Shooting in a public place. Do you REALLY need a permit or permission. Here are the answers.

Yesterday was our local market day here in not so sunny downtown Quinninup, a hamlet of around 300 people in the deep south west forests of Western Australia.

It happens on an annual basis, and stall holders come from afar and wide to sell their wares and services to anyone who would like to come along. From face painting to local produce, home grown wines to knick-knacks, bespoke clothing and jewelry are all on sale for the 5 hours of the Sunday trading period.

For entertainment purposes, there is a climbing wall, swings and roundabouts, skirmish battles (paintball) in the nearby forest and a local trio playing songs in a tent. And of course, there is the ubiquitous sausage sizzle – and I also spied a curry hall. To top it off, if you wanted lessons in wood turning, you could have those too.

Thankfully the weather stayed mostly fine, and a good time was had by the decent crowd that turned up over the course of the day.

I always find these sorts of events a good tester for the basics of cameras and other goodies I am playing with. Nothing too strenuous, and if I need to get a new card, or recharge a battery, I just have to walk home – literally over the road.

And once again this happened a couple of times where a 64GB SD card refused to work in a Panasonic WFX1 despite a pre-flight check showing all was well, and a GoPro Fusion deciding a Samsung Galaxy 7 was not a phone it really wanted to talk to.

Also, quite common at these events is a person – or less frequently, persons – who object to someone walking around with a video camera recording the events of the day, no matter it be in HD, 4K, 360° degrees or via drone. I’s all the same to them, as it affects “their privacy” – despite the fact they have opted to go out into the public arena of their own free will, even – in this case – have a stall they are flogging something from – and also don’t give a toss about the multitude of smartphone that are firing off taking video and stills from Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat all around them.

There must be something about a “proper” video camera that makes it different.

Of course, if you go around deliberately taking shots or video of kiddies, you are simply asking for trouble. At a skate park on the Gold Coast some years back I was abused by a very angry woman after taking candid shots – from behind – of kids young and not so young doing their “thing” with tricks and stunts on boards, scooters and even skates.

Words such as “filthy pervert, paedo” and the like were hurled across the concrete at me, much to the bemusement of the rest of the parents there. I often wonder what the reaction would have been if I wore a TV station logo’d shirt…

Anyway, this particular episode prompted me to check with the gendarmes at just what you could and could not shoot in a public place. And the answer was quite simple.

Anything you want.

It is the USE of the footage that causes issues it seems.

Shooting the skateboard footage and using it to demonstrate a camcorder’s capability is not any sort of offence, but using that footage in a “nefarious” way (this was the word used by the Snr Sergeant I spoke to), definitely is. And I guess it comes down to the definition of the word “nefarious” at the time.

My experience tells me most people don’t mind. If there are kiddies involved, it is best to ask any obvious parent / guardian first if they object – this is a given and just plain common sense – and if anyone while shooting asks that you don’t include them, I’d suggest you also desist immediately, even though you are technically doing nothing wrong.

It just saves having a scene in a public place, which is something you’ll never win.

In short, it is simply sensible to go “with the flow”. There is plenty of time and opportunity for footage in these circumstances, and most people are happy and willing to participate. If you need a group of people in a scene, grab (metaphorically naturally) some teenagers. They’ll overact to hell for a camera and let you shoot multiple takes quite happily. I also tend to offer them a copy if they choose to contact me (not vice versa).

If you are in any doubt, check with the local authorities, get a name to go along with the advice, but at the slightest trouble or problem, I personally would bail. It’s not worth the grief.

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