Although I do run most of my photos through Photoshop and make various edits on them, I feel strongly that the best photos start out great in the camera (in other words, if it's not a great shot in the camera, Photoshop can't help much). These five tips I'm sharing are just a few ways you can take what might have been just a good shot and make it great. These are NOT rules; if they were I would be breaking them left and right! After reading through them, leave a comment sharing a way you make your photos more interesting.
1. Use motion blur
When capturing sports and wildlife, the goal is often to freeze the action. Sometimes, however, slowing down the action can make the photo even more interesting. There are a few different ways to do this. One way is to keep your camera still (using a tripod for any exposure longer than about 1/3s) and let the subject move. The result will be a blur of movement while the rest of the photo is still (like the carousel photo above). Another method is to pan with the subject, moving the camera with it and letting the background become a blur (like the taxi photo above). Both of these methods require you to stop down your aperture (if it's broad daylight, go down to f/22), keep your ISO as low as it will go, and have a shutter speed of at least 1/10s, if not slower. I use Av mode, and adjust only the aperture and ISO, having the camera decide the shutter speed. Another way to create motion blur with slow moving subjects (such as clouds, water, or even people) during the day is to use a neutral density filter. If you're not sure how to do this, read my post on it.
2. Approach Your Subject From an Angle
Though capturing a subject straight on can make for a pleasing image, sometimes going at it from an angle can make all the difference. This works really well for architecture, but also for other types of subjects, such as the bobble head photo above.
3. Shoot When the Light's Right
Whatever you do, do not refuse to go out and shoot because the light's not perfect. You can get gorgeous shots at any time of day. That said, if you want to add a certain magical quality to your photos, shooting right around sunrise and sunset will give you a gorgeous light to work with. In the late afternoon and early morning (the hour or so before sunset or after sunrise), you get beautiful golden light, and in the half an hour or so before sunrise or after sunset, you get lovely blur light. The golden light especially is great for portraits. It's all very photogenic, and it's the reason why many photographers refuse to shoot during the rest of the day (although I am not one of them). If you have an opportunity to photograph a location when the light is right, don't pass it up!
4. Use a Fast Aperture to Blur the Background (Not Just For Portraits!)
I'll admit it, I love bokeh (the out of focus bits in a photo). I find a photo instantly more interesting if the subject is isolated from the background. I especially love to do this in somewhat unconventional ways, as you see in the photos above. Usually f/2.8 and faster (f/2, f/1.8, f/1.4, f/1.2, etc.) are considered fast apertures. The photos above were both shot at f/1.4. Challenge yourself to use bokeh in scenes you didn't think you wanted it before!
5. Frame Your Subject
Look for something (usually trees, but as you see above in one case I used a window) to frame your subject. It draws your eyes in and the photo looks more complete.
If you enjoyed this post, you may also find my post on adding people to your shots useful.
Tools I used to create the photos this post: Canon EOS Rebel T1i, Canon EOS Rebel T2i (both replaced by Canon EOS Rebel T5i), Canon EOS 6D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, Canon EF 50mm f/1.4, Canon Speedlite 270ex (replaced by Canon Speedlite 270ex II, Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM, Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM, Adobe Photoshop CS4, Adobe Photoshop CS6