The cameras built into today's mobile phones are far more than the gimmick they once were. We leave our digital camera at home and use a Samsung Galaxy S to take some fantastic photographs.

The camera built into mobile phones used to be offered as a gimmick rather than a serious device for photography. At best, an early handset might have had a 1Mp camera, and the first iPhone offered just 2Mp. The images captured were usually grainy and lacked sharpness and vivid colour.

But today’s smartphones increasingly feature 5Mp-plus cameras, LED flashes and image stabilisation. Your handset may also offer basic editing tools, while unusual effects can be added using free applications such as fxCamera and Picsay for Google Android smartphones, and Hipstamatic for Apple iPhone. Images can then be uploaded to a social-networking or photo-hosting site for your friends and family to admire.

In fact, the standard of cameras built into smartphones is now so good that you may even find yourself leaving your digital camera at home for certain occasions.

Here, we present tips to help you capture great images using your mobile phone. We discuss when you should use the flash to light up your scenes, and when altering the ISO rating is a better bet. We also look at how to deal with blurred shots, the addition of special effects and how to set up timed capture.

Step 1. First, decide whether or not you need to use the flash. Even in bright sunlight, it can be an effective secret weapon in providing a burst to compensate for sharp shadows and underexposure. The flash punches up details when you’re within a few feet, so stay close to your subject.

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Step 2. When shooting at night, adjusting the ISO setting can be more effective than using the flash. Don’t crank up the ISO too far as you’ll end up with noise in your shots. Alter the ISO in the main camera settings menu. When you’re ready to take a photo, hold the camera steady and turn on the stabiliser (if there is one).

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The cameras built into today's mobile phones are far more than the gimmick they once were. We leave our digital camera at home and use a Samsung Galaxy S to take some fantastic photographs.

Step 3. If you’re getting blurred shots, hold the camera still. Hold it with both hands, and keep your elbows tucked into the sides of your body for support. Press the shutter button, but make no other movement until the image has been taken. If you’re shooting with ample light, try increasing the shutter speed too.

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Step 4. Blur can sometimes be used to your advantage, allowing you to focus on a subject while blurring the background. This can be achieved when both camera and subject move together. Try focusing on a friend as you walk together, keeping the subject in the same position in the frame. This effect works best in darker situations.

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Step 5. A timer is a useful function for capturing good images. Our Samsung Galaxy S’s timer is accessible in the Camera, Settings menu. If your handset doesn’t have a timer, download Camera Zoom FX from the Android Market. This timer gives you up to 10 seconds to get in the shot once you’ve pressed the capture button.

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Step 6. Try adding an effect, such as a sepia filter. You’ll find this option under Camera, Settings, Effects. Another effective trick is to shoot from an unusual perspective – try capturing a group shot from a low angle after your team conquers a mountain, for example. And always get close to your subject.

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