The Phoblographer Explains: What are Light Leaks?

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Image by Reddit User TheSirRichard, whose real name is John Angelone. Used with permission.

With today’s news of the Sony A7 and A7r suffering from light leaks, we decided to answer the question about what exactly they are without totally confusing everyone. First off, light leaks are little white tinges that you see on an image which was significantly more common when photography was primarily done by shooting film. What they often look like is just like what you see above. Photographer John Angelone said that this happened when he was shooting with his Fuji GW690III + Fuji Pro 160S film. Typically, light leaks were often seen to be unacceptable and that they tainted image quality until it started to happen in such a way that it appeared beautiful to some artists.

Today, we often think about it being associated with Hipster trends. But for what it’s worth neither VSCO, Instagram or Hisptamatic give you light leaks as a filter or modification option. The only way to actually accomplish them though post-production is through Photoshop Touch. But you can still get them through the camera.

Light leaks occur when seals on the lens or between the lens and camera body aren’t properly closed. This is a bigger problem due to the construction of digital sensors but it wasn’t as horrifying when it came to shooting film. When a camera takes a picture, it only sees the light that comes in from its eye: which is essentially the sensor. Everyone’s eyes have a lens, which is represented by the lens of a camera. When the lens isn’t working correctly, it starts to get blurry and sometimes the world may be too bright in certain areas–this is a common complaint amongst many folks who suffer from extreme astigmatisms.

What I also found out later on while using film is that sometimes, light leaks can occur when the back of the camera isn’t closing correctly too. This is far more rare and more than often the images just end up completely washed out, but it’s still an interesting problem to have. This won’t happen with digital cameras at all.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.