Navy Enlisted Rating (Job) Descriptions - Photography Mate

Photographers Mate (PH) - Now Mass Communication Specialist (MC)

PHC (AW/NAC) Edward G. Martens
Credit:USNS Mercy, T-AH 19, San Diego,.


Note: this rating no longer exists. It was merged into the new Mass Communications Specialist (MC) rating in July 2006. The job description is maintained here for historic purposes only.


In April 1948, the Navy Bureau of Naval Personnel created the PH rate for those personnel who perform general naval photography afloat and ashore. They were cameramen embedded with troops, on board ships, and in airplanes providing intelligence as well as news footage.

Now, the former Photography Mate rating has evolved as technology has evolved. Mass Communication Specialist (MC) are Public Affairs and Visual Information experts that understand multi-media. Photography, internet websites, articles, video, as well as print media can be used to create the type of broadcast journalism the Navy audiences and the world can consume in civilian newspapers, magazines, television and radio broadcast stations.

They photograph and record video of military operations, exercises, and other Navy events. They serve overseas in combat operations, on ships, and at stateside commands as photographers, public affairs specialists, newspaper and magazine staff, and TV and radio station staff and talent. Graphic designs are also created by MCs in order to support of the public affairs mission, update and manage official Navy command websites complete with graphics, photography, video, and print journalism.

They also manage and create official social media accounts operated by the many Navy commands that offer updated information for sailors and dependents to get some of the many updates and news that occur daily on and near the military base. 

What MCs Do:

Mass Communication Specialist will specialize in photography so if you want to be a Navy photographer this is the route you go. The duties performed by MCs include:

  • Prepare and write news and feature articles for publication
  • Photograph events for publication and historic documentation
  • Operate and maintain a variety of state-of-the-art still and video cameras
  • Operate computer-based graphics software and desktop publishing systems
  • Create original visual information displays and graphics
  • Multi-media design and production
  • Design and manage public and secure websites
  • Layout and design military newspapers and magazines
  • Manage radio and television stations
  • Operate video and electronic imaging equipment
  • Operate digital electronic reproduction equipment
  • Edit video news, features, and documentation
  • Shoot still photographs and video for accident or incident investigations
  • Conduct interviews
  • Market stories
  • Perform as a Public Affairs Officer

If you have a special skill of photography, you may find some of the many opportunities to record Navy operations at Sea, Air, and Land. You may find some of the following duties when on special assignment:

• operation and maintenance of various types of still and video cameras;

• operating laboratory and darkroom equipment for film and print production;

• preparation of audiovisual productions;

• performing duties as underwater photographers;

• working with reconnaissance aircraft

• repair and maintenance of cameras and photographic laboratory equipment;

• operating video and electronic imaging equipment;

• providing photographic documentation for criminal and safety investigations.

.ASVAB Score:


Qualifications and Interest:

Mass Communication Specialists must be able to relate to people in a creative and professional manner. Self-motivation, a good memory, above average speaking and writing skills, and the ability to follow detailed instructions with limited supervision are all important qualifications for this rating. Normal color perception is required. The ability to work as part of a team or individually, a knowledge of arithmetic and basic chemistry, good manual dexterity and physical strength are also helpful. MCs must be U.S. citizens eligible for security clearances.

Technical Training Information:

Enlistees are taught the fundamentals of this rating through formal Navy schooling. Advanced technical and operational training are available in this rating during later stages of career development.

Working Environment:

MCs are assigned worldwide at sea and ashore. They may work indoors or outdoors in all climates, providing support to shipboard crew, Seabee units, aircraft squadrons and public affairs units. While performing laboratory work, they work indoors in and out of darkrooms. They can be called on to work alone or with other photographers as part of photo-documentation teams. At times they are closely supervised and at other times they may work independently. Work varies from using precision laboratory equipment to strenuous flight deck assignments.