Light Leaks normally occur due to low quality or damaged sealing in a camera so that stray light can come in and expose the film in unwanted ways. It shows up as a colored glare or discoloration in the image.

When trying to achieve a low-fi look for pictures I sometimes try to create an artificial light leak in post-production, like these:




I'm aware of a number of techniques to achieve this, mostly relying on either overlaying the picture with images of real light-leaks, using gradients or brushes with blend modes. All of those however need a lot of work per individual picture to look good and even then don't look as real (at least in my tries) as in the pictures posted above.

However there seems to be a technique being used with good results in applications like Hipstamatic in a completely automated fashion. Is anybody aware of a similar technique that consistently produces good and natural results for the majority of pictures you apply it on?

  • I can't access Flickr, but I'm thinking you're looking for something like this? abduzeedo.com/30-interesting-light-leak-shots – Maynard Case Jan 17 '11 at 12:32
  • Yes, exactly. Found the tutorial for them on the same site, too. If that was going to be your answer, please post it. – jfd Jan 17 '11 at 12:55

I have found a video tutorial which goes through an approach for creating this type of effect. On the same site is a set of interesting photos which demonstrate the variety of different light leak effects.

There are also other tutorials - this one gives a relatively simple gradient based approach that looks fairly quick and easy.

However, I'm not sure about how easy it would be to automate some of these workflows. I assume there are some plug-ins that would do this in a suitably random or controllable fashion but I've not found any yet!


Here is a page where you can get overlays to add the type of light effects you are looking for: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LanternLaneGifts

There are a few different ones to choose from, but this one looks close to what you are going for: https://www.etsy.com/listing/210317470

Hope this helps!


  • Could you try and explain what you think makes this particular seller better than every other vendor of these things? At the moment, this answer looks like advertising. – Philip Kendall May 4 '16 at 5:35

Yes, you can achieve something similar using photoshop.

  1. Open the photo in PS.
  2. Goto Filter > Render > Lens Flare...
  3. Select 50-300mm Zoom or 105mm Prime from Lens Type section.
  4. Position the flare at any corner of the photo.
  5. Adjust flare brightness to your taste. Ideally you'll need slightly higher brightness settings.

Here's a quick sample:


alt text


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  • 2
    Oh god, it burns! – Craig Walker Jan 17 '11 at 14:53
  • 8
    Those are lens flares, not light leaks.. – eWolf Jan 17 '11 at 15:35
  • Google's Nik efects are free now, use that! – nacfoto May 4 '16 at 22:13

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