Environmental scanning electron microscopy (ESEM) and atomic force microscopy (AFM) were compared as tools for the observation of bacterial biofilms developed on carbon steel and AISI 316 stainless steel surfaces under stagnant conditions. Biofilms were generated in batch cultures of two different isolates of marine sulphate reducing bacteria (SRB) and in cultures consisting of mixed populations of acidophilic bacteria, known as ''acid streamers''. Imaging of single SRB cells on mica was also carried out to reveal the surface topography of individual bacterial cells at nanometre resolution. Following the removal of biofilms, the stainless steel surfaces were profiled using AFM to determine the degree of steel deterioration. ESEM and AFM studies of bacterial biofilms in-situ, gave both qualitative and quantitative information on biofilm structure at high resolution. The use of AFM image analysis software allowed estimation of the width and height of bacterial cells, the thickness and width of exopolymeric (EPS) capsule and bacterial flagella, as well as characterisation of the surface roughness of the steer, including measurements of depth and diameter of individual pits. Exposure of stainless steel specimens to acid streamers resulted in a significant increase in the surface roughness of the steel, compared to specimens placed in sterile medium.