For most of us, our cell phone is our constant companion. It’s our lifeline to our loved ones, our personal organizer and a portable games/music/movie machine. It’s also the digital camera that we’ll always have.

Gone are the days of saying “I wish I had my camera” when there’s an awesome cloud formation or when baby takes his first steps. And because you want those memories to last forever, it’s important to get the best pictures you can. To help out, here are five easy tips for getting the most out of the camera in your phone.

1. Rule of thirds

Ever wonder why you’d want a grid layered on your viewscreen while in camera mode? Composition. The right composition can make or break a great photo. The Rule of Thirds says to divide shots into thirds vertically and horizontally using a grid, then place the subject either where these lines intersect or within one of the “thirds.” Amazingly, this simple rule reduces vast amounts of empty space, helps your camera focus and creates visually appealing images.

2. Aim high: More megapixels, please

Argue if you must about its importance, but having a high-definition (HD) sensor on your smartphone’s camera means you’ll get a more detailed, higher resolution picture. More detail means it’ll be easier to zoom, crop and edit the image once it is taken. Most smartphones boast camera resolutions between 5 and 8 megapixels, but popular models, including the Sony Xperia Z, the LG G2 and the Samsung Galaxy series, deliver 13 megapixels, while the Nokia Lumia 1020 weighs in at a whopping 41 megapixels.

More than enough to handle basic day-to-day snapshots, these extra megapixels and HD sensors really help with shooting subjects that are far away (without using zoom) and in low light conditions. Some phones allow you to adjust the number of megapixels captured, so check your settings menu and adjust to your needs.

Remember, higher resolution images take up more space in your phone. So taking multiple shots and not deleting the ones you dislike puts future snapshots at risk. If needed, upgrade to a larger capacity mini SD card, similar to the one in your point-and-shoot camera.

3. Bring the action: Burst mode captures it all

Kids don’t usually stop for pictures. So, you probably have more than your fair share of blurry, “artsy” shots of your kids in action. Burst mode is a function that takes a series of shots back-to-back and captures different points in the action. This is your best friend when trying to capture your kid’s holiday hip-hop routine or new skateboard trick. If your phone’s camera has this function, you should be able to easily engage it through your phone settings or by simply holding the shutter release button.

Apps are a great leveler when it comes to making the most of your smartphone camera. Camera Genius, Action Snap, Ultra Burst and Quad Camera are just a few that introduce burst mode to your phone’s camera and increase the likelihood of getting that perfect shot.

4. Use a timer

One solution to blurry photos that you’ve probably never considered? Using the timer. You might only think to use the timer if you want to get into the shot yourself, but it is actually your best defense against the blur-inducing tap of pressing the “shoot” button. What you’ll lose in spontaneity you’ll gain in pristine pictures.

5. Don’t zoom

Your smartphone’s lens is fixed. So when you zoom in on something, your phone just blows up the image. Frankly, you’ll get better results by cropping and resizing a portion of an image after you’ve taken the picture. Better still, use the “human zoom” and get as physically close as you can to your subject. If you really can’t get closer, make sure you’re using your phone’s camera at its highest megapixel setting. That way, you’ll be able to zoom in after the picture is downloaded.

Extra credit

Here are a couple more tips you may also want to consider.

Keep your lens clean. When your phone is rattling around in your bag or pocket, fibers and dust will undoubtedly find their way onto your phone’s camera lens. So before you start snapping shots, simply wipe the lens with a clean microfiber cloth. You’ll avoid the disappointment of images obscured by eyelashes and crumbs.

Invest in a tripod. There’s no better way to avoid camera shake.

What to do with your gorgeous new pictures? More megapixels give you higher resolution images that are perfect for large prints, wall art or photo books for friends and family. These gifts are golden come anniversaries, birthdays, Mother’s Day and Christmas.

Now that you’ve added all these tips to your camera bag of tricks, the most important thing to remember is: Always have fun. Ready, set, snap!