Photography branch

Discussion in 'Joining Up - Royal Navy Recruiting' started by djcopio, Oct 16, 2009.

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  1. I'll start with a disclaimer that yes, I'm aware that branch transfers are difficult if not impossible to get, I'm not joining with a cast iron career interest and so on - that said, as a matter of interest I'm curious if anyone knows anything about the phot branch?

    All I know is they seem to fill Navy News up every month with pictures of ships on all the best stations, they're nominally WAFU's and they dabble in TV camerawork. Just curious if anyone knew anything more really.
  2. Ninja_Stoker

    Ninja_Stoker War Hero Moderator

    As you correctly state it's not a direct entry branch & to be honest it's a very small branch within the Navy.

    I was chatting to an RAF one last week & he said the RAF only has a total of 89 in the branch.

    There used to be a Ship's Photographer course which keen amateur photographers used to undertake with the aspiration of being recognised & recommended as a suitable candidate for transfer. Other than that, many moons have passed since we used to recruit direct entry Phots.

    Hopefully there'll be someone lurking able to give more up to date info on the size of the branch & whether it's a realistic aspiration.

    Best of luck.
  3. the_matelot

    the_matelot War Hero Moderator

    There is still an additional qualification as a Ships Intelligence Photographer you can do. It's a week long course and is now done using digital cameras. It's a very enjoyable course to do if you're interested in cameras and would probably be a wise choice to do if you were considering going down the Phot branch but you'd have to do a few years in service before applying for a branch change. Anyone can apply for the week long course as ships without a Phot branch rating need a minimum complement of qualified bods. It's not rank ranged either-when I did it, we had AB's to PO's on it.

    I did the course when it was a 'wet film' course and if it wasn't for the fact that Phots are on the lower pay band and promotion isn't exactly fantastic, I probably would've gone down that route. This was before the role of Imagery Analyst was introduced though. It's a small branch but arguably one of the best when it comes to getting jollies and lets face it, you're set up career wise after you leave (eg wedding photographer, sports)!

    I've got a mate who has been a phot for about 8 years and his pics are constantly in navy news and I've got another oppo who is waiting to get on phots course who has just won Amateur RN Photographer of the year. Both of them were really really good at taking phots before they even considered branch changing. There's certainly a difference between a keen photographer and a good photographer.

    Sigh, just think, you could retire from the RN and go into Glamour photography....'right love, get your rat out and hold it like that.....'
  4. Ships Intelligence Photographer !! Is that an oxymoron like Army Intelligence :?
  5. I think we have the same oppo, as I too have an oppo who recently won that award, I'm sure it was the Amateur one, He's an AEM I believe he's planning on transfering to Phot.

    One of my good oppo's also is a PO Phot and not long been drafted from Culdrose to Faslane.

    He is a very snaggy rating, he was when he was an OM.
  6. the_matelot

    the_matelot War Hero Moderator


    Check your PM's!
  7. Pm checked and replied fella
  8. That's top gen that. Much as I suspected then - small branch, minimal transfer opportunities. I'm sure all the courses will have changed by the time I end up actually being able to get on one, but it's always good to see what's about. I'm not sure how many intelligence phots will be required sub-surface though!

    That said, I heard Al Qaeda are recruiting mackerel as potential bombers...
  9. Ssshhhh!

    That's classified.
  10. RN Phot Branch 101

    I joined in '01 and was a 'Phot' from '05 - '08, both for yourself and others interested in the branch here it is in a nutshell:

    * Every man and his dog will suck through their teeth when you tell them you want to join the Phot Branch. "I knew a mate that knows a lad that was at Trafalgar and he's still waiting for his transfer". I joined the RN with the intention of 'going Phot' and was told not to bother from virtually Day 1 at Raleigh, yet managed to join at the earliest possible opportunity (basically after I'd fulfilled my terms of service to my first branch, passed for Killick in said branch and got manning clearance to leave).

    * Most matlots that hear about the Phot branch think it's a life on easy street ("all you do is this" - cue clicking motion with index finger) and for many that's their motivation to join. Phot Branch recruiters are, funny-old-thing, aware of this and will suss out Jack looking for a cushy draft within about 5 minutes. Unless you're serious about working hard as a Phot, are artistically-minded, have at least an amateur interest in Photography and are computer-savvy (hard not to be one without the other these days), don't waste everyone's time.

    * There's three things you need to do straight off the bat if you want to pursue your interest - 1. if you're in a sea draft, volunteer to your public relations officer (PRO - usually the WEO) to be the 'ships phot'. There will be a camera kit assigned to the ship that you can sign out and you'll be in his / her good books as you'll be taking away some of their workload. 2. get clearance from your boss to go and volunteer at a phot section for a minimum of 1 week (some guys marking time with an injury can get assigned for months, beats working in a block office). You'll see how a phot section functions and help out, accompany guys on small jobs around the base etc. 3. Do the ships intel course, also held at the phot section. Like a crash-course in photography and sets you up to be the Ships Phot (see 1.)

    * If you meet the criteria (it changes over the years so ask your nearest friendly Writer for the latest gen) you can apply and you'll get called up for the selection process. That's where you take along your portfolio of stunning images you've taken as the Ships Phot, as well as your own best stuff, in a portfolio (please don't just take along a load of 8 x 6 holiday snaps in a nice album from Boots, I've seen that too many times). You also have to do a PowerPoint presso. As a Phot you need to be able to speak to and direct officers with seniority up to Admiral, in groups of up to 200, with authority while maintaining marks of respect (course photos of CPO's are the worst, incessant merciless piss-taking). If doing a PowerPoint presso to two people fazes you, this isn't your branch.

    * You will also be tested at some point for ability as an Intelligence Analyst (IA, used to be called Image Analyst). This is completely separate to photography and involves looking at satellite photos of different regions before making a call if China is invading today or not. Yes, Killick Phots have quite a lot of responsibility. Find out all about this and what's required in terms of maths ability at your friendly local Phot section.

    * If you pass selection you'll be given a course date at RAF Cosford, near Telford north of Wolverhampton. It's a brilliant course and you'll learn a degree's worth of photography skills that will set you up as a Phot. The IA stuff used to be separate but it may well be all encompassed in the course now as it's now mandatory to do at the time of writing. Again, find this out from serving Phots.

    * The 'dabbling with video' - ahem - you'll be trained to broadcast standard, possibly by the BBC if you're lucky, to capture useable news footage from the front line of the UK's armed forces operations. Until very recently, that involved being attached to RM or Army units fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq for up to 6 months at a time. You'll be able to transmit said footage (and stills) once it's been security cleared enabling Sky, the BBC, CNN etc to use it. (Interesting note - not all matlots, with the best will in the world, are exactly adept at field conditions, we're sailors after all - so Marines were encouraged to join the branch for just this kind of draft. Having said that, a friend of mine that's just leaving did four trips to the Middle East and has a chest full of medals to prove it so it's there if you're keen). There are also occasional chances to be attached to SF units, but again I expect our green-lidded friends have the edge over those these days.

    * Most commonly you'll get flown out to ships on deployment (a 'Fleet Sea' draft) and basically work your arse off, both making your own work - people see Phots as having an easy life, remember, so you have to always at least look busy - and covering everything the ship throws at you, from football games in the Falklands to drugs seizures in the Caribbean (a quick way to get your pics in to the national papers in the UK). You'll also have to be able to fit in with a mess that may or may not be from your former branch. I was ex-supply, so imagine being in a zoo of 50 warfare guys as an ex-supply Phot and patiently explaining your existence every day.

    * There's also a high chance you'll be drafted as an IA at the earliest opportunity, usually for 18 months at a time, where you'll analyze images from satellites daily and write reports. Some people love it, some don't and it's an unavoidable part of being a Phot these days (you could dodge it in my time but it's compulsory now due to spending cuts) so be aware how big a part it plays now.

    I could carry on spinning dits all day but hopefully that gives you and others an idea of what's involved. Cheers - Topsy

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