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Avoid Flying into Trouble – Get to Know Your Camera Settings as Qantas Bans Photos of Staff and Passengers without Permission

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Travellers are being urged to check their camera settings and capabilities before flying this summer. The advice comes after Qantas quietly banned the taking of photos or videos of staff and passengers without their permission.   

In the video above I explain to Jaynie Seal on Sky News Weekend Edition why camera settings matter. It has to do with how wide you shoot and how deep your depth-of-field is. If you shoot with a wide angle lens you could end up capturing the flight crew but most likely fellow passengers. This is against the rules. It’s OK to video or photograph yourself or travelling group and outside the window but the Qantas rule about in-flight photography says you must get permission from everyone else.

“seek consent before filming or photographing Qantas Group staff, contractors or other customers”

QANTAS Conditions of Carriage
Last updated: 8 November 2023

If you shoot with a GoPro you’ll probably have a very wide angle view so be wary of that. You can narrow this FOV in the settings. Also – depth of field should be shallow – which means the background is out of focus. This won’t happen on a GoPro or similar action camera with a fixed focus lens. Essentially everything is in focus.

Your phone’s tiny sensor will suffer from the same problem. Many have a fixed-focus selfie camera lens, but even those without it, will still keep many people in focus. Phones do fake background blur but this isn’t good enough, as it is adjustable in most cases after the shot is taken.

By understanding how your camera works, you are more likely to avoid scrutiny from cabin crew and other passengers. If you break the rules it could lead to your phone being confiscated, something you agree to in the conditions of carriage.

“use electronic devices (excluding hearing aids and heart pacemakers) when and as directed and in the case of any failure to comply with the direction we may retain the device”

QANTAS Conditions of Carriage
Last updated: 8 November 2023

I can understand why Qantas wants to protect the privacy or aircrew and passengers but I think another big reason is they just don’t want viral videos of in-flight chaos. These can be embarrassing but they could also provide crucial evidence if crew members were assaulted – for example.

Similar rules are in place around the world but that hasn’t stopped viral videos of cabin incidents, especially in the US.

Most aircrew and passengers don’t understand how cameras really work so I’m concerned that people looking to ‘bust’ happy snappers will get it wrong. For example, a couple takes a shot against the fuselage and the passenger behind them protests thinking they are in shot. When, in reality, there was no way that was possible given the angle. This stuff happens all the time when I am shooting out and about. The camera might even be facing away from the disgruntled member of the public and yet they still aggressively ask, “are you photographing me?”

Travel vloggers are going to struggle big time.  They often just walk around recording everyone and everything. So maybe this isn’t so bad.

I’ll also point out that this has not been well publicised by Qantas. I’ve spoken to travel agents who didn’t even know about it. If it’s possible for people to get in trouble with a new rule then they should know about it before flying. Let’s face it, no one is going to read the lengthy conditions of carriage each time they fly. Any change like this should be well publicised.

So that’s why I’m covering it today.

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