How to Make Light Leaks in Lightroom 4 Tutorial // DIY // No preset needed!
Welcome.. You are likely here because you’d like to see and hear how I replicate light leaks in Lightroom. We’ll get to that real soon, but first let’s get a refresher as to what these light thingys are that we’re trying to infuse our digital pictures with.
What are Light Leaks?
To the majority of people a light leak is an error, technical shortcoming, or otherwise unwanted occurrence. However if you enjoy listening to bands on vinyl, prefer film grain over HDR, consider your christmas sweater from Aunt Bertha in style, and drink coffee from a french press or Chemex, than you will likely consider a light leak a thing of beauty. So what is a light leak you might be asking? It is most commonly a hole or gap in a camera body that lets “unwanted” light into the dark chamber which houses the film or digital sensor of the camera. This light is usually diffused and causes unpredictable shadows and reflections on the film or sensor. When this light hits the sensor or film while a photo is being taken, it will cause random flares, lines, washes, or shadows on the resulting photo. Light leaks can occur in many cameras depending on their condition and they are often associated with lomography. Light leaks are caused by a mechanical shortcoming or design choice. Because of the unpredictable nature of light leaks, the results they leave, whether loved or hated, add character to the photo.
Now that you know what light leaks are, and have decided you like them good enough to keep reading this article, why don’t we talk about how to add some character to those boring photos you’ve been making with your mechanically perfect digital camera. Because I like the character and nostalgic results you get with mechanically imperfect tools, I will very briefly show you how I use VSCO Film to replicate a portion of that.
How Do I Use VSCO Film?
First off this is a DIY tutorial, which means I will try to teach you how to do this yourself so you don’t have to rely on mine or someone else’s presets. The second/BEFORE image (above) was exported out of Lightroom straight from the untouched RAW file. The third image is a screenshot of my Lightroom workspace as I edited this photo. As you can see I applied VSCO’s Fuji Superia 800+ preset to this photo. This preset adjusted the tones, added grain and faded the shadows slightly. After applying the preset I increased the contrast one step, cropped and straightened very lightly and added a slight vignette. After these simple steps, the image was ready for the light leak effects. For my review of VSCO Film click the link here.
How Do I Make Light Leaks?
The fourth image (two screenshots of LR) shows the exact settings I used for the two leaks I made. Rather than tell you exactly how I made them, I decided to show you these setting so you can try what I did, then start experimenting from there. I use both the adjustment brush and the graduated filter depending on what kind of leak I am trying to obtain. Keep in mind that all light leaks are random and there are rarely two that are identical. Also, remember to experiment with the color of gradient or brush strokes you add. In this example I used an orange-red color, but I have seen light leaks from pink to green. Once you have set your individual settings for both the graduated filter and the adjustment brush be sure to save them as a preset so you can easily get them again. I named mine “light leak” and it gives me a quick starting point when I want to use them the next time.
The most important settings you will need to change from default are:
After you have those basic settings you will simply need to experiment with brush sizes, feathering and flow amounts. Also, if you are disappointed with your results on one image don’t be discouraged. Instead, choose another photo or several, and you may be surprised how natural and beautiful it will look.
The final image in this post is another example of a light leak. However, I did not create this light leak in Lightroom or with any kind of post processing. Instead I used a free lensing technique on my SLR allowing light to enter the chamber of the camera causing a completely natural light leak. Light leaks are unpredictable and fun.
Show Me Your Light Leaks!
I hope I gave you enough information so you can go start experimenting. If you have any questions please let me know in the comments section below. Also, I would love to see anything you come up with! Add a link in the comments or hit me up on twitter!
// Justin Mullet