10 easy ways to improve your photography skills

Conversely, sometimes you need to get up high – find a vantage point or an unusual angle which will really change your subject matter. Also, change your camera's orientation; don't just shoot everything with the camera horizontal. If shooting portraits, rotate the camera so it's vertical, and fill the frame.

4. Using the flash

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Most people leave their camera's flash on automatic, which means it only gets used at night and indoors. However, by changing the settings you can take more creative pictures. One of the biggest problems with taking pictures outside is that parts of the face can cast shadows.

To even this up you can use a technique called fill-in flash, by setting the flash to go off even though the camera thinks there is plenty of light. The flash will eliminate the shadows and give a better tonal range to your subject.

At night, you can take some great shots of lit buildings, or sunsets, by turning the flash off, but you will need to make sure the camera doesn't move, as the exposure time will often be longer.

5. Get up close and personal

Most cameras have a macro mode, which enables you to take close-up pictures. While not as flexible as a dedicated macro lens on an SLR camera, you should be able to get within a few inches of your subject, enabling you to take full-frame pictures of flowers, large insects or other small-scale objects.

Macro mode is indicated by a flower icon, and you'll have to experiment to see how close you can get before the camera is unable to focus. You need plenty of light for macro shots – the flash isn't going to be any good, as the object will be too close to the lens, so choose a really sunny day and try using white card to reflect light on to your subject.

When taking a normal shot try and fill the frame, and get everyone to huddle together. This way, you'll end up with a more interesting shot than a line of people standing in the middle-distance.

6. Add colour and tone

If you find your pictures often end up looking dull, with the colours looking washed out, there are a couple of things you can do.

Have a look at your camera settings to see if you can control the contrast or saturation of your images. A picture with low contrast will have lots of mid-tones, and look rather flat, while a picture with high-contrast will have crisp black and whites and more depth. Many cameras will have scene modes, which help to add saturation and contrast.

Also, try playing with the white balance, which will change the tonality of an image. Setting the white balance to cloudy will add warmth to a picture, for example.

If you use programs such as Adobe Photoshop Elements or Corel's Paint Shop Pro, you can use the Levels tool to add contrast to your pictures. All you need to do is look at the tone graph, and drag the end points in, so they just touch the ends of the graph, but experimentation is the key. Photo editing packages enable you to tweak the saturation, but don't go overboard or your images will look artificial.

Photographers will use a polarising filter to give deep blue skies and rich colours to landscapes. Most compact cameras can't do this, but if you own a pair of polarising sunglasses, place one lens in front of the camera lens to achieve a similar result.

7. Get the right accessories

The memory cards supplied with cameras are usually so small as to be practically useless, so we recommend you buy at least two of the highest-capacity cards you can afford and make sure you never delete the images until you have backed them up on to your laptop first.