Navy photographers are part of the mass communications career field, but they can serve with any unit in the U.S. Navy. They document the activities of Navy personnel, operations, stations and ships. The may write the captions for the photographs they take or the scripts for the films they shoot. They serve as part of every naval activity and aboard every ship or duty station in the Navy. They work with members of every career field. They may find themselves involved in classified research projects, photographing children at a base day care facility or filming enemy activities from an aircraft.
Enlist and complete Navy basic training. Getting into the Navy requires that you complete a medical checkup and meet the Navy's fitness standards, be a U.S. citizen or green-card holder and have a high school diploma or GED. Your recruiter administers a physical assessment test prior to your enlistment. Your police record, if any, must meet the Navy's standards. The Navy can waive some minor offenses. You must be no younger than 17 -- if you're under 18, you need your parents' permission -- and no older than 34. The Navy also teaches you to swim if you do not know how. The mass communications specialty requires a five-year enlistment.
Attend the mass communications "A" school. Located at Ft. George Meade, in Maryland, the mass communications school teaches you still photography and motion picture photography. You learn to use both digital and film cameras. You learn to compose and light pictures of a variety of activities. You also learn to develop film, make negatives and print photos from those negatives. You learn to digitize film images and use computer-graphics software to manipulate digital images. The school lasts about 25 weeks, depending on your individual progress.
Report to your first assignment as a mass communications specialist. The most common job is in public affairs, shooting photographs of "grips and grins," the official pictures of the Navy, including re-enlistments, ceremonies and promotions. The least common job in the field is as an underwater photographer. Photography's flexibility and the Navy's need for photographic documentation mean the photographer is welcome wherever he serves.
Will Charpentier is a writer who specializes in boating and maritime subjects. A retired ship captain, Charpentier holds a doctorate in applied ocean science and engineering. He is also a certified marine technician and the author of a popular text on writing local history.