although I'm certainly not a professional photographer by any means, I wanted to share a couple tips that have helped me improve my images and hopefully will help improve yours, too. these tips are pretty basic and can be achieved even with a point and shoot camera. so, NO excuses will be tolerated!
tip #1: capturing the "catch lights" in the eyes (those little twinkles)
this shot was taken on my covered patio. what I did was brought her up to the line where the shade ended and the sun light started. I faced her towards the light source and voila, nice, bright eyes. it also helps if you stand over your subject and have them look up at you. for a fuller effect, have them not smile so big. as you can see here, ella's smile does make her eyes squint up a bit.
you can also achieve the same effect indoors. simply bring your subject close to a window or patio door and have them look towards the light source. this shot actually has more side lighting than front lighting but it still lit up her eyes quite a bit. notice she's not full out smiling so it makes her eyes soak up the light even more.
tip #2: composure
for great composure, think "rule of thirds". when you look through the frame of your camera, imagine it as a box divided into three, from top to bottom and left to right. you want to place your subject into the left or right third of that box and try to line up the eyes in the top third and slightly off-center of your frame. like this picture of chloe. notice she is in the right third of the frame and her eyes are in the top and right third of the frame. it will give your image more visual interest than just centering it.
another example of composure, this time on the left third. don't be afraid to chop off part of your subject's head, either. it's not an act of crime and no one will arrest you. take profile pictures. your subject doesn't always have to be looking. also, try tilting your camera which will angle your subject, giving it more of an artsy appeal. here's an example of that:
get high and get low. go on your belly or stand on a chair for different angles. think outside the box. get down to your subject's level. make it a workout!
tip #3: just have fun
look for places of interest. neat architecture. doors. windows.