(just a few tips.)
1. On Portraits
The best time to take portraits is around sunrise and sunset because there won't be as many funky shadows on the model's face. If neither of those times work, then taking pictures in the shade works, too. Typically, you don't want to take pictures looking up at the model. It's more flattering to look down.
2. The Rule of Thirds
This is probably one of my favorite techniques. Imagine that your picture is divided into nine even sections. So, two lines horizontally, and two lines vertically, spaced out evenly. Then instead of always putting your subject in the center section, put it in one of the other ones.. So, something like this:
|see how it's not in the center? it's to the side. that's what i mean.|
There are so many different ways to photograph one subject. Don't forget that. You can shoot from above, like the Rule of Thirds example, or from below, or perfectly level, or any place in between.
|a favorite "from below" example of mine, mainly because the bottom one is trying for a piece of bread.|
Unless going for a specific kind of picture, try to keep clutter out of the background. Cars, tarps, telephone wires, sometimes people, etc. Clutter (no offense to people).
5. On the Technical Side
A few guidelines.
ISO-the darker it is, the higher this should be. But the higher it is, the more grainy/noisy the picture will be.
White balance-I think this is fairly explanatory. If it's sunny outside, use the sunny option. Cloudy, cloudy option. In the shade? Guess which option you use? Good job.
Shutter speed-the lower your shutter speed, the longer it's open, so the more light the opening will let in. So the lower the shutter speed, the lighter the picture will be. The higher the shutter speed, the darker the picture will be.
Aperture-the higher your aperture is, the smaller the opening is. The lower your aperture is, the bigger the opening is. So, high aperture equals a darker picture, while a low aperture equals a lighter picture. This also does something to the depth of field...but I don't really understand that yet. (One of these days, I'll understand it ALL. Right? >.<)
Flash-ew.ew.ew.ew.ew. Sometimes flash is inevitable. So use a piece of paper (although I prefer gels. But paper is more accessible) to cover the flash. This will help some. Although I still reallyreallyreally don't like flash. Different colored paper will give you different results. I think.
|an example of what your picture will look like if your ISO is too high. ew.|
6. Don't Compare too Much
You see someone else's photography. You go HOLY CRUD I WISH I WAS THAT GOOD. And then you know what you do? You copy them (sometimes). And that's not nice. You know what else you do? You start feeling terrible about your photography when, in all reality, you're probably freaking awesome at it. You're also probably forgetting that you're you, and they're them. AND that with diligent practice, you'll probably get better.
I'm not saying I've never done this. I envy Hannah and Carlotta's ability to take beautiful pictures of everyday moments. Jasmine's photos glow. Jocee's always seem meaningful (I don't know why. They just do).
7. Do Improve
See what the photographers you admire do to make their pictures so awesome. Some will give away tips if you ask them. Some give them away without being asked.
Appreciate the beauty that they've captured.
See that their style is unique, and yours is too. And your style is yours.