If you want to improve your photos what's the first thing you have to do?

Do you get a new camera?

Do you need to buy a good tripod?

Should you pay for Photoshop?

No, No, No. The answers to these questions is No. The first thing you need to do is practice the three main guidelines every photographer uses when creating a great photograph.

These guidelines don't include what kind of camera you are using or what settings are on your camera when you snap the picture. It really comes down to training your eye to compose a good photo. Every photographer follows three basic guidelines when they are setting up to take a photo.

The first one is to make sure your subject is clear. You can be telling a story about a subject, but your subject should be very clear to everyone who looks at your photo. The second guideline is to make sure the focus is on your subject. Make sure the viewer's eye is drawn to the subject of your photo. The last one is that less is more. Keep your photo simple, the less things that are distracting the viewer from your subject the better.

Now, how do photographers remember these guidelines? They remember by asking themselves three simple questions every time they are about to take a photo. 

Question One: what is this photo about? 

Question Two: How can I focus the viewer's attention on what my photo is about.

Question Three: How can I make this photo as simple as possible by eliminating everything that is distracting to the viewer from what my photo is about.

It seems kind of simple, but these three questions asked before every shutter click, will truly enhance your photos. The photo below is of a Sandpiper that I recently took while on visiting Jetty Island. I think we should ask those three questions about my Sandpiper photo.

1. What is this photo about? It's a photo of a Sandpiper digging in the sand looking for dinner.

2. How can I focus the viewer's attention on the digging Sandpiper? I chose to focus the viewer's attention by making sure the Sandpiper was close to the center of my photo and that my Sandpiper was very large in the photo.

3.How can I make this photo as simple as possible? I decided to crop out all of the other Sandpipers on the beach by waiting for them to run off down the beach except this one last little guy. I also cropped out some big pieces of driftwood on the edges of my photo so the eye would only see the Sandpiper as the wave receded.

Now, I challenge you to go through your photos and ask yourself these three questions to each of your photos for practice. Then go out, shoot some birds, and use the three questions to maximize your photos impact. If you want to learn more about the basics of digital photography sign up for my basic photography class.