I have compiled a list of "pet peeves" I have about amateur nature/landscape photographers, and decided to put them to use as small list of tips to help you amateurs and wannabe-pros out. Just because you buy a DSLR doesn't mean you will automatically shoot like a pro.
1. Keep your horizon straight. The best way to do this is to pay attention to the guides that are built into your camera viewfinder. If you do shoot a horizon that is more than a bit askew, you can easily fix it in Photoshop, or any other image-editing software. (Just Google "straighten horizon in photoshop" or whichever program you use).
There is nothing more annoying to me than a crooked horizon, it just hurts my eyes.
2. Composition is key. Try to keep your own shadow out of your shot. You can try shooting from a lower angle, which is usually more visually pleasing to me anyway.
3. Follow the "Rule of Thirds" (Google it for more info) whenever possible. I don't like to see a skinny little tree right-smack in the middle of a horizontal landscape shot. It's not appealing. Keep your tall, skinny subjects to the side of your shot.
4. Try to keep random people out of your shot, especially if they're really far away. I don't like to see little "ants" on the beach. Some people find it acceptable, but I don't. I'm a landscape purist. I don't fancy seeing random people in the background of landscape shots. I wouldn't buy a print of your work if it had a person in it.
5. Put that flash down! I really hate it when the amateur photographer uses a flash outdoors. It destroys the quality of the natural light God has given us. That is why Man created the tripod. Buy one, use it.
6. Slightly out-of-focus, or slight motion-blur: Always "bracket" your shots (which means shoot 2-3 shots of your subject) so you have an extra if the first doesn't work out. Sometimes you can't tell in the preview on your camera if your image is only slightly blurry, so be sure to snap a few extra so you have a good one. You don't want to get home and load it on the computer and realize that your only shot of that subject doesn't look so great in full-size.
7. Read a tutorial or a book on HDR technique before you attempt it. HDR is one of those things that can make or break your photo. It can look stunning, or hideous, depending on your technique. Trust me, I learned that lesson the hard way. Bad HDR technique is not a pretty sight. Some prefer the surreal approach, but I prefer to keep it as natural as possible.
8. Bokeh - learn it, use it. I don't like distracting backgrounds anymore than anyone else. Decrease your aperture when taking close-ups of flowers or animals, so your background will be out of focus, and you'll have a beautiful blurred background.
9. Blown-out (white) sky. If you're not into HDR yet, or you simply don't like it, then be sure your sky always stays blue (or you'll be able to see the cloud formations on a cloudy day, as opposed to blank white/gray sky) by using a graduated neutral density filter. It will give you less exposure in the sky, keeping it properly exposed, while giving you the freedom to properly expose your subject on land or sea. You'll have to play around with it a bit at first to get a feel for how it works, but once you get the hang of it, you'll wonder how you ever lived without it.
10. Lens Distortion. Yeah, I'm just going to send you over to this article for this one.
Well, that's it for me. I hope you enjoyed this little guide to better DSLR photography. Keep shooting.
P.S. I am not trying to be mean or snotty, I'm just having a little fun, please don't take anything I say personally. Thank you. :-)