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

Simple Background Backscatter Removal

The Easiest Way to Remove Backscatter

If there's no detail in your underwater photo where the backscatter is, you're in luck--removing backscatter is going to be easy. An example of when you might use this technique is when there are backscatter particles in the water column in the background of your photo.

It's really simple to remove backscatter from the background of an underwater photo! (Tweet this)

Here's an example of an underwater photo that's a good candidate for the easiest backscatter removal method. You can see that most of the backscatter is in a relatively detail-free area of the water column:

Backscatter removal using the Dust & Scratches Filter

An easy backscatter removal fix

We'll be using the Dust & Scratches Filter in Photoshop to clean up the backscatter in this one.

Step 1: First, duplicate your background layer. Then, select the Lasso Tool (L) and draw a line around the area in the water where your backscatter is:

Backscatter removal tutorial: Dust & Scratches Tool

Step 2: Now let's go to Filter>Noise>Dust & Scratches. We'll adjust the Radius until we remove the largest backscatter spots, then adjust the Threshold until the spots completely disappear. Press OK when done:

Backscatter removal tutorial: Dust & Scratches Tool

Step 3: Repeat the Lasso-Dust & Scratches process for other remaining areas of water.

Step 4: Clean up any remaining backscatter around detailed areas with the Spot Healing Brush Tool.

That's it! I just processed that photo and removed a significant amount of the backscatter in under 5 minutes. You'll notice that the Dust & Scratches method preserves the color gradient in the water to keep it looking pretty natural.

The final result:

Diver on HMCS Yukon wreck, with backscatter removed using the Dust & Scratches Filter

Diver on HMCS Yukon wreck, with backscatter removed using the Dust & Scratches Filter

Photoshop is not a dirty word in underwater photography! (Tweet this)

Diver on HMCS Yukon before and after backscatter removal

So there you have it: three different ways to remove backscatter in your underwater photos using Lightroom and Photoshop.

Do you remove backscatter in a different way that isn't outlined in this post? Please share it in the comments!


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