First know how to use your equipment. That usually means reading the instruction books that come with everything you buy. Even if you get something used and didn’t get a manual with it, there are books on general photography that will explain a lot of camera functions in a generic sense. Practice makes perfect. Use your equipment and take a close look at your results. If you see something you would like to improve, find out what you did wrong and try again.
Choose the right equipment for the occasion. You can’t photograph a wedding in a dark church without some kind of flash. If you are after wall size prints don’t use 110 film. For general purpose photography, I would select a 35mm camera with interchangeable lenses, a good zoom lens in the range of 28mm to 85mm and a flash with a guide number of at least 90. For nature photography, I would use a good telephoto in the range of 200mm or more.
View your subject in the frame of your camera. There are a lot of pictures that would be improved considerably by getting in closer to the subject. Instead of a picture of Uncle Harry at the Grand Canyon, take a picture of the canyon, then take one of Uncle Harry. They will both look better when you get home. Watch for trees growing out of his head at the same time.
While you are at the Grand Canyon don’t try to photograph it at night with flash, it just won’t work. Know the limits of your equipment, the type of camera with a small built in flash works best when your subject is within 10 to 15 feet. It also works best with fresh batteries. Most flashes will indicate ready when they are 80 percent charged. If you can, wait a few seconds longer before taking that critical picture.
When you are photographing small fast moving subjects like children or pets, don’t try for the perfect expression and don’t make them pose for longer than a few seconds. Get set up and ready beforehand and you won’t lose them while you are fiddling with your camera, or use a good point-and-shoot so there is nothing to fiddle with. You can wait forever for the perfect expression to come along and lose several good expressions while you are waiting. Plan to take several exposures and just write off the ones that are less than perfect. In the overall scheme of things, film is pretty inexpensive.
Landscapes generally look best when taken in the early morning or late afternoon. The shadows help define your picture and give it a feeling of depth. Even outdoor portraits benefit from side lighting rather than overhead lighting. If you are early or late enough, the light will have a warmer quality that can improve your portraits.
Don’t face your subjects into the sun. Back in the old days you needed all the light you could get, but today your portraits will look a lot better with the sun to the side or even behind your subject. Just be sure the sun is not shining directly on your lens. Remember also to use a fill flash to lighten the shadows and provide detail on the face.