No matter what type of photos you take, a few general tips will take you a long way.
Consider the Rule of Thirds. Divide the image into a 3 x 3 grid and try to position the main subject of the photo where the lines intersect (Figure B.3). If your photo will have strong horizontal (as in a horizon) or vertical lines (as in a building), try to keep them on the horizontal or vertical lines. Centering can work, but tends to be a bit dull for anything but portraits.
Figure B.3. Note how the heads of Tristan and his cousin Madeline are at the intersections of the grid, increasing visual interest and emphasizing their interaction.
Pay attention to where the light comes from and try to avoid shooting into strong light. It's better to shoot with light at your back (make sure your subjects aren't squinting) or to one side whenever possible. If you have to take a picture of people who have the sun behind them, turn on your flash to light up their faces, which will otherwise be too dark.
Don't be afraid to shoot from odd angles or unusual heights. Digital cameras encourage experimentation, and playing around can produce some great shots.
Avoid a busy background that will distract the eye from the subject of the photo (Figure B.4).
Figure B.4. This photo shows the value of an uncluttered backgroundthe blank wall helps the eye focus on the man in the scene. Note too that the fact that he's only half in the frame increases the power of the photo. Sometimes in photography, as in graphic design, some "white space" can improve the image.
Keep the camera steady, particularly when you're shooting in low light without the flash. The beauty of the LCD screen on the camera is that you can set the camera on a solid object to shoot, even when it's not at a comfortable height.
Remember that the flash on most small digital cameras works well only to about 10 feet. Relying on room light is tricky, but the more light you can throw on the subject in a normal room, the better.