The first time I brought a camera into a restaurant was over two years ago.  This was before I’d purchased my first smart phone, and I lugged around my hefty camera and lenses wherever I went.  Despite the challenges of carrying a camera everywhere, this was my creative outlet and I loved capturing my favorite restaurants and landmarks.

Ever since I started working professionally as a food photographer, I do like to take a break from my camera from time to time.  Sometimes you just need a little space.  I rarely bring it along when we go out to eat or are traveling anymore.  On a recent trip to Vegas, I only took my camera out once, opting to use my phone to take all my pictures.

As a photographer, there’s something very liberating about shooting with a smart phone.  First off, you can be discrete about taking pictures.  It’s easier to capture the environment of a restaurant when you’re not whipping out a massive lens.  Both patrons and servers get weird when they see a camera pointed at them (and I don’t blame them for that… it’s a bit intrusive).  A phone, however, can be used to take a picture without anyone noticing.

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  • August 23, 2013 - 8:08 am

    Jeanette - Great tips – I prefer using my phone to take pictures in the restaurants too. So much easier and less intrusive.ReplyCancel

  • August 23, 2013 - 8:13 am

    Liz @ The Lemon Bowl - Don’t judge me but…. I don’t own a real camera. :-) Love all of these tips!! I also love the fact that you DO have a camera but choose to use your phone more often than not. Awesome post!ReplyCancel

  • August 23, 2013 - 8:22 am

    Vanessa - Nice tips =)ReplyCancel

  • August 23, 2013 - 8:56 am

    Dan from Platter Talk - Terrific and timely post. I’m still a novice food blogger, having started in earnest this past February. For the first few months my DSLR was out of commission and so I relied solely on my iPhone, getting what I think are great results. I continue to use it as a backup and although there are limitations to any camera, I think certain attribute such as what is in essence macro capabilities and even the white balance performance are often times superior to my Nikon D40. Thanks for the tips, I ate this one up!!ReplyCancel

  • August 23, 2013 - 10:04 am

    jaime @ asweetroad - This was great to read. Sometimes it’s easy to get bogged down by the fact that a cell phone camera just isn’t up to par with a one, two thousand something dollar dslr camera, but the concept of how to shoot a photo is all the same. Seeing your photos was so inspiring, so thank you for the ideas and inspiration!ReplyCancel

  • August 23, 2013 - 11:19 am

    Kristen - I always love your photos Brian… thanks for the tips!
    I am dying over Eric’s tumblr! That is FANTASTIC!ReplyCancel

  • August 23, 2013 - 11:52 am

    Liren - I do agree, shooting with a phone is great practice for the big guns, and sometimes, it amazes me, the quality of the camera phone. I love that I don’t have to lug around the big DSLR all the time, too! Always enjoy your photos, Instagram and otherwise :)ReplyCancel

  • August 23, 2013 - 12:15 pm

    Sonja - Perfect timing! My only options at the moment are my Iphone and a Nikon point-and-shoot, and I must say that I like my phone more. These tips are great! Especially the one about only taking pictures in day light… It reassured me that I am not the only one who is unable to take a nice picture without flash at night! :)ReplyCancel

  • August 23, 2013 - 2:05 pm

    Reluctant Entertainer - You are so talented! I would love to someday take great photos like you.ReplyCancel

  • August 23, 2013 - 3:36 pm

    TidyMom - i totally love the freedom of using my iphone when I’m out and I’ve also used it at home a few times for a blog post instead of grabbing my big girl camera a few times – great when I’m trying to get dinner on the table but I want a shot or two before I serve it!ReplyCancel

  • August 23, 2013 - 4:11 pm

    SideChef - Amazing tips and beautiful examples of iPhone food photography!ReplyCancel

  • August 23, 2013 - 8:44 pm

    Denise - Great tips Brian. Maybe you will be teaching one day when I am that way … :) I have to agree with you, I have been using my iPhone camera more and more when traveling. My DSLR is becoming the neglected child.ReplyCancel

  • August 23, 2013 - 10:28 pm

    Averie @ Averie Cooks - This is an awesome post, Brian! Great tips and I never thought about that before, but top-down shots always do turn out very well with my iphone as compared to side/angled shots which can be more iffy with the depth of field.ReplyCancel

  • August 24, 2013 - 1:32 am

    Stephanie @ Eat. Drink. Love. - I love these tips and photos! Lighting is the hardest thing for me to get with my phone in restaurants.ReplyCancel

  • August 24, 2013 - 5:29 am

    Joanne - Love this! I never take my camera around when I go out anymore either…it’s too much of a hassle to bring it and then have to worry about it. That being said, my smart phone skillz could use some sharpening…this post was perfect!ReplyCancel

  • August 24, 2013 - 6:10 am

    Chef Dennis - thanks for sharing your tips for shooting my a smart phone Brian, I just got a Samsung S4 and have started using it to shoot with when I’m out and about, your tips came at a great time!ReplyCancel

  • August 24, 2013 - 5:51 pm

    Arthur in the Garden! - The phones are becomming better than cameras!ReplyCancel

  • August 25, 2013 - 7:16 am

    Currently Crushing On. | How Sweet It Is - […] awesome iPhone photo taking tips. i’m a little […]ReplyCancel

  • August 25, 2013 - 12:11 pm

    Adri - This is my first visit to your site, and I am so glad to have found it. Your work is beautiful!ReplyCancel

  • August 25, 2013 - 6:03 pm

    Archana@FeedingTheFoodie - these tips are spot on. I’m no professional photographer, but I’ve used all those principles in my photography for my blog, and every single pic on my blog was taken on the Iphone! not too shabby …ReplyCancel

  • August 26, 2013 - 6:22 am

    Carolyn - Great tips, Brian. Unfortunately, I have an Android and the photos just aren’t as good. But my iPad takes some great ones and I am having fun playing with those.ReplyCancel

  • August 26, 2013 - 6:23 am

    Lora @cakeduchess - Such a great post and all these shots are fantastic. So true how much more discreet it is to take a photo with your phone as opposed to an actual camera while dining out. Those oysters look so good!ReplyCancel

  • August 26, 2013 - 10:36 am

    Bev @ Bev Cooks - Adore, adore, adore.ReplyCancel

  • August 26, 2013 - 12:18 pm

    Cory Van Horn - I’ve really started to love using my iPhone for food photos lately. Under the right conditions, the shots are often just as good or better than with my DSLR. Great tips!ReplyCancel

  • August 26, 2013 - 2:10 pm

    Barbara | Creative Culinary - I don’t have an iPhone but I love my Samsung Galaxy S4 and I’m wondering if you can set your point of focus? Although I typically take very quick shots, nothing really setup like yours, I do like that I can determine that point if I chose to include some bokeh in my snaps.ReplyCancel

  • August 26, 2013 - 8:25 pm

    Kiran @ - Great tips and thanks for sharing, Brian. I love my DSLR but I use my phone very often especially outdoors. Can’t imagine lugging around that huge camera.

    You are so right about shooting from above. Makes it all more appealing on the phone :)ReplyCancel

  • August 26, 2013 - 9:34 pm

    Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen - Ha, I love that your hubby has his own blog now too!ReplyCancel

  • August 27, 2013 - 2:28 am

    Deepali Jain - great tips. Though I do not shoot with my phone, I do shoot with P&S. And from my experience in last 2 years, the same tips and tricks apply to shooting with point & shoot as well. I have started doing a re-visiting food photos through the lens series, in which I re-shoot my earlier shot photos with a different setting/ composition but same camera. And my best photos are overhead shots with textured background.ReplyCancel

  • August 27, 2013 - 8:12 pm

    Samantha Tringali Howie - Wonderful article and thanks for the tips!ReplyCancel

  • August 31, 2013 - 9:31 am

    Mary - These are great tips, Brian. LOVE your husband’s site too! Could there be a more perfect name for it?ReplyCancel

  • December 8, 2013 - 11:56 am

    Learning How to Shoot Better iPhone Photos with Brian Samuels and the Oyster Century Club at Mare Oyster Bar | - […] of Brian’s tips but just the ones that resonated with me so check out Brian Samuels post Why I love Taking Pictures with my Phone (+ some Tips/Tricks) for more.  And if you are interested in checking out one of Brian’s food photography […]ReplyCancel

  • December 21, 2013 - 9:02 pm

    Mama's Gotta Bake - This post was very helpful to me. I have been lugging my DSLR around with me to restaurants, and my husband and my friends just roll their eyes. The big camera is very intrusive, and I did not realize that a smartphone took such nice photos. I love the one of the shellfish. I’ll have to remember to shoot from above. Great tips!ReplyCancel

  • December 22, 2013 - 2:44 pm

    Food Photography how-to | Happy Sushi Belly - […] professional photographer on the A Thought for Food blog writes about how freeing it can be to shoot food with a smart phone instead of a  DSLR camera once […]ReplyCancel

  • March 16, 2014 - 7:01 pm

    Buckwheat Scallion Pancakes - […] friend Brian recently did a post with a lot of great tips for iphoneography, and the biggest take away for me was that for food, overhead shots work the best. I’ve tried […]ReplyCancel

  • July 24, 2014 - 11:42 am

    Emily - Hi,

    Your tips are great and your pictures (especially the first 4 or 5)are AWESOME. Would you mind sharing how you get that muted yet crisp look to these photos? Do you use an app or filter to achieve the look? All my pics usually come out so saturated and psychedelic looking, which isn’t the worst but i would like to be able to experiment with something similar to what you posted. Thanks!!

  • August 22, 2014 - 10:14 pm

    WORKSHOP: NEW YORK CITY LIGHTS | - […] Brian Samuels: Food-Fotos mit dem iPhone… geht also auch anscheinend: […]ReplyCancel

  • September 22, 2014 - 5:42 am

    5 Fantastic Food Photography Tips | Catavino | Spanish wine, Portuguese wine and a whole lot more - […] to certain cameras, there are some tried and true vantage points that almost always work. Take a camera phone for example. Taking a shot from directly above the food, or from straight ahead, almost always […]ReplyCancel

  • September 22, 2014 - 6:21 am

    5 Fantastic Food Photography Tips | Travel & Tour - […] to certain cameras, there are some tried and true vantage points that almost always work. Take a camera phone for example. Taking a shot from directly above the food, or from straight ahead, almost always […]ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2015 - 12:01 am

    Why I Love Taking Pictures With My Phone (+ Some Tips/Tricks): Part 2 » A Thought For Food - […] me to not only develop my photographic style, but it’s given me the chance to hone my skills. Since my last post on smart phone photography, the quality of the cameras has gotten exceedingly better. I never thought I’d get to the […]ReplyCancel

  • September 25, 2015 - 5:58 am

    Satinih - That’s a creative answer to a diicufflt questionReplyCancel

Despite having lived in Boston for almost a decade, I always refer to New York as “The City”. This is what we’ve called it since we were kids. “I’m going to have dinner with friends in The City.” or “We’re going into The City to see a show.”   It sometimes confuses my Boston friends when I say this. Aren’t we in The City? No. We’re not. Sorry.

Eric and I went down for the weekend, a somewhat spontaneous trip. Often, we bypass New York and head straight to Jersey to see my family. But when my parents were on the Cape with us a few weeks ago, they mentioned that they were seeing Pippin on Broadway and, if we wanted, they’d get us tickets (best parents ever, right?).  So, we came in Friday night, stayed with our friend on the Upper West Side, and went to see the show on Saturday. Let’s just say we were not disappointed.  If you happen to be in New York, I recommend trying to get tickets for it.

After the show, Eric and I walked the High Line (did I mention that we had already walked all the way from 91st St) to Barbuto, a restaurant in the Village, where we were meeting friends for dinner.  The meal was fabulous… rustic, seasonal, Italian-inspired dishes.  Their kale salad rocked my world.

This eggplant sandwich was something I dreamt up following a love affair with a batch of pickled red onions (I’ve been on a pickling kick recently… dill pickles, pickled beets, and now pickled red onions).  It worked perfectly that we had a loaf of fresh baked bread around and a container of herbed boursin cheese.  I’m a sucker for a good sandwich and this one did the trick.

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  • August 19, 2013 - 12:04 am

    Sarah | The Sugar Hit - Beautiful images as always – and is there anything that sandwiches cannot do? I love how elegant this combination is.ReplyCancel

  • August 19, 2013 - 12:20 am

    Janice - I should be in bed by now, but your tweet about this sandwich caught my attention and I’m so glad I stayed up for this. I LOVE putting Boursin cheese in sandwiches, but your combination with the roasted eggplant and pickled onions rocks! I definitely will be making this soon. Thanks for sharing :)ReplyCancel

  • August 19, 2013 - 7:19 am

    Aggie - What a treat to be able to pop over to the city for a meal or a visit, I love it. This sandwich is something I could totally eat everyday in the summer! It looks perfect Brian!ReplyCancel

  • August 19, 2013 - 7:27 am

    Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar - I’m so jealous that you went to see Pippin!! I’ve wanted to see it for what seems like forever..also, so nice of your parents to get you tickets!! And this sandwich?! LOVE! I kind of love everything this morning apparently, lol.ReplyCancel

  • August 19, 2013 - 8:47 am

    Tieghan - What a gorgeous sandwich!ReplyCancel

  • August 19, 2013 - 8:59 am

    Dan from Platter talk - How wonderful does this look?! City or country, I feel certain this creation would taste great anywhere – particularly during these dog days of summer, which I love. Great post and I’m happy to have found your site!ReplyCancel

  • August 19, 2013 - 10:55 am

    Belinda @themoonblushbaker - Pickles are really coming into their own, nothing better in a sandwich. Stunning photos of sandwich, I would love to see the snaps you took on your adventure.ReplyCancel

  • August 19, 2013 - 11:52 am

    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction - You had me at pickled red onion. And, of course, I happen to have some eggplant from our CSA in the fridge just begging to be used in a sandwich. Perfect timing! :)ReplyCancel

  • August 19, 2013 - 12:25 pm

    Liren - We speak the same language, my friend. Pickled onions (pickled anything) and roasted eggplant? Yes. With Boursin? Yes! And there’s nothing like going into “the city.” Can’t wait to visit home next spring, that’s for sure. I may have to squeeze in Pippin!ReplyCancel

  • August 19, 2013 - 1:15 pm

    dixya| food, pleasure, and health - picked onion sounds so good. I will be making this sandwich soon.ReplyCancel

  • August 19, 2013 - 1:15 pm

    Cate @ Chez CateyLou - This sandwich looks amazing! The color of those pickled onions is just gorgeous! I’m glad you had a fun weekend in the City – I’ll have to go see Pippin!ReplyCancel

  • August 19, 2013 - 6:09 pm

    Denise Woodward - Okay, you had me at pickled beets, then you added roasted eggplant. Not to mention the Boursin cheese, which we were recently re-introduced to while friends from Belgium were here – they love the stuff. Great sandwich! We so need to plan a trip to New York that does not involve work – sounds like a wonderful weekend! xoReplyCancel

  • August 19, 2013 - 9:05 pm

    Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen - Ooo, I’ve been on a similar pickling kick lately as well so I’ve got to try those onions.ReplyCancel

  • August 20, 2013 - 6:34 am

    Joanne - I played the piano for Pippin in college and so I definitely have a soft spot for it and have been meaning to see it! SO glad to hear it was worth it!! it’s such a weird, random musical lol.

    OMG these sandwiches. The pickled onions are seriously fabulous here. I wish I’d included them in my sandwich yesterday!ReplyCancel

  • August 20, 2013 - 8:27 am

    Tracy | Peanutbutter and Onion - This looks incredible! I’m always on the lookout for new sandwich ideas, THANKS!ReplyCancel

  • August 20, 2013 - 8:33 am

    Sommer @ ASpicyPerspective - Love pickled onions!! Amazing-looking sandwich! :)ReplyCancel

  • August 20, 2013 - 10:48 am

    Grace @ Earthy Feast - That sandwich looks and sounds amazing! Those pickled red onions are the prettiest shade of pink! Yum!ReplyCancel

  • August 20, 2013 - 11:23 am

    Kasey - Oh how I love the High Line! Living in SF, I always find it funny when people say ‘the city’ because living in the city, I forget it’s ‘the city’ around these parts. But I agree with you – if any city is going to have that stature, it best be NYC :)ReplyCancel

  • August 20, 2013 - 12:25 pm

    Tracy Neville - This looks incredible…. I’m always on the lookout for new sandwich ideas, THANKS.ReplyCancel

  • August 20, 2013 - 12:26 pm

    Amanda - Now that’s a sandwich! I have been obsessed with pickled red onions for the last couple of months; they are the perfect addition to sandwiches and salads (especially of the grain variety!).ReplyCancel

  • August 20, 2013 - 6:58 pm

    Andrew Frishman - Mnnn… I loves me some boursin, especially with some pickled stuffs!

    ¡Queso ahora, y queso por siempre!ReplyCancel

  • August 21, 2013 - 4:43 am

    Rochelle - Stunning sandwich! I wish we had some eggplant growing in the garden this year, but alas, we don’t. There are a good number of red onions growing in the garden, and they are sooooo good pickled, I’ll just have to go scrounge up an eggplant at the store so I can make this sandwich :)ReplyCancel

  • August 21, 2013 - 1:54 pm

    Jeanette's Healthy Living - This is the perfect summer sandwich – I love pickled onions!ReplyCancel

  • August 21, 2013 - 5:04 pm

    Joshua Hampton (Cooking Classes San Diego) - What a gorgeous sandwich. Boursin with grilled eggplants sound divine.ReplyCancel

  • August 21, 2013 - 7:14 pm

    Monet - Now to make sandwiches for dinner. Just stunning images, Brian. I love pickled red onions. I started doing it a few years ago, after reading a blog post by David Lebovitz. They certainly do elevate a sandwich. Thank you for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • August 23, 2013 - 9:49 am

    Russell at Chasing Delicious - Yum! This sandwich looks eggcellent. Get it? Egg plant. Excellent? Yeah. Okay.ReplyCancel

  • August 26, 2013 - 6:24 am

    Lora @cakeduchess - I would become an onion on a sandwich fan with these gorgeous pickled onions. This is a wonderful sandwich for lunch or dinner…so flavorful and I’ve got to make these onions this week.ReplyCancel

  • August 26, 2013 - 8:38 pm

    Roxana | Roxana's Home Baking - I’m the only pickle eater in my family which is the best thing ever! More for me and this sandwich looks like dinner. Love the bright purple color of the onion!ReplyCancel

  • August 27, 2013 - 5:40 pm

    Tess @ Tips on Healthy Living - This looks delicious! What would you recommend substituting for the herbed boursin cheese?ReplyCancel

  • September 21, 2013 - 4:30 pm

    Eggplant Sandwiches | The Custom House - […] This sandwich is I want to eat this fall. […]ReplyCancel

  • March 5, 2014 - 2:45 pm

    Gode nyheter for grøntetere | ekstremt bra utrolig fint - […] Kitchen, taleggiosandwichen fra Green Kitchen Stories, aubergine- og syltet-løk-sandwichen fra A Thought for Food og halve egg med sennepsrøre fra Lilla […]ReplyCancel

As Eric and I packed for our weeklong trip to the Cape, we both felt it was necessary to box up some of our liquor cabinet.  What a shame it would be if we wanted to make a drink with vermouth in it, only to find we had none! Our traveling bar was chock-full of bottles of Aperol, St. Germain, Pimm’s, and assorted infused syrups and bitters. Over the next seven days, more than a few of those were emptied.  We were very productive.

Unlike the traditional Pimm’s Cup, which is a simple concoction of Pimm’s topped with lemon-lime soda, I decided to use tonic and add a splash of Aperol to kick things up a notch.  A squeeze of lemon and a cucumber garnish turns this into the perfect late summer beverage.  It almost makes you forget how quickly this summer is flying by.

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  • August 14, 2013 - 7:34 am

    Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar - Tonic and Aperol sound great with Pimms! This is such a fabulous idea!!ReplyCancel

  • August 14, 2013 - 10:00 am

    dixya| food, pleasure, and health - you guys always create the most delicious concoction of things.ReplyCancel

  • August 14, 2013 - 10:21 am

    Laura (Blogging Over Thyme) - Haha–that’s what vacation is for, right?! Spring cleaning, if you will.

    Pimms is probably one of my favorite cocktails! Love this–especially the spirals of cucumber in it. Beautiful.ReplyCancel

  • August 14, 2013 - 12:01 pm

    Kelly Senyei | Just a Taste - This looks so incredibly refreshing! Love those thin strips of cucumber!ReplyCancel

  • August 14, 2013 - 5:22 pm

    Jan - I like that you transform your liquor cabinet into a “travelling bar”. That’s awesome. I’m a huge fan of Pimm’s and I think I’d like your drink better than the usual overly sweet Pimm’s cocktails served at bars!ReplyCancel

  • August 15, 2013 - 9:17 am

    Adrian (What the Heck is Filipino Food) - Love the twist. A glass of this on a summers day = bliss!ReplyCancel

  • August 15, 2013 - 3:10 pm

    Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen - I dig this traveling liquor cabinet idea!ReplyCancel

  • August 15, 2013 - 10:19 pm

    Andrew Frishman - MMnnnn… I LOVES me some Pimms… Actually I feel kind of ambivalent about them, but I’ve got to keep up appearances.

    Todas las bebidas no son iguales.ReplyCancel

  • August 15, 2013 - 11:02 pm

    Monet - This looks lovely Brian. The thinly sliced cucumber is the perfect touch. My good friend always orders Pimms. I’ll have to make this for him the next time he visits. He’ll think me a very good friend. Thank you for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • August 16, 2013 - 12:17 am

    Kristen - If this will make summer slow down, I’ll take 3. Thank you :)ReplyCancel

  • August 16, 2013 - 7:26 am

    Joanne - I’m thinking you should just make a traveling liquor cabinet so that you’ll never be without any of the necessities!! I’ve actually never had a pimm’s cup but have been seeing them around lately…feel like it’s a sign I should get my act together and try one!ReplyCancel

  • August 16, 2013 - 5:19 pm

    sippitysup - I have a funny memory of my first experience with Pimm’s. I saw “a Pimm’s Cup” written on a chalkboard menu, so I ordered it… “up”. Having never ordered one before I had no idea they were a rocks only preparation. Foolish me! But it did cause me to invent a “Pimm’s Cup Up” for my new book. Might as well turn an embarrassing moment into something worthwhile. GREGReplyCancel

  • August 17, 2013 - 8:40 am

    Currently Crushing On. | How Sweet It Is - […] pimm’s cocktail. i think i’ve told you how last summer was the summer of the […]ReplyCancel