If you’ve fallen prey to the stereotype that Montreal is solely gray and snowy, you’re sorely mistaken. Canada’s commercial capital is a beacon of bright colors, creativity, and spirit. So if you’re bound for the Great White North, bring your camera along! This city is one that begs to be photographed.
Part of Montreal’s charm is that it allows old and new to coexist in spectacular ways. Nowhere is this more apparent than at Crew Collective & Café, located in Montreal’s old town (a hop, skip, and a jump from the stylish and cozy Le Westin Montreal). The coffee-centric eatery has found a home in Montreal’s historic Royal Bank Tower (360 Saint-Jacques Ouest), which was once lauded as the tallest building in Canada — and the entirety of the British Empire. The bank vacated the space in 2010, providing an incredible setting for the creative masterminds behind Crew Collective. The locale features a sprawl of tables that are open to the public, lightning-fast WiFi, free-flowing coffee, and an abundance of pastries.
Once you’re fed and watered, train your camera toward the 50-foot high ceilings, capture the unique detailing on the tiled floor, and snap photos of the mouth-wateringly tasty menu offerings. To capture all of the sights in Crew, you’ll want a wide-angle lens that also has the ability to zoom — and be sure to set your camera to operate at low light, because the inside of this hallowed landmark is bathed in a soft, golden glow from the hanging chandeliers.
World Trade Centre
After you take in the coziness of Crew, head across the street to Montreal’s World Trade Centre, home to a number of unique shops, as well as offices and hotels. Completed in 1992, the building literally bridged Old Montreal and the Quartier international, occupying an entire city block and acting as a “horizontal skyscraper” that links several (much smaller) Victorian-era buildings.
Once inside, you’ll notice the architectural intricacies and historical quirks of the structure, including enormous glass skylights, uniquely placed beams that provide myriad photo opportunities, and a small slice of the Berlin wall. To photograph the building, choose a wide-angle lens and scout the complex for the best views — and be sure to enjoy the abundant light, which will yield vibrant and crisp shots.
Palais de Congres
Montreal’s most colorful building is not one to miss. Palais de congrès — a convention center slash public art space slash shopping center — is high on the city’s must-photograph list. Located in Old Montreal’s north end, the center can be easily reached by the Place-d’Armes Metro? Station.
The complex’s most striking component is its stained-glass windows, which can (and should) be photographed from the inside and out. The multi colored shadows cast from the sheer panels are most striking from inside, so adjust your camera settings to aperture-priority, and experiment with a variety of angles from which to capture the colorful glow. The unusual interior is also the perfect opportunity for an avant-garde portrait shoot, a modernist shoot centered around architecture, or an abstract exploration of color.
The only thing better than Montreal’s rich history and burgeoning creative community is its abundant food scene. As it’s home to a variety of cultures, culinary trends, and restaurants, there’s no better place to find a good meal that you can enjoy and photograph. Head to one of Montreal’s many culinary establishments — such as vegan-friendly LOV, Peruvian-Japanese fusion joint Tiradito, neighborhood favorite Le Cartet, or coffee-rich Café Parvis — and don’t forget your camera.
For food photography, select a prime lens with a wide aperture and secure a seat close to the window; you’ll find that food looks most appetizing when it’s illuminated by sunlight. When you’re ready to shoot, open your aperture to its widest setting and capture your dish with a shallow depth of field (your order will be the only element of the photo in focus). Also be sure to experiment with props, like your napkin or your utensils, as it will add visual intrigue. Don’t fuss too much though — after all, the main event is eating, and you’ll want whatever you order to still be fresh when you finally dig in! After you’ve enjoyed your meal, take a stroll around your chosen restaurant and click a few shots of its striking interior — after all, each of these joints has architectural details that are as visually compelling as their dishes.
Pay a visit to Montreal’s Plateau neighborhood, and you’ll experience the whimsy that the city has hidden behind its austere gray buildings. All of this changes in the Plateau, a bright community filled with artists and bohemians, which also fittingly acts as the site of some of Montreal’s most colorful buildings. Head to Saint-Louis Square (accessible via the Sherbrooke Metro Station) for the most photogenic houses.
Their gables and trim are painted vibrant shades of red, blue, violet, yellow, and orange, providing a particularly beautiful contrast against winter’s omnipresent blanket of snow. To capture them, select a wide-angle lens and back up — also be sure to use a tripod to help you stabilize your shot. Additionally, consider utilizing a long-exposure effect to photograph pedestrians strolling past the colorful collective.
Montreal may just be the mural capital of the world — after all, how many other places do you know that have a renowned festival devoted solely to beautifying city walls? Though held annually during the first week of June, “Festival Mural” provides Montreal residents with beauty the whole year round. And while some city favorites are eventually painted over, many art installations will remain for years to come. If you’re an art enthusiast and don’t mind taking to the streets by foot, download the city’s interactive mural map, which lists every colorful corner in the city.
Be sure to bring along your camera, especially if you’re going to visit the 20-story Crescent Street mural of beloved Montreal native, the late Leonard Cohen. If you’d like to photograph this (and other murals), consider using a wide-angle lens with a zoom capacity. Photograph during the early morning or late afternoon to avoid sharp shadows on the artwork, and try to incorporate the surrounding environment into your shots — e.g. neighboring buildings, or the blur of pedestrian foot traffic in front of the art. No matter how you choose to frame your compositions, take a moment to enjoy the beauty around you.
After you’ve photographed to your heart’s content, continue the adventure by exploring Montreal’s neighborhoods!