Whether you’re shooting digital or snapping a photo on your smartphone, getting the right shot can take minutes. But, a recent trend has more young photographers reaching for their film cameras.

Gone are the days when your only option was to wait for your photos to be developed. But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t still love for the process. Most photographers at Ryerson agree that film never really died, it just wasn’t getting enough attention.

Paolo Dungao, a third-year nursing student, started shooting film about four years ago in high school. He said being able to feel the roll and prints in his hands makes photography feel more real.

“It’s almost like a gift to yourself every time,” said Dungao. “Film was never dead. The fire became a little smaller because of new technologies, but I believe a lot of people held on to it.”

Paolo Dungao said said being able to feel the roll and prints in his hands makes photography feel more real. (Paolo Dungao/Instagram)

While the process of developing film isn’t as quick as taking a photo on a digital camera, it’s the need for patience and accuracy that holds a photographer’s focus.

Ameet Zalera is an employee at Downtown Camera on Queen Street East, one of the few locations in Toronto that specializes in developing film.

He said there has been a steady rise in photographers developing film every year, particularly university students, because of the store’s close proximity to most Toronto campuses.

“Every day we are converting digital shooters to film,” Zalera said. “I think a lot of young photographers and artists are starting to realize how much more work it takes to actually take a real photo, rather than taking 100 photos of your plate of fries.”

Choosing film over digital, however, doesn’t come without a price tag. Hung Le, a fourth-year sports media student, said he spends about $14-19 on a roll of film for 24 photos.

It’s not that his digital cameras aren’t also expensive — they cost about $4,000. But Le said he can make them pay for themselves by taking on paid gigs. As for his film, its value is that it is more of a supplement to his digital work.

Peter Bregg, a Ryerson instructor and internationally renowned photojournalist, said he shot film for 52 years but he would never use it for his photo assignments.

On a two-week assignment to Africa photographing water, Bregg said he shot 4,000 photos that would have cost a couple thousand dollars to develop in film.

He added that there is no technical or physical advantage to shooting film, since the quality is not better than digital. “It’s for artists … the people who want to be purists about photography and enjoy the look and feel of film,” said Bregg.

He said it’s a long and expensive process, because it’s rare to get the adequate results that you want on the first try.

The manual process of choosing the right exposure and other settings makes it more difficult to shoot film, as opposed to using a digital camera. But, even when the photos don’t come out as expected, some photographers think you can’t put a price on the experience.


Fourth-year media production student Leah Gugliotta says shooting with film is almost always worth it, even if just for the adrenaline rush. (Nicole Brumley/Ryersonian)

Leah Gugliotta, a fourth-year media production student, started shooting film at age 17. She said she has had some disappointing moments in the process, particularly when she used expired film.

“I definitely have been regretful for times when I shot with expired film and they turned out like crap. [But,] it’s almost worth it, even if they all turn out really bad for the experience and little adrenaline rush of getting the film,” Gugliotta said.

Annie MacDonell, an artist and assistant professor for the School of Image Arts, said it is the admiration for the medium that makes people fall in love with film.

“The interest in it never died because it creates such specific images, and uses light in such a way that people are always going to be attracted to working with it,” said MacDonell.

In her 10 years of teaching at Ryerson, MacDonell said students have never really stopped using film altogether. Students in the School of Image Arts, she added, are taught about film in their first year. Ryerson even has black and white darkrooms on campus.

As a student photographer, Le said that when it comes to shooting film on trend, “You can tell the difference between someone who is just doing it because it’s trendy and someone who is doing it because they truly love shooting film.”

And for some photographers that is the dividing line.

Nicole Brumley is a fourth-year journalism student at Ryerson University in Toronto. She is currently a video producer and photo/graphics editor at the Ryersonian. Her reporting aims to address inequalities and highlight the voices of diverse communities. Check out her reporting in publications including the Torontoist, Eyeopener and Folio Magazine.

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