Get your light, focus, composition right
The three key features that make a memorable photograph are: light, focus, composition. If you get this right, then your job is done. You can be assured of a great photograph. If, however, you let the camera's automatic functions carry out these tasks then you will get a photograph, but not a great photograph.
Light, needless to say, is the most critical element in photography. There can be no picture without sufficient light. When shooting, you must make sure that the light is falling on the subject (s). If you place the subjects in the shadow then you will end up getting dark faces only.
Sun is the best source of light. However, you must avoid taking pictures at full noon because then the sun is at its zenith. It throws very short shadows and produces an intense, white light which is not good for photography.
The best light is when the sun is lower on the horizon - either in the morning or in the evening. During these hours, light has a soft golden red hue that adds to the colors in the picture.
The availability of light becomes even more critical in indoor photography. One way to overcome the paucity of light is to use a flash. The other is to go for a longer exposure so that the sensor is sufficiently charged. However, when doing so you should use a tripod. This takes away the possibility of the camera shaking in your hands.
When it comes to focus you need special skills. One way is to let your camera do it, especially if it can set the aperture and shutter speed automatically for portraits, landscapes or group photographs. But then you don't learn anything.
Some of the points that you need to keep in mind while fixing focus are:
a) A small aperture will produce a wider depth of field. This is most suited for landscapes. To narrow the size of the aperture you need to increase the f-stop settings.b) For portraits or single subjects you need wide aperture. This will reduce the depth of field and the focus will be sharper.
Composition helps you frame the photograph by removing the extraneous elements from the scene. You can place the subject in the middle of the frame, along the diagonal or in the corner. You can use light falling through a window to make the frame or use a car's rearview mirror to frame the subject.
Your effort should be to get as many different angles of your subject, and then select one which focuses best on the subject. Remember, the best composed photograph is that which draws your attention immediately to the subject.
Once you have mastered these three -- light, composition and focus - you can safely say that you have become a good photographer.