Tip #1: Frame the image properly. Framing is everything, but don't frame everything. You can fix exposure problems in Photoshop, but if you frame your image poorly, your photo is ruined. A couple of basic tips:
Tip #2: Take lots of different shots. Where possible, take a lot of shots with different settings. You'll have a lot of crappy pictures, but your odds of getting that one quot;greatquot; shot increases dramatically each time you press the shutter button. (To get the quot;greatquot; shot of one of my friends water skiing above, I had to click the shutter about 35 times!) Try taking each shot with a different setting. Some things I do to vary my shots include:
Tip #3: Pick an interesting vantage point. Try shooting the photo from different points of view. Experiment around. Be creative. Some of the best shots are from the ground up or when you're lying prone on the floor.
Tip #4: Blur out the background. When used appropriately, nothing looks cooler than having a photograph where your subject is in focus and your background is slightly blurred. This draws attention to what you want your audience to look at and elimiates that confusing quot;busyquot; factor where you have way too much detail in your photograph of things that you don't care about. (Notice how in my photo above, your eyes are drawn to the puppy's face since the background is out-of-focus. This makes the image so much more exciting). Here's where aperture comes into play: to blur out your background you need to use a large f-stop (e.g. f/2.8 if you have a fast lens). The larger the aperture (you'll need to read your camera's manual to learn how to change this setting), the more blurry the background. But beware--if you don't focus properly on your subject, your background will be sharp and your subject will be blurry!