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With mobile phones now sporting 12mp cameras, the question "why carry a camera?" for the casual photographer is more valid than ever before.

As impressive as the technology is, however, most phones out-of-the-box are set up for autopilot point and shoot, no thinking required.

So how can you get the most out of what is likely your most often-used camera? Here are my five tips to help you start taking better photos with your phone.

1. Turn on the composition grid...

Depending on your make this setting might be activated by default. It took me a while to convert to using the grid and getting used to its presence on screen, but I believe the pros outweigh the cons with this one. It's a useful aid for composing and while the rule of thirds is only a guide, the sight of the trusty 3x3 is a reminder to consider the basics before you press the shutter.

2. ...and turn off the flash

Using the phone 'flash' (it's essentially a torch) is a sure-fire way to give any photo that nightclub dance-floor look. The light is harsh, uncontrollable, and should be restricted to times when no other option is available. In low light conditions try increasing the ISO. If you have a stationary subject and time on your hands use a flexible mini-tripod.

3. Experiment with white balance

If you're intrigued by the manual settings but anxious about delving too deeply, start out with the white balance. It's a simple thing to adjust and can immediately improve the look of your photos. Just set the white balance to match the light conditions. Try putting it in the Cloudy or Shade mode to instantly make your scenes warmer - great for landscapes and sunsets.

4. Resist the urge to zoom in

The minute you start to zoom in the quality of your image will degrade, so try to avoid it. If you need to get closer to your subject then zoom with your feet and take a few steps forward. If that isn't enough then hand your phone to someone with longer arms! But the simplest tip if you're seeking more reach is to not zoom at all and instead crop the image afterwards.

5. Edit your images

Everyone does it. There are many apps dedicated to mobile image editing - Snapseed being my favourite - and crucially they're becoming increasingly smooth at integrating into your workflow: snap, edit, and upload all in a few steps. Use as many or as few of the features as you want; just be sure to find a style that suits you.

6. Don't neglect your lens - clean it!

OK so I said five tips but here is a bonus sixth because it is criminally overlooked. All the editing, composition, and lighting technique in the world won't salvage a photo taken with a dirty lens. Our phones don't have lens caps (yet...) so they will collect dust and dirt from your pocket. No need for special cleaning products, just give it a wipe from time to time!

If you've got any tips of your own you want to share be sure to comment below! And if you'd like to be kept up to date with my latest posts and promotions then don't forget to subscribe to my mailing list.

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