How to Add Light Leaks to Any Roll of 120 Film


Has a light leaky camera always been on your Lomographic wish list? With this simple trick, that can be done with any medium format camera!

If you’re like me, one of the main reasons you were first drawn to Lomography were those ethereal light leaks. After a couple of years accumulating cameras, searching for one that could reliably create light leaks, I found the Holga 120S. I finally realized how I could add light leaks to any roll of 120 film shot using any camera.

One of the major causes of light leaks in Holgas, and particularly the 120S, is a film advance that only loosely winds the film onto the spool. The first roll I shot with my 120S was a success – the film came out very loose and with light plenty leaks.

However on the second roll, I was disappointed to find it come out just as it technically should be – tightly wound and secure. It was then that the answer hit me: why not just loosen the film myself? I’m sure you could figure out where this is headed but I shall explain nevertheless.

This is what you should do:

First, you tightly grip the roll of film in one hand. With your other hand, twist the base of the spool clockwise (or the top counter-clockwise.) If the roll is tightly wound like the unexposed one I’m using here, a screwdriver can make this much easier.

Doing so unwinds the film from the inside out – exposing the top and bottom of the film and replicating the effect of film that was loosely wound in the camera.

Stop when it looks something like this:

You can see the edges of the paper and film sticking out from the base of the spool. If you go too far, you risk blowing out the entire image. Leave it exposed briefly, and then re-tighten the film.

The result is a series of light leaks varying in intensity. Some frames have been exposed more such as this one:

Others only had less light leaks, but most were like this – somewhere in between:

The beauty of this method is it’s easy, fast and requires no modification (and potential destruction) of your camera. However, my favorite aspect is it allows me to use my many non-light leaky 120 cameras I might otherwise leave on the shelf.

written by sunsetsandsilhouettedreams on 2013-11-10 in #gear #tipster #leak #light #medium-format #120 #tipster #light-leaks #add #how-to #film #create


  1. adi_totp
    adi_totp ·

    cool!! :D

  2. buckshot
    buckshot ·

    Nice tip, and great sample shots! Sometimes you want the numbers from the backing paper to burn into the film too, like in this shot:… You can achieve this just by waving the camera around with the back pointing directly at bright sunlight. For me, this works with the Diana, but I guess it should work with any 120 camera.

  3. sims
    sims ·

    awesome, I'm finally getting round to shooting 120 so I will definitely be trying this!

  4. ideajet
    ideajet ·

    however, take good care and don't overdo it, otherwise you'll end up with a blank roll (happened to me the other day) :(

  5. wontonowisdom
    wontonowisdom ·

    I love this!

  6. jakemasa
    jakemasa ·

    A great effect that I'll always use when I want that unique look

  7. bbills
    bbills ·

    Does anyone think it is possible to do such a technique with 35mm film? Possibly opening the bottom of the cassette, winding to loosen it, and then replacing the bottom. Any thoughts? Also approximately how many turns did you do for your roll of 120mm?

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