The fantastic capabilities of current cell phone cameras makes them a great asset for enjoying travel and photography. The latest generation of cameras often has high megapixel counts, onboard flashes, autofocus lenses, and fairly high quality optics. In fact many food bloggers and travelers solely use a camera phone, and can take pictures that can compete with some standalone DSLR’s.

Taking great photos with your phone isn’t always the easiest thing to do. It takes some skill, perspective, and a few apps to bring out the best in your captured moments. Let’s just take a quick look at a few of the key points needed to begin making superior cell phone shots.

1. Learn about composition

– Do you know about the rule of thirds? Are you familiar with the best ways to use lighting? When you don’t have some fundamental compositional skill, your shots never look right. Spend a bit of time online learning how to compose balanced and appealing shots. When you have that part down, all of the great tech in your phone will help you make truly superior shots.

2. Do not zoom

– Yes, it can be tempting to put your fingers on the screen and pull the view closer. However, notice what happens when you do that. The image loses sharpness and value. This is because it is a “digital” zoom and not an “optical” zoom. In other words, the software is sampling the portion of the image and not actually zooming in on it. Instead of losing quality, take the shot clearly and then use editing to “crop” the image later as this samples the actual information, which zooming does not. Zooming is a camera’s “best guess” at what is in front of the lens and it really costs you in overall resolution and accuracy.

3. And while we’re talking about cropping…

– You should always have an actual photo-editing app associated with your cell phone camera. You can rely on the oh-so-familiar filters that everyone else applies through Instagram, but don’t just stop there. Take the next step for truly breathtaking photos. Actual editing software makes for superior crops, good adjustments to contrast, and many of the other tasks you would be able to do with standard software.

4. Protect and clean the lens

– This is something so many people neglect and it ends up costing them in photo and video quality. Hazy images and overly dark exposures are just two of the many issues that come from an unprotected lens. Using a durable camera case is always a good idea, but also remember to bring a soft lens cloth with you or at least give the lens a quick swipe with a soft shirt or cloth before using it. Your pockets can be full of grit or grime, and even with a durable or tough case, your lens remains vulnerable. Give it a quick look before wiping it to be sure no grit is there to scratch it, and you should have no unsuspected spots, lines, or marks in the image.

Knowing how to compose shots, ignoring the option to zoom, relying on a photo editing app, and always caring for the “camera” properly are the very basics needed to start getting better photos with your phone.