How to Remove Backscatter: The Fastest Way to Improve Your Underwater Photos

An Introduction to Backscatter Removal

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking about technical diving and underwater photography to the Whalers Dive Club in Canoga Park, California. It was a great crowd, and the attendees were every speaker's dream: they both laughed at my jokes and asked engaged, thoughtful questions!

One of the questions that stood out, and that I frankly do get asked all the time, is "Do you post-process your photos?" My immediate, emphatic admission of "YES!" drew laughs from the audience, but it wasn't a joke; I firmly believe that post-processing, especially for underwater photography, is nothing to be avoided or ashamed of. My standard workflow typically includes color and contrast adjustments, sharpening, and--the bane of every underwater photographer's existence--backscatter removal.


"Post-processing in underwater photography is nothing to be avoided or ashamed of!" (Tweet this)


Sometimes we underwater photographers are fortunate enough to dive and shoot in that gin-clear tropical water, and backscatter is just a few errant specks of sand on the edge of the frame.  If this describes you, lucky you! More often, though, and especially in technical wreck diving, backscatter can be a real problem. Wrecks can be silty, and deep wrecks with low ambient light require strobing, and strobing + silt is an equation for a backscatter disaster.

Of course we endeavor to "get it right in-camera" as often as possible, and correct strobe placement can considerably reduce backscatter, but there's frequently some (or a lot!) of backscatter left behind that we want to get rid of.

The following tutorials assume you are using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 and Adobe Photoshop CC. Read on to learn how to wipe out backscatter in your underwater photos.

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