How to Use Light Leaks in Your Photography

How to Use Light Leaks in Your Photography

Light leaks are considered a staple for retro or vintage photography. They can add a realistic look and feel to your image, when done right.

In this tutorial I aim to give you a quick look into how I personally use light leaks in my photography. From editing and adjusting them, to getting the perfect look, I will go through everything.

For this post we are using light leaks from our Shop.

Create beautiful effects similar to the ones below with our premium Light Leak Photoshop actions, and step your photo editing up!




I’m going to use this picture I found from Jay Mantri for this how to.

how to use light leaks in photography

Getting Started

Starting out I always love to add a nice vintage touch to the image. It helps add to the appearance of a film-like image and can be fun to experiment with varying tones.

For this image I used the Indie effect from our Retro Series I.

How to Use Light Leaks in Your Photography

Adding the First Light Leak

Now that we have a subtle vintage tint, we can move on to the light leaks! To start I always like to add a shade or hint of a light leak.

I do this with a soft brush at about size 600 and a dark red-orange color (#ea2303).

light leak photography

Next paint on the top right or left edge of the image. Don’t be afraid to play around until it looks nice.

light leak photography

Here is what I came up with after a few minutes. You could add more or less, but this is a good start for a nice hazey-effect on your photos.

Next you will want to double-click the layer and change the blend mode to screen and the opacity to 90%.

how to use light leaks with photography

Here is what the hazey light leak will come out like.

light leaks in photography

It may not be noticeable, but this isn’t meant to be bold or harsh. It is just a subtle hint of the sun on the edge of the image.

If you look at the dark areas, such as the roof and the top right you can see a change from the previous two images.

Adding the Second Light Leak

Now that we have a nice vintage base as well as a hazey light effect on the top of our image, we can move on to the real light leak.

A noticeable effect that really emulates retro style photography. For this effect I will be using the Filtered Leak from our Light Leaks Series II.

filtered light leak effect

As you can see it adds a gorgeous strip of light to the right of the image, as well as a subtle white burn near the bottom. This is about as accurate as you can get to portraying real light leaks in Photoshop.

BUT, we’re not done yet!

Finishing Touches

In order to get the true benefit of a vintage, light leak look, you have to work with the curves tool a bit more and bring out the light.

With the curves tool, make a point near the top and bottom and adjust them up/down only slightly.

photography with light leaks

It will slightly brighten the colors and whiten your image.

using light leaks in Photoshop

Before & After

To see the true power of light leaks and subtle film effects, here is a before and after.

how to use light leaks in photography

using light leaks in Photoshop

Alternate Routes

It wouldn’t be fun if I didn’t show you a few other cool ways you can use light leaks in your photography.

Here is alternate one I made by taking away the Filtered Leak and adding Leak #1 from Light Leaks Series I.

light leak photoshop

It is a bit harsher, but definitely emulates the feel of film.

Here is another one I made using the Angular light leak from Light Leaks Series II.

light leaks in Photoshop

In Conclusion

As you can see, light leaks are incredibly fun to use and can produce some amazing and unique effects. It all comes down to experimenting and building upon your photos to get the perfect look and feel.

If you’d like to drastically speed this process up, pick up some of our light leaks or grab the FilterGrade Bundle, which includes 220 Photoshop actions for you to play with, like I did above. :)

How do you use light leaks in your photography? Share your creations on our Facebook so we can see!

7 Replies to “How to Use Light Leaks in Your Photography”

  1. Pamela says:

    This was crazy-helpful! And I love that photo, too! Thanks for the tutorial.

    1. Mike says:

      Thanks so much for the comment Pamela! I love that photo as well, all of Jay Mantri’s work is fantastic.

  2. Alex says:

    Keep up the great work! Very cool PHOTO effect! As for VIDEO light leaks – look here: – nice collection of 20 FREE clips (good for DSLR videos).
    Thank you!

    1. Mike says:

      Whoa, those are some beautiful light leaks! Great work Alex, thanks for the comment and sharing your cool site.

  3. TanjaK says:

    Thanks so much for a great tut!!! :)

    1. Mike says:

      No problem. Thanks for the kind words!

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