I started learning photography about six months ago. Before that, I took photos without any photography knowledge, and just with a cellphone. I want to share what I've learned so far, where I learned from, and how I learned to make the progress for these photos (from Instagram):

Photos

Fundamentals

When I first started with a DSLR, I had no idea what I was doing. I learned about the photography fundamentals from a lovely website called r-photoclass. These are the concepts I found most useful in terms of getting a sharp and clean photo:

Learning these concepts was probably the biggest stepping stone for me into photography.

Composition

A sharp image doesn't mean anything if it's uninteresting. A few things I learned that quickly improved my photos:

  • Get close to the subject when shooting wide (zoomed out). If everything in the photo is equally small, the viewer doesn't know what to look at. Get close to the subject, and let it dominate the photo.
  • Get down (or up) on the subject. Try shooting close to the ground, or higher up. Those perspectives could be more interesting than shooting at eye-level.
  • Learn about how the to bring the background closer by zooming in, or make the background smaller by zooming out: http://www.r-photoclass.com/04-focal-length/
  • Leading lines: pay attention to the lines around you: a road, a trail, a line of trees, etc. These will give the photo more depth and capture the viewers more.
  • Natural framing: shoot through a door, a hole in a fence, trees on both sides of the photo, etc.

When to shoot

When I first started, I was just a mad men with a camera filling up the memory card every time I went out. That didn't help me improve, and required a lot of time weeding through the (mostly bad) photos when I got back on the computer. Here are a few things I've done differently:

  • Shoot at sunrise and sunset time. The colors are nicer. There are more shadows to work with.
  • Trigger discipline: I forced myself to really think about the subject, the framing, and the story behind the scene before committing to a photo. Walk around a little bit to find a good composition before setting up the tripod and the camera down.

These days, I usually take 3 - 5 photos on a good outing, and none on bad ones.

Post processing

The truth is, all the popular photos you see are seldom straight from the camera. Most underwent heavy processing. I always thought that I was doing something wrong because "my photos don't pop like theirs". This is a matter of personal taste. There are tons of tutorial on YouTube for processing photos with Lightroom, Photoshop, etc.

Miscellaneous learnings

  • You don't need expensive gears to take good photos. They help, but not as much as one would think.
  • Find inspiration from other photographers on YouTube, Instagram, etc. Thomas Heaton's videos do a fantastic job walking through his thought process and work that lead up to the final shot. Another YouTube channel I really like is Photography Concentrate with Lauren & Rob.

Practice, practice, practice

Last but not least, the one thing that helped me improve the most was just a lot of practice. I'm not gonna lie, it's hard work to wake up before sunrise, drive and hike for miles just for a photo. In the end, it's totally worth it; so get out there!