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In this paper, a time-frequency analysis (TFA) is proposed to derive the backscattering properties of each pixel in single-polarization synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images. At high resolution (HR), some backscattering variations which are linked to the scene geometry and the surface property occur during the radar acquisition. TFA permits to retrieve these variations from the synthesized images. The proposed TFA algorithm is based on a sliding bandpass filtering in the Fourier domain, from which a spectrogram featuring the range and azimuth backscattering variations is derived. The spectrograms summarize the physical properties of each pixel. From the spectrogram analysis, four target classes representing the four main kinds of backscattering behaviors observed in SAR images are defined: frequency invariant, range variant, azimuth variant, and 2-D variant. These classes can further be linked to the physical properties of the objects. An original and simple set of five features estimated from spectrograms is proposed to classify point targets into these four classes. A performance assessment of this classification is carried out, using ONERA/RAMSES X-band airborne images acquired over the city of Toulouse, France. A robustness analysis is also conducted, in order to assess the impact of incidence angle and resolution on the classification performance. Finally, results are also given for spaceborne images (TerraSAR-X spotlight images). The physical interpretation developed in airborne case appears to be also valid for metric spaceborne data. After studying the TFA on HR spaceborne images, the tradeoff between HR coupled with TFA and medium resolution coupled with polarimetric analysis is investigated. Actually, TFA represents another way of characterizing the physical mechanisms involved in image formation.