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

How to Remove Backscatter in Lightroom

3 Steps for Basic Backscatter Removal

Since my first step is always to load all my photos into Lightroom anyway, I will do some light preliminary editing in Lightroom. Sometimes a little Lightroom love is all an underwater photo needs.

Here's our first photo, a shot of some toilets inside the bow of the HMCS Yukon wreck in San Diego. We'll open it up and click over to the Develop Module. Here's the photo as it looks straight out of the camera:

Forward head in HMCS Yukon, straight out of camera and ready for some post-processing.

Forward head in HMCS Yukon, straight out of camera and ready for some post-processing.

Step 1: I like to tweak the white balance pretty much first thing. Sometimes, a change in the white balance can alter whether backscatter is visible, so it's best to get that out of the way first. So here's the photo after I edit the white balance to bring back some more realistic color:

Backscatter removal tutorial - HMCS Yukon wreck, San Diego

Forward head in HMCS Yukon, after white balance in Lightroom

Step 2: It's not terrible, but it can still use some touching up. So in the Develop Module, we'll click on the "Spot Removal" tool just beneath the histogram (or hit "Q" on your keyboard), adjust the size of the brush using the bracket keys [ and ] so that the brush is just bigger than your backscatter, and start clicking away on those pesky little white dots. Lightroom will automatically find a source area of the image to clone over the white specks. When you're done, hit enter on your keyboard, and Lightroom will exit you out of the Spot Removal tool.

Using the Spot Removal Tool to remove backscatter in Lightroom

Using the Spot Removal Tool to remove backscatter in Lightroom

It's OK to leave some backscatter in your underwater photos. Just remove the distracting bits! (Tweet this)

Step 3: Super easy, right? After I got rid of most of the backscatter (I'm not super fussy about getting all of it, just the distracting bits), I fiddled with my white balance and contrast some more, stamped on my watermark, and here's the finished product. I think this would be fun as a print in a wreck diver's bathroom!

Marine Head, HMCS Yukon

San Diego, California: Row of three toilets near the bow of HMCS Yukon

Toilets on the HMCS Yukon Wreck, before and after backscatter removal

Toilets on the HMCS Yukon wreck, before and after backscatter removal


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