All images in this post were shot with my iPhone.

Your phone is the only camera that’s always with you to capture the photo-worthy moments in your life — especially the unexpected ones. So without getting too emo, here are 12 ways you can make the most of that beautiful, shiny rectangle in your pocket.

1. Sit Next to a Window

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The simplest, quickest way to improve your phone photos, is to sit next to natural light sources, whether it’s outside in the beautiful Dubai winters, or inside, next to a window, during summer. Just find a nice soft-light source, and sit next to it.

During the day, I favour natural light over artificial lights in nearly all cases when I’m shooting with my iPhone.

2. Turn on the Rule of Thirds Grid

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Although shots can look great with their subject dead centre, you can usually make your shots look better, more dynamic, and just more professional if you embrace the “Rule of Thirds”.

Your iPhone has a grid option available, which you can use to line up your subjects, so that they follow the rule of thirds. Turn this option on by visiting Settings > Photos & Camera and turning on the Grid switch.

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Now, use those lines as a guide, and position the subject along the bottom or top horizontal line, rather than in the middle of the screen. It’s just that simple.

3. Use Burst Mode for Action Shots

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Drips, pours, sprinkles – burst mode might be just the option you’re looking for to capture the best images. By snapping images in quick succession, you’re more likely to nail a perfect shot, and have waaaay more options to choose from.

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So the next time that server approaches you with a sauce that needs pouring, whip out burst mode and show them who’s the boss of that sauce.

4. Always Keep Your HDR On

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Your iPhone comes with a software feature called High Dynamic Range, or HDR: This lets you take photos that have high contrast light sources (say, a bright sunset against a darkening mountain) and still capture a nice image without losing detail in the light or the dark area of the picture.

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Your iPhone does this by… y’know what? Just do it. Just always keep it on.

5. Crop Reeeeally Close in, After You Shoot

If you’ve been following my work for a while, you know I’m a big fan of the ‘fill-the-frame’ food pictures. I really like to get in close with my shots. However, in portrait mode, the iPhone needs you to hit a sweet-spot of distance from the subject. Ugh, the hours of my life that I’ve wasted trying to hit this sweet spot!

It may seem obvious, but it wasn’t to me until I accidentally did it one day. I shoot the scene at whatever distance the iPhone needs me to shoot at, and then crop in to zoom as close as I need, into the yumminess. My phone’s software isn’t going to decide how close I can get to my food. I am.

6. Capture Close-up Detail

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Speaking of closeups, of the biggest photography mistakes you could make is not getting close enough to the subject. This is particularly important when photographing objects with intricate details. If you shoot from too far away, you might miss out on all of the the delicious details your subject has to offer. Close-up patterns, textures, and colours will really add a new dimension to your insta grid-game.

7. Those Dreaded Night Shots

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Alright I’ll admit – these shots are hard. There’s less light, the shots have a tendency to turn out blurry, and the shadows are terrible.

Here’s something interesting though. The camera shutter isn’t released (i.e. the shot is not taken) until you take your thumb completely off the shutter button on the touch screen. Try gently releasing the button when shooting in low and mixed lighting conditions. This will go a long way in helping reduce blurriness caused by low-light conditions.

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Another thing you can do is buy yourself a tiny light for those food shots that you simply HAVE to capture in the evenings. If you don’t mind carrying around a little bit of extra gear, I recommend buying a small clip-on LED light, which usually is stronger than your iPhone’s tiny flash. Those selfie round lights, and the LuMee phone cases that light up are also good options.

The aim is simply to bring a better quality of light into the scene.

8. When in Doubt, Default to the Flatlay

One of the BEST things our phone-camera phones do, is take flatly shots. This is true especially for those daytime shots.

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On instagram, a shot taken by an iPhone versus an expensive DSLR is virtually indistinguishable.

9. Wipe Your Lenses

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Front and Back.

While I wipe my back lens before every shot I take, I always forget to clean my front lens, because of my screen protector. The few times that I do remember to wipe it down, I’m immediately amazed by the fact that I have a SEVEN megapixel front-facing camera! We’re just so used to our front cameras producing low-res images, that we often forget how powerful ALL the cameras on our phones are today.

10. Don’t be Shy to Play with Filters

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But keep them consistent. If you’re trying to go for that cohesive look and feel for your insta-grid, using the same (or similar) filters constantly, can go a long way in making a beautiful feed. While I don’t personally use filters, I do have a pretty standard workflow that I put all my images through.

I suggest playing with a lot of filters, till you find the look that you like the most, and are happy to stick to, for at least your next 12 instagram posts.

11 & 12. Use Both Hands; and Stand Up

Y’know how sometimes you hear a piece of advise that seems so obvious, but you just never did it before you heard it? This is one of those moments. I know we all want to quickly take a shot of our food without disturbing our dining companions, so we try to pull the ol’ hand up – click – done move. But taking 5 more seconds to stand up, and use both hands to take the shot will actually save you so much more time in the long run.

Just for reference, this is what taking a shot with both your hands looks like. I couldn’t include it in this post, since this post is restricted to iPhone-only images.

It will help make far fewer blurry photos, and waaaay better composed shots. Just stand up, use both hands to take the shot, and sit down. At this point, we’re all taking pictures of our food. Just own it.

Soooo… now what?

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Now, let’s talk! If you’ll could ask me any questions about taking pictures with your phone, let me know in the comments below and I’m happy to help!

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Sheetal Bhagnari is a Food Photographer based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Click here to get in touch!