunny day as if it was the only one you’ll get (hopefully, you’ll be pleasantly surprised).
– Study the itinerary. Know what’s happening at the destinations you’ll be visiting and consider the entertainment schedule for picture opportunities well in advance.
– Get a map that shows the islands/ports you’ll be visiting and consider where the ship will be anchoring and facing at what time of day in terms of lighting – particularly around sunrise and sunset.
– Do all you can to be the first person off the ship to wherever you’re visiting (though bare in mind, one of the prime shots you’ll need could well be captured from the ship’s upper decks later in the day). Know when the last tender is returning.
– Study the people flow on the ship and work out the best time to shoot the public spaces.
– If you’re a professional photographer shooting the cruise, establish that priority has been given to the assignment by the company’s marketing manager and that it has been conveyed to key people on board the ship who can assist you with logistics.
– Make direct contact with the captain and explain the assignment as that’s where the buck stops the moment you cast off if it isn’t going according to plan.
– Look to be allocated a go-to person on the ship to assist you throughout the cruise at short notice if need be with things like restricted access, tender transportation, talent and ground support.
– List the ship’s photographic features and map out a shooting schedule according to the time you’ll be at sea. Prioritise shooting its main features such as the pool deck, public spaces and the exterior etc).
– Explore the prospect of using crew as talent (hopefully, getting involved in the selection process).
– Prioritise your photography to just what you need from the shoot (in my case, some destination photographs and a page of pictures of the ship for the book I’m doing). Then have the sense to sit back and enjoy some of the perks of your profession.


Some of the photographs from the recent cruise onboard the Pacific Dawn

Above: Some of the photographs from the recent cruise onboard the Pacific Dawn


For previous posts on cruising, click the thumbnails below or for more tips on travel photography generally, click here

I remember some time ago taking a plumber to task when he turned up at my house to fix my washing machine and charged AUD$150 for five minutes work. He simply reached in and plucked out a 20c coin that was blocking the system before handing me his invoice on the way out.

As he mentioned though, he knew where to look. The fact was I wasn’t paying him for his time as much for his experience which quickly directed him to the problem and provided the expertise needed to fix it.
Travel photography at a professional level is no different. Over time (in my case, two decades) we (hopefully) have learned from our mistakes and honed our craft. It’s not a matter of running around like a chook without a head from sun up to sun down and appearing productive by taking a stack of mediocre photographs. It’s about drawing on your experience to place yourself in the right place, at the right time, in the most favourable circumstance to capture the best photographs of the destination you’re shooting.

……(Still, I can’t help thinking life would be a lot simpler sometimes if I was a plumber).

New book cover

New book cover

I’m often asked by photographers who are travelling how they can make money from their photographs.

As you might guess, it’s a competitive arena and financial success can be elusive. Personally, I think being a good photographer is just one of the elements you need to be successful in this game – you also need to be competant in business, innovative in marketing, passionate about the work you do and, well, just lucky.
Like most of my ilk, I’m constantly on the look-out for new opportunities to add value to my photographs which is the main reason I’m on this cruise to Papua New Guinea at the moment. Having produced a substantial library of photographs on Papua New Guinea over the years, I approached P&O cruises in between assignments to produce a souvenir book they could sell on their ships to generate revenue and promote their cruises. Over the 10 day cruise, I’ll capture a range of appealing images of their ship in location and drop them into a customised version of a popular book on PNG I am about to re-print. It’s a win/win outcome for everyone involved. P&O, will have a high quality souvenir publication featuring their cruise which they can sell to guests (which they don’t have at the moment). Papua New Guinea will have an appealing publication of their destination being circulated widely to encourage others to visit and I will have a new distributor and a captive – hopefully enthusiastic – audience of about 2,000 passengers per cruise to sell my books to.
The underlying message: Everyone wins  which, for those looking to make money from their photography, continues to be a large part of whatever success I enjoy as a photographer.

  • Odette Nightsky (Kirkland) - September 17, 2014 - 9:07 am

    You have most definitely got the whole package and have worked hard to get where you are. Its clear that being a good photographer is not nearly enough in today’s time to make a living, so it great that you are guiding others to see it from a wider perspective.ReplyCancel

sensual PNG

Sensual PNG

Here are two interpretations of the same event I shot as part of this cruise I’m doing of Papua New Guinea. The photograph (below) is the sort of picture most guests who were attending the cultural performance in Alotau would have captured, while the one (above) resulted from an opportunity I created at the same event.
I enjoy the fact that my pursuit as a travel and tourism photographer gives me the chance to produce both style of picture. On one hand, my clients pay me to capture a broad range of promotional photographs to sell their destinations. Like a comeback rock band, they expect me to “perform my favourites” – i.e. my standard repertoire – people having a good time, unique experiences, postcard-perfect scenery etc. But, occasionally, in among the bread and butter work I do, I see someone who I think is particularly photogenic and I create the opportunity to shoot an image that nourishes my personal creativity.
While the images are likely to move more towards art than tourism, they may well be used in a different context to promote the destination I am photographing (as similar images have recently, appearing in a photography exhibition and my latest coffee table book of personal work).
On this particular day, the light outside was stark so I arranged for this young woman who I’d seen dancing earlier to sit with me in a nearby shelter where the light was more complimentary. Because she was young and bare breasted, I insisted on a chaperone escorting us (as I often do to avoid any misinterpretation about my intent).
Actually, I was surprised she and her group were dancing bare breasted at all as over-zealous missionaries decimated traditional culture in the Milne Bay region in the late 19th century and they continue to insist women cover their breasts when they dance in traditional rituals. As in many provinces in PNG – and, for that matter, many countries throughout the South Pacific – education, religion and modernity are playing an increasing role in women covering themselves during traditional performances.
So, it was both surprising and pleasing to see the resurgence of “the old ways” in Milne Bay. “We are proud of our culture,“ said the elderly chaperone who sat with us. “The church is strong but our traditions are stronger,” he said adding “And, after all, this is what the tourist come to see.”


Standard tourism fare

Standard tourism fare

  • Gavin James - September 16, 2014 - 6:50 am

    I’d be going Art and Bare Breasts …definitelyReplyCancel

I’m not sure entrance level cruising on a large vessel (1,900 guests, 700 crew, 11 stories high) is the best option for a non drinking, long-over-partying, workaholic photographer who has a True North cruise of PNG to compare it to but – as I lay here on the stern with a cool drink in my hand under blue skies with the sun shining and the horizon of the South Pacific unfolding in front of me (below), I’m thinking, it’s not all bad.

For the next 10 days, I’m on board P&O’s cruise ship, Pacific Dawn, travelling from Brisbane to Papua New Guinea and back on what is a relatively easy assignment to supply a range of photographs of the ports of call for PNG’s national tourism authority and produce some cruise shots for a new book I’m planning. With only three days in port and the rest spent cruising, it seems I’ve got little else to do but enjoy the cruise.

Cruising the South Pacific

Cruising the South Pacific