Using light leaks to color grade your film can be a fantastic way to give your footage a dynamic, custom look. It's compatible with every video editing suite you've ever worked with (Premiere, Final Cut, Avid, etc.). Simply import them in and layer them on to add that extra depth.
How do I use light leaks?
Light leaks are surprisingly easy to work with. All you have to do is layer your light leak element above your footage in your NLE timeline and set your blending mode to either Screen or Add. The Screen blending mode will add the light leaks into your scene in a more “natural” way, while the Add blending mode will create more of a glowing effect. Screen mode works perfectly 90% of the time.
It’s best to add light leaks in post so you have more control over the final image.
This tutorial explains how to use light leaks in Premiere Pro:
Not all light leak elements start and end on a completely black screen, so you’ll probably want to add a small cross dissolve at the start and end of each clip. A simple transition of around three to four frames will do nicely. This will make the light leak less abrupt in your video (unless that’s the look you’re going for).
What can I use light leaks for?
1. Adding ambience
One of the most popular uses of light leaks is as an ambient element that gives footage the appearance of authenticity. While you could try to shoot a live light leak on set, it’s best to add them in post so you have more control over the final image.
Light leaks may have started out as tools for giving videos a vintage look, but their application has expanded over the last few years. It’s not uncommon to see light leaks used in modern indie films, wedding videos, lifestyle documentaries, or product demos. By simply overlaying a light leak into your project, you can dynamically change the look and feel of your video.
2. Overlay transition
Another great way to use light leaks is as an organic transition. They’re a great substitute for your NLE’s built-in transitions. My favorite way to use light leaks as transitions is to find the point of greatest brightness in the transition and set an In point. Once you do this, you can easily drag the clip into your timeline at a transition point and drag out the In point to include the beginning of the transition. If your light leak doesn’t take up the entire frame with brightness, you can add a quick cross dissolve to smooth out the transition.
3. Luma matte transition
One unconventional way to utilize light leaks is to use them as a luma mask to reveal a clip. This can be an interesting way to transition between two clips. The best way to do this is to use After Effects, but you could hypothetically use Final Cut Pro, Premiere, or Media Composer to pull off the same technique.
Can I customize light leaks?
Light leaks are incredibly customizable. For example, if you were working in After Effects, you could add the Hue and Saturation effect to change your light leak from orange to blue. If you’re working on a wedding video, you could use a tint effect to turn your light leaks black and white.
Where can I find the best light leaks?
The best place to find professional light leaks is the Illuminate pack from RocketStock.com. Illuminate includes 120 4K light leaks that can be dropped into any video project. Unlike other packs on the market, Illuminate comes with different styles of light leaks. The pack is broken up into two categories: ambience and transitions. The light leaks are also broken up into three styles: Modern, Vintage, and Sci-Fi, each with their own unique look.
Check out this quick video of the Illuminate light leaks pack in action, and then head over to RocketStock to learn more: