2021 DUC Shootout Feedback from the Judge Convener – Allen Walker

Judge Convener – Allen Walker

In a time where our access to the oceans have been restricted due to numerous reasons, all the entrants found a way to enter images and wear their hearts on their sleeves. It was a privilege and an honour to convene this year’s shootout because I got to see everyone’s images first and really look at them and measure them up to the original images taken by the amazing contestants.

This year had some amazing images, some I have never seen before! There are many photographers with a bright future if this is the level of images being entered with their current level of experience. (Pro’s, watch out…)

Without sponsors we would not have a competition, so a big shoutout to all the sponsors, Thule, The Hatchery, Hirch’s, ScubaPro, Aliwal Dive Centre, Animal Ocean, Coral Divers, DAN SA, Dive Action, Nauticam, DUC, Blue Ocean, Rob Allen Wetsuits, Agulhas House, Indigio Scuba, Pisces, Manex, Scuba Xcursion, Vinayake (Umhlanga Scuba), who during these tough times still found a way to sponsor some amazing prizes! However, the biggest shoutout must go to Nauticam South Africa in conjunction with Dive Action for the massive sponsorship worth over R50 000.00

Last but, definitely not least, thank you to all our judges. Stills: Theresa Guise, Michel Lonfat, Markus Roth, Sirachai (Shin) Arunrugstichai, David Salvatori and video: Cuane Hall, Anthony Grote and Gordon Hiles for their time and expertise. It is not easy being a judge and I think they have done a sterling job. Judges were overall very complimentary of the composition and variety of subjects presented in the 10th DUC Shootout – show casing South Africa as these are international judges!

Overall, basic underwater photography skills – exposure lighting were all well demonstrated even in the novice category. This was evident in the scoring in all categories, there were no runaway winners, in fact decimals separated the winners from the others. I was glad to see some conceptual ideas from some our entrants, that if perfected will become amazing images in the future, please keep on finding new and innovative images, it is the way to become a great photographer.
In terms of the videos, I saw amazing footage, but having great content is not enough. I felt what was needed is the honing of the production skills, take the time to really create a narrative and try and engage your audience in the event or experience. (character, plot, setting, and tension)

I would however want to point out some areas of improvement to help entrants in other competitions that are not as lenient as the DUC Shootout:

Technical Feedback:

Remember to remove your copyright info from your metadata and/or credits from your movies, the competition is judged anonymously and by leaving this data in, you will be disqualified in international competitions. (Nearly 50% of the entrants made this mistake) Exceeding the allowable video clip time with your entry. Submission of 4k resolution videos at very high bit rates created a big problem with the judging. Many people broke the cropping rule and exceeded the 20% crop allowable.


  • Over processing of images to such an extent that they are no longer a true reflection of the original or look superficial.
  • Entering 3 similar images, this is generally not a good idea if you want to “WOW” the judges.
  • Taking frames from a video and entering them into the stills competition, this is a big no, no.
  • Get close, shoot up and then get closer!
  • Some incredibly well composed images, but lack of sharp focus was an issue for some potential winning images.
  • Stop bulls-eying subjects and apply some composition.
  • Single subjects are a thing of the past, create images with multiple layers or dimensions that can tell a story.
  • Avoid distracting foregrounds and backgrounds.

Well done to everyone!
Clear waters and have a great day


  • Overall, lack of a good story and absence of voice overs seemed to have the judges “underwhelmed”.
  • Be careful of using copyrighted music!
  • Good variation from very average to very good.
  • Remember, a video entry needs to be more than just an assembly of shots to music. Even if the shots are all good images, the editing needs to have constructive thought whereby editing skills are noticeable. The blend of music and image and the feeling it creates is important.
  • While music and images can tell a story, a voiced commentary will add a stronger element creating higher production value.
  • There was good camera operation in some of the entries, while others lost points on unsteady camerawork and untidy composition. This can be overcome by being more selective with choice of shots to include in your edit. Avoid shaky or badly framed shots.
  • Most images were clear and in focus, but some were very dark and therefore lacked the ability to give a feeling of excitement. Always be sure that your camera is delivering optimum exposure so that images present a lively appearance.
  • Take the trouble to study some YouTube instructional videos on editing to get a better idea of how to give your edits a more skilled look and therefore higher production value. The entries that scored high had this element which made the difference.