We report on the development of a method that records spatially dependent intensity patterns of polarized light that is diffusely backscattered from highly scattering media. It is demonstrated that these intensity patterns can be used to differentiate turbid media, such as polystyrene-sphere and biological-cell suspensions. Our technique employs polarized light from a He-Ne laser, which is focused onto the surface of the scattering medium. A surface area of approximately 4×4 cm centered on the light input point is imaged through polarization-analysis optics onto a CCD camera. One can observe a large variety of intensity patterns by varying the polarization state of the incident laser light and changing the analyzer configuration to detect different polarization components of the backscattered light. Introducing the Mueller-matrix concept for diffusely backscattered light, a framework is provided to select a subset of measurements that comprehensively describe the optical properties of backscattering media.