I much prefer to create a look in-camera than to use software to achieve it. I’m a big fan of avoiding post-processing whenever I can because I don’t like sitting in front of a computer anymore than I absolutely have to. Sometimes it’s not possible to achieve my photographic vision without editing, but most of the time with a little care I can get the exact look I want straight out of the camera. Whenever I find a trick that might help me get in-camera the results I want, I’m willing to give it a try.
Recently I came across an article where photographer Maciej Pietuszynski used colorful sticky page markers, also sometimes called popup index tabs, to create light leak effects without software. Stick the colorful page markers in front of the lens and watch the magic happen! It works quite well and is surprisingly convincing.
In the film days, light leaks would happen when a camera became worn or damaged. When the seal that keeps the inside of the camera completely pitch black is compromised, unwanted light enters and exposes the film. If film isn’t handled correctly during development, it’s also possible to get light leaks that way. The two pictures below are examples of light leaks that I have experienced.
Light leaks come in all sorts of colors and shapes. They’re not typically uniform. Some people love them and some people hate them. There are some photographers who actually seek out cameras that leak light, and even a few who will purposefully damage a camera in order to create light leaks. There was even a 35mm film that was produced that had light leaks already on it, so that you could get the effect with a camera that wasn’t damaged.
In the digital world, you can mimic the light leak effect using software, which is something that I occasionally did using Alien Skin Exposure (I haven’t done this in several years). Using a faux light leak is fun every once in awhile, and it works well for certain images, but it can seem kind of gimmicky if you apply it too often. Below are two pictures of mine that include fake light leaks using software.
Using page markers is a good technique to achieve a light leak effect without using software. I played around with it on my Fujifilm XF10 over the last two days, and I was able to get some interesting results that did in fact resemble light leaks. In my opinion, it made the images look a little more analog. In the pictures where the effect is really subtle, it gives the images a slight atmospheric feel that is still intriguing. I don’t think this something I’d want to do all of the time, but in the right situations it can be effective. At the very least it’s a fun technique to experiment with. It’s very lomography in spirit.
If you find yourself bored on a Saturday morning or you just want to try a new technique to produce a more analog-like result, I invite you to give the page marker light leak trick a try. It’s something that you could file away for use at some later time when you have a certain look in mind, or maybe you’ll find it to be useful in your regular workflow. Below are photographs that I have captured using this technique.