Photographer Profile: Sarah Boileau - Toronto
Hi Sarah! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Sarah Boileau, I’m 26 years old and I grew up and still currently live in the Toronto, Canada area. I’m currently chasing my dream career of being a freelance food photographer and food prop stylist so fingers crossed that I can make this dream a reality in the near future. When i’m not baking or styling, you can find me binge watching tv shows on Netflix or checking out the crazy amount of new coffee shops that are popping up in and around Toronto.
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
Growing up, I had originally envisioned having a career in some capacity in the medical field so I ended up going to university and graduated with a degree in health sciences. However, once I finished school and started looking for a job, I found that the job market for my chosen field was very tough to break into, which is a sentiment that I hear time and time again from a lot of recent graduates. So as a result, I had a connection in the insurance industry and that’s where I started my career.
How did you begin your work in food and prop styling?
My interest with food and prop styling started out as a hobby and kind of as a stress reliever from my day job. As I started looking up baking recipes online through social media like Instagram and Pinterest, I became more and more interested in photography and food and prop styling and using that as a creative outlet.
Have you always been drawn to the dark, moody, and warm style of photography? Do you have a background in photography as well or did you learn along the way to capture your creations?
I’ve always found myself being drawn to more dark and moody aspects of photography and art. However because my photography and styling skills were self taught, it did take a lot of trial and error to get to the type of styling I do now which I found to be necessary when I was trying to get a better feel of what truly represented me. When I first started out and because I didn’t have any formal background or training, I found that because social media was and still is so saturated with different styles of photography, that it was very easy to fall into the belief that you need to mimic what’s seen as popular in order to feel successful and proud of your work. However, over time I found that it was a lot less stressful to remove these expectations and trust my gut when it came to styling. And it also just so happens that I use my home as my studio and a majority of the natural light that filters in creates a moodier ambience so in a way I went with that flow and my photography style developed as a result.
What does your process of baking and styling look like?
Because baking and styling tends to be a full day process from start to finish, I’m definitely the type of person who likes to be prepared. So first things first, I go through a routine where I look up inspiration for both recipes and photo styling which tends to be through social media like Pinterest or magazines or cookbooks that I have lying around. Once I have the recipe and ingredients, I try to determine how it is that I’m going to style the dish once it is finished. Depending on the type of dish, it’s sometimes a race against time to try to style and get the shot before the food melts, so having the styling setup completed or at least in mind helps tremendously. My food and prop styling often times is less clean and more messy as I like to incorporate the dish’s ingredients in photos as well, so sometimes as I’m in the process of baking, I’ll be styling and photographing as I go along.
How do you come up with your recipes? Could you share one of your favorites with us?
My recipes tend to be a mish mash of old family recipes to testing out different ingredients and flavors together to finding inspiration from food bloggers and cookbooks. Baking tends to be a challenge as you need to have specific proportions of ingredients and an understanding of how these ingredients interact together, so 100% patience is key when developing recipes.
One of my favourite all time recipes has be what I like to call breakfast mash which is a combination of potatoes with whatever you have lying in fridge whether it be eggs, zucchini, peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, etc. Now for this recipe I like to use cast iron skillet to bake but you can also use a baking pan lined with parchment paper as well.
Breakfast Mash - (6 Servings)
- Preheat oven to 450F.
- Slice 3 lbs of little potatoes in half (or dice larger russet potatoes into smaller cubes) and dice 1 yellow onion.
- In a large bowl, toss the potatoes and onion with 3 tbsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp ground pepper, 1/2 salt, 1 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp dried oregano leaves, a pinch of red pepper flakes and 1/2 tsp garlic powder.
- Place the potatoes and onion in the skillet and bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
- While the potatoes are baking, dice 1 zucchini and 1 green pepper and mince 2 garlic cloves.
- After 10 minutes, remove the skillet from the oven and mix in the zucchini, pepper and garlic.
- Bake for another 20 minutes.
- Remove the skillet and if you want to add eggs, make a few wells in the potatoes, crack the eggs into the wells. Place the skillet back in the oven and bake for another 5 minutes or until the egg whites are opaque.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5-10minutes before garnishing with cherry tomatoes, chives and cheese. Serve with sour cream, salsa, and/or hot sauce. WARNING: the handles of the cast iron skillet will be extremely hot!
- Feel free to substitute or add in any other produce or herbs and spices!
What is your favorite thing about your workspace?
My workspace happens to be my home which I find has a ton of benefits. I most of all love the natural lightning in my house. I don’t like using artificial lightning in my photos and so the fact that I can go from baking a dish to styling and photographing it all in one place is beyond great.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I find that there is so much creative talent out there right now, so mostly I draw a majority of my inspiration from others, whether it’s through conversation or when I’m looking through blogs or scrolling through social media pages.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
There are a fews reasons behind why i’m a passionate about the work I do. I think that the most important reason is that I enjoy the process from start to finish. It’s hard to be passionate about something unless you truly enjoy everything that it encompasses and not just the finished product. I also find the whole process to be quite cathartic. I’ve always had issues with anxiety and find that the combination of baking, styling and photography tends to be a huge stress reliever and outlet. And lastly, I’m passionate about the fact that through my creative work, I’ve been able to connect with and start a dialogue with so many other creative men and women alike.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face in your line of work?
One challenge I find that comes up quite a bit is repetition and feeling like you’ve put yourself in a box. Sometimes it can hard to break from a mould that you’ve created for yourself and how other people see you and as a result your work becomes repetitive. I’m the type of person who enjoys a challenge, so from time to time I find it’s necessary to try and switch up my method of styling and to even collaborate with others to see a different perspective.
- At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
I think that it is so important, especially in today’s day and age, to support and empower other women in reaching their goals. To me, I find that women need to have a sense of camaraderie in navigating the expectations that are placed on women in general. I’ve been lucky enough to grow up being surrounded by many women with strong convictions of self worth and that has helped propel me to not only continuously strive to reach my own goals but to also empower other women to do so as well.
Was there any particular person who helped shape your career in formative way?
There isn’t one specific person that I have emulated when it comes to shaping my career but there have been many strong women (including my mother) who have directed me to strive for what i’m passionate about and to follow what I want to do as opposed to what others expect of me.
How do you deal with moments of self doubt?
When I start to doubt my work or myself, the best method I’ve found is to take a step back and take a break for a day or two to clear my mind and adjust my focus because when I start to doubt myself I find that it becomes a snowball effect of negativity. While I’m taking these breaks, I tend to bounce my thoughts and ideas off of others to figure out why it is that I’m doubting myself and how I can turn that negativity into something more positive.
What tools or resources have been most helpful for you in your work?
The best tools I've found are other people whom you can bounce ideas off of or to collaborate with to bring new a perspective. That being said, I have to reiterate that social media is a godsend in the sense that I’m not only able to use it for inspiration but also as a way to shop for new props and styling tips.
What are some of your favorite places in Toronto?
I find that Toronto always has new and interesting places popping up, but a few of my all time favourites I love visiting have to to be Boxcar Social at the Harbourfront (has great coffee and views), The Art Gallery of Ontario, and walking down Queen Street West to check out all the little stores and coffee shops along the way.
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