Usually when I get a complement on the photos here, I say something like, "Oh, it's just my camera. It takes good pictures."
Well, that's a lie.
Shame on me!
There are lots of tricks for taking great pictures with a cheap, crappy camera. My camera is a Kodak Easy Share and cost a whopping 70 bucks. I do like the cheap Kodaks better than any of the other cheap cameras out there, though.
Whatever camera you have, take time to fiddle with the settings. Try them out. And always use the highest resolution unless you need a low dpi for a particular website you're uploading to.
Ok, on to the tips:
#1 LIGHTING- Cheap cameras need lots of natural light. Flash pictures are difficult to do well with a cheap camera. Also, clouds are your friend. Your pics will come out better on a cloudy day than a bright day, because the shadows are soft and the light is even.
#2 COMPOSITION- Zero in on your subject. If it's a photo of your kid, no one wants to see your kitchen cabinets- just the kid. If it's a photo of a flower, don't fill half the frame up with grass. Crop in photoshop if you can't get close enough without blurring your subject. Also, stack your subjects if there are more than 1- kids, cups, cars, whatever; i.e, overlap your kids instead of standing them shoulder to shoulder.
#3 DON'T JUST STAND THERE- Lay down, climb up a ladder, squat. Have your kid look over her shoulder, hang upside down, etc. The angle from which you shoot can lend a lot of interest to your photos. Direct, frontal shots are often static and boring, unless you're intending to convey flatness, find an angle to shoot from!
#4 PHOTOSHOP IS YOUR FRIEND- I realize that not everyone is obsessed with tinkering with photographs. (I said I realize, not I understand!) But if you play just a bit, you can really improve your photos' appeal. Contrast is a great place to start. Increase the contrast of boring pictures to see something pop out at you; decrease the contrast of photos with bright highlights and extreme shadows to see
if it makes the image nicer to look at.
#5 WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS- Try black and white. You'll notice more interesting things about pictures when all you see is light and dark.
See? I knew all those years in art school would be worth something some day.
"Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it."