When people find out I'm a professional photographer there is a short list of questions that one could call a FAQ. When people find out I'm a crime scene photographer they skip the photography and the number one FAQ is “what's the grossest thing you've ever seen.”
Let's just talk photography this time. Think about the word photography, photo-graphy, It will come back to the basic fact that we are recording light, in this case an encompassing still. I say encompassing because of all of the feelings and impact a single still can make. Photography has changed the worlds opinion and my countries direction in war.
The most important thing you can do to become a better photographer and even a great photographer is to start seeing light. Well that sounds silly doesn't it? I can assure you it's not. Edward Weston, my hero, who taught Ansell Adams, used light, and composition, to such a degree that Diego Rivera declared photography a true art form. You can research all three names, you will discover that Edward Weston printed some of the 20th centuries most important works in a shack with a bad roof and a single hanging light. With all that said, let's put down the idea that the camera or rather the technology makes the photograph. Please bury that idea now.
Two Boys by Candlelight, Blowing a Bladder circa 1767-1773 painted by Joseph Wright a British painter who lived from 1734 to 1797, can be seen at the Huntington Library or online. Study paintings just like it and the ones from Diego Rivera and anything online you can find from Edward Weston and then walk around outside and try to notice when something looks its best. You will then imprint and make your mind ready to capture something when the lighting is best. Once you gain some experience you will be able to predict when the lighting is best and truly enter the realm of being a great photographer.
Look at something like a car, take a few steps left, then right, and notice when the car or portion of the car looks its best. After you determine the best view just from a lighting perspective turnaround and notice if it's a bright day or a cloudy day, you can use your cell phone camera to take a picture in both directions and just study it.
I know this sounds simplistic, but if you look at the master painters, the master photographers, and just try to occasionally see something well lit, it will make the biggest and best impact on you to becoming the photographer you may dream of being. Your brain and perception will always be the most important tool.