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Difference between reflection and scattering

Please explain the exact difference between reflection and scattering of light.


Asked A N Srinivasa Murthy




Reflection is the general term and scattering is also called diffused reflection.


Reflection happens when light striking the interface between two media returns to the same media.


Scattering can refer to irregular reflection or a deviation from the predicted angles of reflection.


Scattering is the phenomenon which helps us to see the objects.


A highly scattering surface is said to have a matte finish and a less scattering surface appears glossy. Here the microscopic irregularities on the surface is increasing the scattering.


We see our image in a plane mirror due to regular reflection. A matte finish paper (or a newspaper) can never show us even a faintest image of our face when we are looking into it, because there the scattering is more and almost no regular reflection is taking place.


Regular reflection is identified from the following idea;


Diffuse Reflection


If a parallel beam of light is incident on a surface and the reflected beam is also parallel, then the reflection is regular.

If the reflected beam is not parallel, then the type of reflection is irregular, diffused or scattered.


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