This is true with photography, as well. There are no "photograph-by-numbers" or easy shortcuts to great images. It takes years of practicing the craft of photography to become truly good at it.
With that said, there are some pieces of advice that I can give to get you on your way. Below are six tips for better photographs.
#1 - Keep It Simple
Sometimes the difference between a so-so photograph and a great photograph is just a few inches. A few inches closer. A few inches to the left or right. A few inches lower or higher. Sometimes small changes to the composition results in major improvements to the image.
Often photographs are improved by subtraction and only rarely by addition. In most cases, the more that is stripped away from the composition the better. Make it obvious to the viewer what the photograph is about by taking away everything possible that does not convey the message.
#2 - Better Light Equals Better Photographs
|Big Bear Sunset - Big Bear Lake, California|
But, really, it is not enough to photograph during the golden hour. One must learn to recognize great light wherever and whenever that light appears. Sometimes one has to make their own great light.
The pursuit of great photographs is really the pursuit of great light. The sooner one understands that the better.
#3 - Use Contrast
|On A Brighter Day - Tehachapi, California|
Light contrast are areas within an image where black (or near black) and white (or near white) meet. Color contrast are areas within an image where contrasting colors (those opposite each other on a color wheel, such as red and green or blue and yellow) meet. Anytime you have light contrast or color contrast in a photograph, that is where the viewer will first look. You want to use this contrast to guide the viewer into the image and you don't want it to be someplace where you'd prefer the viewer not look first.
Texture contrast are areas within an image where two different textures meet (such as brick and grass or water and rock). Subject contrast are two opposite subjects occupying the same image (such as a wealthy man walking past a homeless man or a sports car and a kid on a tricycle). This type of contrast can add interest to what might otherwise be a boring photograph.
#4 - Use Lines And Shapes As A Guide
|Old Tracks - McKinney, Texas|
Lines protruding from the sides of the frame are not desirable, but, for whatever reason, lines from the corners will lead the viewer into the image (and not out). So if there are lines leading to the edges, if you can, put them into the corners of the frame.
#5 - Magical #3
|Three Eaves - Rosamond, California|
In portrait photography, the pyramid or triangle composition technique is often used. Basically, you should be able to draw a triangle between three faces in an image.
You might have heard someone mention the "rule of thirds" which I'm not necessarily for or against. The idea is that you place the subject in the right or left and top or bottom third of an image. It's a good starting point, but I wouldn't get too caught up in it. But it's another example of the number three being used in photography.
#6 - Tell A Story
|Rolling Dough - Tehachapi, California|
Because photography is communication, it can be used to tell stories. It can be used to speak words that might be difficult to put into literal spoken words. Photography can be powerful in this way.
Photography takes time and effort to master. It requires acquiring photographic vision. It requires being creative. It requires discovering the decisive moment. It doesn't come easy to everyone. But it is certainly not impossible to learn how to craft great photographs. The best thing to do is keep at it and don't give up.