Return to Analog: Film photography is making a comeback in Toronto

West Camera on Queen St. West has seen the number of clients looking to process film double in the last two years, meanwhile brands are seeking out film photographers to capture their products.

A spike in analog photography has Toronto's film processing shops busy

West Camera says the number of rolls of film being processed has doubled in the last couple of years. (Talia Ricci/CBC)

In his early 20's, employee Dylan Taylor at West Camera is a film wiz.

That's because the shop on Queen St. West has seen the number of clients looking to process film double in the last two years.

"We take in quite a few rolls every day," Taylor said.

"We're getting so many in. It's not uncommon to get over 100 rolls of film a day."

Taylor says while many of their customers are older photographers who never stopped using film, the movement has been primarily driven by younger people.

"If you're younger, you never had the chance to use the analog technology because you [never] had to, and it's very different from taking a picture on a digital camera," Taylor said.

Toronto's film photography comeback

5 years ago
Duration 2:27
A local professional photographer says his work is about 50 per cent film and 50 per cent digital.

"You have to wait, you have to think about every shot. Make sure that it counts."

Taylor believes the process of having to set up a shot manually is appealing to younger photographers in the midst of instant photo sharing apps like Instagram.

Dylan Taylor, production coordinator at West Camera on Queen St. W says in the two years he's worked at the shop, he's seen a huge spike in film. (Keith Whelan/CBC)

In order to make the medium more accessible, West Camera sells expired or lower quality film at a more affordable price.

"It's not uncommon for people to find a roll that they left in a drawer ten years ago and they process it and something cool is on there," Taylor said.

Brands seeking out film photographers

Brjánn Batista Bettencourt, a professional photographer based out of Toronto says his work is at a point where it's about 50 per cent film and 50 per cent digital.

"Nowadays, I find there are more and more clients specifically seeking out analog or film for a specific aesthetic,"  Batista Bettencourt said.

Brjánn Batista Bettencourt, a professional photographer based out of Toronto, says each of his film cameras has sentimental value to him. (Rob Krbavac/CBC)

That is a delight to the photographer who learned on film and is now able to incorporate it into his profession, rather than just exploring the medium for side projects.

Batista Bettencourt has shot weddings, portraits and commercial and brand work using film.

He says the inability to see what you're shooting on a screen on analog cameras allows him to capture his subjects in a more meaningful way.

"There's something special about not having an immediacy behind the art or work you're creating," he says.

"It lets you hone in on what you're doing and you can kind of be in the experience as a photographer or as an artist. Not having direct results allows me to really focus on the task at hand."

The photographer has a series of cameras on his shelf, but shoots a lot of his professional work on a Hasselblad 501CM. He says he loves the simplicity of the camera, the sound it makes and the images it creates.

Batista Bettencourt says he thinks the look of film and the nostalgic feeling that comes with it is likely contributing to its resurgence.

"To me it's similar to a memory. It's kind of blurry. It's not tack sharp. It's not perfectly in focus when you think about things from your past or whatever it may be.

"I think it has that element and people have an emotional attachment to images that have that old look to them."


Talia Ricci is a TV, radio and web reporter at CBC Toronto. She enjoys covering offbeat human interest stories and exposing social justice issues. Talia is also an avid traveller and photographer. Her photography has appeared in various publications and exhibits. She lives in Toronto's east end where she enjoys reading and going on long walks to discover the beauty in the city.