Removing Backscatter & Particulate Matter in Photoshop

Original photo reduced in size for demonstration purposes.

Before getting started make a duplicate copy of your image in Photoshop and close the original.  Never make adjustments to the original.

1. Go to: Layer > Duplicate Layer (arrow 1).
2. You will be working on the "Background copy" (arrow #2). Be sure it is selected (dark blue).
3. Hide the Background layer by clicking on the eyeball (arrow #3) so you can see the areas you are deleting which are the backscatter areas.
4. Select the Lasso Tool (arrow #4).
5. Set the Feather to 0 px (arrow 5). You can set the Feather to 5 but you will still have to use the Eraser Tool as described farther down to get closer for the finishing touches.
6. Encircle and delete the areas that you want to adjust for backscatter/particulate matter. You can do this in multiple steps if the area is too large to lasso in one move.

This is what your photo should look like when you are finished deleting all the backscatter/particulate matter areas. Don't try to get to close to the area that you are saving. The Lasso Tool did not have a feathered edge setting. You will use the Eraser Tool to do that.

1. Select the Eraser Tool (arrow 1)
2. Select the size Eraser you want to work with (arrow 2). Be sure to select a feathered not solid edge.
3. Zoom in on the photo and erase the remaining areas you want to remove by getting as close to the saved area as possible (arrow 3). By using a feathered edge Eraser you will not leave a distinctive line between the two layers after you merge them. Notice the difference in the area near arrow 3 where the Eraser Tool was used versus the edge of the areas removed with the Lasso Tool. Using the Eraser Tool on the entire photo is too time consuming when large areas have to be removed. You could set the Lasso Tool to have a Feather of about 5 instead of 0 but you will still have to use the Eraser Tool to get in closer.

This is what your photo should look like after finishing with the Eraser Tool

1. Make the Background layer visible by clicking where the eyeball was (arrow #1).

2. Switch to the "Background" layer by clicking on it in the Layers window (arrow #2). It will be highlighted in dark blue.

3. Go to Filter > Noise > Dust & Scratches (arrow #3).
4. The small "Dust & Scratches" window will open (arrow #4).Start with Radius 5 and Threshold 0 and check the results in the "Dust & Scratches" window. If more correction is needed increase the Radius number or vice versa is less is needed. In this case I used a Radius of 9. Click OK when done. Concentrate on the water area not the subject you are saving as that will be on the other layer.

1. Go to Layer > Flatten image to merge the two layers (arrow 1). You have now merged the untouched subject areas with the adjusted ocean area.
2. Select the Clone Tool (arrow 2).
3. Select the desired size and remove any remaining imperfections.

Make any other desired adjustments to the image. In this case I used:  
Image > Auto Contrast
Image > Auto Tone
Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp mask (Amount 25% - Radius 1.0 - Threshold 0)
Save your photo to the desired location. REMEMBER not to override the original photo.

Before

After

Adjusting the photo without creating a separate layer will blur the subject making it very difficult to sharpen, if not impossible. Creating a separate layer will only distort the ocean water around the subject which is not noticeable..