Light Leaks and Why They’re Cool

Train tracks in Locust Point of Baltimore. Clearly by the placement of the leak, the foam was worn away above the mirror in this camera, which is a Canon AE-1.

What is a “light leak”? Sounds kinda bad, right? Well it depends. Sometimes old cameras will come without the foam inside needed to “seal” out the light. Foam is simple and easy to replace but you may want to experiment with the camera before doing so, light leaks can be beautiful! Over time, the “foam”, typically the little strip of stuffing around the door, above the mirror and around the hinge of a typical SLR film camera, can degrade with time and use. Without this foam, light will enter the box, or inside, of the camera a very tiny bit at a time. This will cause bright streaks across your negatives, distorting the color of your film.

Light leaks can happen in any color, it depends on the film you are using, in my case Kodak Portra 400, and the location of the leak. Once you figure out where your leaks are entering the camera, you can begin to incorporate them into your compositions to have original, sun determined art! Over the course of the past few years, the Lomography movement has made light leaks a very positive effect. The only recommendation I have is to avoid using black and white film in a camera with leaks, it is no where near as beautiful. If you are going for the creepy effect then by all means, go full speed ahead!

Here is the same view, with a very apparent leak right down the center.

Here is a view from 83 South with no light leak

Light leaks can be done both in film AND digitally for those that like the look. The ones done in film have much more authenticity to them since they are done completely at random, even if you try to compose them. The photos above were not composed and taken one right after the other. I couldn’t tell you why one has a leak and the other does not, maybe it was because I may have moved slightly more in the direction of the sun in the spit second in between frames?

Here are some light leak examples! All taken with a Canon AE-1 and Kodak Portra 400 Film.

6 thoughts on “Light Leaks and Why They’re Cool

  1. Pingback: Found! “New” 1980′s camera at Goodwill « 120 Pearls

  2. I’m still trying to decide if I like light leaks. When I first saw them it seemed like something was wrong with the phtographers camera….but they do seem to add something to the photo and still can’t pinpoint. I look forward to seeing more.

  3. Pingback: Canon A-1 : An Upgrade | 120 Pearls

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