[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Optical contrast based on elastic scattering interactions between light and matter can be used to probe cellular structure, cellular dynamics, and image tissue architecture. The quantitative nature and high sensitivity of light scattering signals to subtle alterations in tissue morphology, as well as the ability to visualize unstained tissue in vivo, has recently generated significant interest in optical-scatter-based biosensing and imaging. Here we review the fundamental methodologies used to acquire and interpret optical scatter data. We report on recent findings in this field and present current advances in optical scatter techniques and computational methods. Cellular and tissue data enabled by current advances in optical scatter spectroscopy and imaging stand to impact a variety of biomedical applications including clinical tissue diagnosis, in vivo imaging, drug discovery, and basic cell biology.