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Scuba divers, certified and active, comprise about 1% of the world's population. Underwater photographers are an even rarer breed. We all have family and friends who are not scuba divers or even snorkelers; they have no idea what's in the ocean, what we see and experience and how cool it is. Sharing our underwater experiences with the other 99% can inspire action to protect our natural world for future generations.

So, how do you make the leap from scuba diver to underwater photographer? The Digital Shootout is the fast track to learning the fundamentals of underwater photography, underwater videography, post processing and much more. A fun-filled, learning-rich, two-week workshop can take anyone from zero to hero.

A typical day at the Shootout starts with an early breakfast, boats departing at 7:30 for two tanks of diving either the Bloody Bay wall or Jackson Bight section of the marine park. Return for a semi-leisurely lunch then a one tank dive for more of Little Cayman's underwater awesomeness. Daily afternoon seminars covering photography topics or editing techniques run 5:00-6:30. A sumptuous buffet dinner provides a break from the learning, followed by either a participants' photos critique or inspirational presentation by one of the pros. Here lies the conundrum of a working vacation. Nothing is compulsory, everything is optional. Take the fast lane, the slow lane or the middle lane, your vacation, your choice. No judgement. The only requirement is to have fun!

A Day-in-the-Life at the Digital Shootout
A SHORT FILM BY JOEL PENNER Video - by Joel Penner, Newmediasoup, LLC A Day-in-the-Life at the Digital Shootout  |  © Joel Penner  |   Canon EOS R5C Camera, Canon DSLR Cameras, GoPro Hero10 and Hero11 Black Cameras, DJI Drone & Kessler TLS System with Second Shooter Pro 

People Underwater Slideshow "People Underwater Slideshow"   |   © The Digital Shootout


The Digitial Shootout Demo Gear and Tech Support Staff

No other underwater imaging event in the world has the amount of demo gear that is showcased each year at the Digital Shootout. Dozens of camera systems on-offer from Nauticam, Isotta and Backscatter, as well as strobes, lights and accessories to give you the tools needed to produce quality underwater images. And Pegasus Thruster brought their very popular tank-mounted DPVs for participants to zip up and down the reef.

Not only is there demo gear to try, but the manufacturers' reps are also available to answer questions and share their expertise with attendees during meals, on the boats, in the Demo Gear room, before seminars, after seminars, over a beer at the bar. Talking tech and specs is what the manufacturers' reps love to do!

See the latest cameras in action on our gear test page.

People Topside Slideshow "Demo Gear Slideshow"   |   © The Digital Shootout

The Digitial Shootout Teaching Staff

The Digital Shootout is the ultimate working vacation for the underwater photographer aiming to level up in image capturing and editing. With 10 photography seminars, 10 video seminars and 5 Lightroom/Photoshop seminars to choose from during the two-week workshop, there is no shortage of learning opportunities. Need extra help with your post processing? The Creative Cave is the place for additional one-on-one or small group assistance. Another great way to improve underwater imaging is direct feedback from the pros. Our evening slideshows with image critiques not only benefit the photographer who submitted the image for feedback, but many photographers in the audience who might be challenged with the same issue of focus, exposure, color cast, composition, lighting etc. At first, it can be very intimidating to "put yourself out there", but with some encouragement from staff, most attendees submitted images for critique and welcomed honest feedback on how to improve image capture and/or editing. With a guest to staff ratio of 3:1, the Digital Shootout features more educators and staff than any other underwater photography workshop in the world.

People Topside Slideshow "Learning Slideshow"   |   © The Digital Shootout

Post Production Highlights

Along with the powerful new Masking Tools in Lightroom Classic, this year's post-production conversation turned repeatedly to the subject of Artificial Intelligence. We've been using it as part of our editing workflow for years with tools like Select Subject and Content Aware Fill, but with the addition of Generative Fill to Photoshop's editing arsenal, it seems we've turned a corner. The ability to generate imaginary scenarios via a written prompt stretches the boundaries of traditional photography, and has huge implications not just for image creation, but for intellectual property rights as well. Is the combination of AI and conventional photography a new art form, or is it a cheat relying entirely on copyright infringement?
Incorporating generative AI as part of the photographic process is intensely controversial, but if this year's discussions about post hold true, AI that accurately corrects color, selectively sharpens, or removes backscatter won't be met with nearly the same resistance as AI that creates imagery out of the blue.

Before and After SLIDESHOW

Arguably, the Shootout's favorite instructor, Erin Quigley, AKA: GoAskErin, used her sorcery on some guests' images to show the amazingly powerful editing tools in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Both software apps require a deeper dive than seminar time slots allow, so many guests took advantage of the free on-line tutorials provided by GoAskErin On Demand, as well as one-on-one and small group daily sessions in the Creative Cave.

GoAskErin Before and After


2023 Beneath the Sea Scholar

2023 Intern

My dive instructor gifted me my first underwater camera setup a little over two years ago when he retired. During those two years, with the help of the Backscatter staff in Monterey, I saw my photography slowly get better and better. However, during my time at the Digital Shootout, I saw my photography skills increase more in two weeks than in those entire two years. Not only that, but I got the chance to learn videography surrounded by experts. I had never approached videography before, but one of my professional goals is to work in wildlife filmmaking so I knew this was my chance to get started. Something that would have taken me months to learn, such as post-production skills, took me days to get the hang of with the help of the Shootout staff. Not only did I get to learn and improve my technical skills in both photography and videography, but I was able to work on my creative skills as well. With the help of wildlife filmmaker Cristian Dimitrius, I learned how to follow and capture marine life in a way that tells a story to the audience. I was taught how to connect viewers to the underwater world and elicit an emotional response to the stories these animals are telling us. By the end of the Shootout, I had produced some of my best wide-angle and macro images and completed my first short film.

Another massive learning experience was the equipment. Between the Backscatter, Isotta, and Nauticam crews, there was an impressive array of cameras, accessories, lights, strobes, and anything a photographer's heart desires. As someone who had been working in stills up until now, it was incredible to get to try out some top-notch video rigs. I got the chance to try different operating systems, video lighting setups, tripods, different housing brands, and even some professional cinema gear such as external monitors. All these experiences allowed me to understand the behind-the-scenes of what it really takes to produce a good video. These experiences also helped me to realize my own preferences in terms of gear. Often times as photographers and videographers, we will spend days or even months researching the best gear. But what works for one person might not work for another. Getting the chance to try out an array of professional equipment is a rare opportunity and something very special to the Digital Shootout. Using what I learned from trying many different setups, I will be able to tailor my next rig to exactly fit my own needs.

I dove, I attended classes, I edited, I had the time of my life and after two weeks, it was time to say goodbye to Little Cayman. I was devastated to leave. If I could stay there floating in those turquoise waters forever, I would. Reflecting on how the Digital Shootout has changed me, before this experience I didn't know what I didn't know. I was scared to approach topics like video because of the steep learning curve, and I just didn't know where to start. I had no idea how to get started with different types of gear systems, post-production, storytelling, and advanced photography techniques. But thanks to the support of the Shootout staff, I gained confidence in my own ability to learn. Through the classes, one-on-one support, and encouragement of those around me, I now feel like I possess the tools needed to continue to advance my photography and videography skills outside of the Digital Shootout. The Shootout gave me the determination to continue on with my learning and to not be scared of trying something new.

I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to learn from some of the best photographers and filmmakers in the industry, meet some incredible people, and have been given the honor of carrying on the legacy of Paul L. Schutt as the first Paul L. Schutt Underwater Photography Intern. I intend to continue on with my ambitions to become a wildlife filmmaker through more training, experimentation, and hard work. I would like to extend a huge thank you to the Backscatter crew for not only putting on such an incredible event but for inviting me into their community, and supporting the next generation of photographers and filmmakers through this internship.

Rosie the Jawfish
by Rose Dalrymple
Rosie the Jawfish at the Digital Shootout


Scuba diving and underwater photography go together; learning and fun go together, just like chips and salsa or Champagne and caviar. The Digital Shootout is dive, shoot, learn, repeat with added FUN!

People Topside Slideshow "Topside Photo Slideshow"   |   © The Digital Shootout

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