A Beginner’s Guide to Film Photography in Toronto

Even as someone with about a dozen rolls of film in my fridge (more on that later), having fun while shooting film clearly and cost-effectively can be difficult.

One of my favourite film captures, I snapped the intersection of Finch and Yonge on a Spring night in early 2019. Shot on the (now discontinued) Fuji Superia 800 with the Olympus IS-10. Image Credit: Joe Mastromatteo

So, after almost two years since exposing my first roll, I thought I’d prepare three tips for my fellow Toronto photographers, or anyone looking to make the analogue conversion.

1. Find a lab

An introduction to film photography is impossible without a trusted lab. Not only are lab workers experts when it comes to developing and scanning your film, they also often have an extensive selection of film stock and cameras to purchase. 

 

Lucky for Ryerson students, there are plenty of labs near campus. 

 

No look into Toronto’s film scene would be adequate without mention of Downtown Camera at Queen and Church. Fair warning- Downtown Camera is my favourite lab on the planet, so you’ll have to excuse my partiality. 

 

I’ve made the walk south of the Rogers Communications Centre plenty of times to visit the shop. They offer a student deal on their membership program, which grants discounts on film and processing. Scans are always of the finest quality, and while demand is always high, the turnaround time is often surprisingly fast. 

 

Downtown Camera also offers mail-in developing for folks outside of the GTA (or those looking to save the trip). I mailed in a roll of 2008-expired President’s Choice (yes- Loblaws) brand film back in June this year. 

 

Other labs include Aden Camera, which used to sit across the SLC along Yonge. It recently moved over to College Park, just an extra five minutes from campus. West Camera along Queen West before Trinity Bellwoods is also an option downtown.

A lab so nice, I had to put it on film. I snapped this quick shot of Downtown Camera on Kodak Portra 400 with the Canon EOS 10 on a sunny day in August 2020. Image Credit: Joe Mastromatteo

2. Be prepared

After shooting digital, it can be strange to remember that film is a physical thing. I have a cabinet filled with negatives from the past year. 

 

Film can also expire or become damaged. That’s where my fridge comes in (it slows expiry). Storing your film and negatives safely is a must. 

 

This level of care and detail when shooting film is especially pertinent in Toronto. There are countless creatives in our fine city, which can create some saturation in the photo scene. Since each film exposure literally costs you some money, make a plan of what you want to shoot and how you’ll handle the actual product.

3. Follow other Toronto shooters

Hopefully, you already follow some of the city’s finest photographers. I think following creatives from your city can help you see familiar streets in a new light. 

 

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting two great local film shooters, Thomas Skrlj (@tskrlj) and Hung Le (@crookedabstract). 

 

Both Ryerson graduates, Thomas has an outstanding analogue portfolio while Hung has taken some of the finest film portraits I’ve seen.

 

You can also see some of my work, including my first film photo series, Hockey on Film, on my website.  

 

If you have any lingering questions about items like buying a camera or photography as a whole, I recommend YouTube (or reaching out to me).

The MAC under the lights last year on a Fuji disposable. Image Credit: Joe Mastromatteo
Posted in Blog.

Hey folks, my name is Joe. While I’m pursuing a career in digital sports media, I’m actually in my third year of RTA Media Production at Ryerson. As a photography nerd, film and music lover, and sports fan, I’ll be writing about anything media related. You can usually find me with a camera in hand on campus or anywhere around my hometown of Toronto. Feel free to check out my work on social media @_joemastro or on joemastro.ca.