5 Steps To Better Pictures
Stop calling yourself a photographer.
Because unless other people address you as such, you are most likely a person with a camera. For example, I do not call myself a photographer, because I'm not. The most adequate description I can think of is maybe mixed media producer?
Lesson: Even owning a fancy DSLR does not make you a photographer.
Buy a decent camera.
As we saw in step 1, having a fancy camera will not MAKE you talented or MAKE you creative, it will simply MAKE you have a cool camera and poorer. It is, however, impossible to argue against the benefits of owning a DSLR versus a lame point and shoot if you really want to know your way around taking a photo.
Lesson: DSLR cameras are way better than Sony Mavicas.
Know how to operate said camera.
It is essential to know the basics of your camera, once you have the basic grasp of what all the different buttons and things do, your improvement will advance exponentially. You should know how to properly expose a shot using aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. I's not saying that you need to intensely study light theory, but you do need to know the ins and out of your camera body.
Lesson: Knowledge is power.
Get a decent lens.
After you know how to actually use your camera, you are going to outgrow the kit lens that came with the DSLR body. Once you read THIS article, you will immediately throw your kit lens away. Depending on what you take pictures of will depend on what lens you will want to upgrade to. If you are a landscape photographer, I would recommend a wider angle lens. If you are a portrait photographer I would recommend a 50mm or 85mm depending on your crop factor.
Lesson: Consistently good photos require consistently good glass.
Shoot in RAW.
When you shoot in JPEG you are compressing the picture before it ever leaves the camera. What that means is that you will have much less color depth and much less flexibility to color grade your final product. Shooting in RAW also doesn't pin you to the "baked in" nature of a compressed JPEG, so even if you fail to color balance and overexpose the shot, everything can be fixed in post.
Lesson: Don't be afraid to need to use Bridge to import to Photoshop.
Now go out there and take better pictures! WOOT!