Jump right to the light leaks. Light leaks are imperfections seen in photos taken with old film cameras. It happens when some light can make it into the camera through a small gap in the camera chamber and over-expose the film in specific areas that look like streaks.

Obviously at first light leaks were undesirable, but now in our world of digital photography and pixel-perfection, we've come to appreciate how imperfections can add life and soul to photographs. That's a little bit similar to how vinyls are still appreciated today.

So, how do we go about adding realistic-looking light leaks to our images to get that vintage feel? Easy, just overlay an image of a light leak on top of the image in a retouching software like Photoshop.

To help with that, I've prepared a collection of 22 light leaks that you can use for free right away. Some of them were created in-camera using a digital camera without a lens and exposing the sensor to different lights, and others were created manually using Photoshop based on what real light leaks look like.

Below you can see an example of what these light leaks look like:

Light Leak Usage Example

Using the Light Leaks

I wrote up a post about how to use texture overlays in Photoshop. The same principles apply to using light leak overlays. You'll add the light leak as a new layer on top and then change the layer blend mode to something like Screen or Color Dodge

Important Tip: Preserving Quality

I found that if I drag a light leak directly inside of my desired file in Photoshop, the size can get compressed and sizing it back up makes it lose its original quality, which can show up as banding. To avoid that, open the light leak as a separate file and then copy and paste it as a new layer in the file where it should go.

Free Light Leaks

Below you can see thumbnails for the 22 light leaks. Just click on any of the thumbnails to download a full high resolution version of the light leak.

Some of them have a vertical version available that makes them ideal for shots that are in portrait orientation. For those, just click the vertical link.