It could be said that while most people take pictures, photographers make pictures. Photography is both an eye for beauty and close attention to every detail that goes into a photograph.

What goes into a good picture

  • As little as possible. The best photographs are often the simplest. Keep your subject simple and try to eliminate anything from the frame that doesn't need to be there.
  • A good subject. This obviously varies by the taste of the photographer, but the subject should be carefully chosen for the effect you want to achieve.
  • Good light. Photographers hate high noon on a cloudless day. Too much contrast between light and dark will exceed the limits of your film or digital sensor. A soft, diffuse light is preferred for many pictures.
  • Fancy equipment? Well, not really. A good photographer needs only a way to focus light and a medium to capture it. Cameras don't do the thinking for you, they only do what you tell them to.
    Nevertheless, many photographers are equipment fanatics. Just don't fall into the trap of thinking that a better camera or lens will make a better picture, they only expand your possibilities.
  • A lot of not so good pictures. Many good pictures depend as much on luck as on skill. Even professionals consider one good picture out of thirty to be a good day.

What to pay attention to when taking a picture

  • Watch your background. Distracting details often slip into the background unnoticed.
  • Watch your foreground. Tree branches or blades of grass can get between you and the subject. They are often missed because they are out of focus, but they do detract from the final photo.
  • Check the edges of the frame. Make sure that nothing intrudes on the edge of the frame. Also ensure that nothing is creeping its way off of the frame that you do not intend.
  • Level the frame. If the horizon or other horizontal lines are supposed to be level, make sure they are before pressing the trigger.
  • Depth of field. This is hard to judge, but you should try to ensure that not only is your focal point, well, in focus, but that you have the right amount of depth of field to keep the right parts of your picture either in or out of focus.

I should also point out that some of the best photographs are those that blatantly violate the accepted norms. Severely over- or under-exposing a photo can achieve a quite striking effect. Motion blur is often avoided at all costs, but can also be used to de-focus everything but your subject. The key is to know exactly where you're crossing the line and what benefit your photograph will gain.