1) What you see is what you get.
When you're looking in the viewfinder or at the screen on your camera, think a little bit about what you're taking a picture of. Actually take the time to consider what it is that you're seeing. Look at what your background is, and what direction the light is coming from. That photo of you with a beautiful view in the background won't look so good with some tourist in the frame of the picture. Neither will it look good with the background crooked, or with the sun facing the wrong direction.
(A little hint...when you want to view a picture full screen, "right click" on the picture, then click "open in a new window"...this will bring up a full screen image, and when you're done you can just close the window, bringing you right back to where you were on the original website you were looking at. Try it!)
Could be a good photo of Kevin playing with Whiskey and Oso.
Not so good with Ruth's shadow in the middle of it!
2) Give perspective.
Taking a photo of something abnormally large or small will always be better when you put something familiar in the photo. Easiest thing for comparison? Usually, another person.
Kevin, at the 1,400 year old Angel Oak Tree near Charleston, South Carolina.
Landscape photos almost always look better in landscape format. Very often, a photo of landscape will have too much sky or too much foreground. Crop it out for a better looking photo, especially when viewing on today's 16 x 9 format computer screens and televisions.
4) Know your camera.
Take the time to read and understand what the various settings are on your camera. Even the most basic point and shoot has some settings that you can change to improve the chances of a good photo.
5) Use post processing software.
Every time your camera takes a picture, it uses automated software to process the picture to the best of it's ability. But for most cameras, it doesn't get it perfect most of the time. Even the very best cameras don't get it right all the time. Nor the best photographers. The whole key to using post processing software is not to OVER process!
The best free software I have found is from www.fotor.com where you can either adjust your photo online, or download their software (for free!) so that you can do it on your own time.
You can straighten...
Original photo with crooked ocean! (Taken at Playa del Carmen, Mexico)
Same photo, but with a level ocean this time!
You can lighten shaded areas...
Hiking in Guatemala (original photo)
And of course a myriad of other adjustments.
So, there are several things you can try. What it comes down to is a combination of them all. To come up with the very best photo, learn to judge the original photo through the viewfinder, then use any enhancing software sparingly to make the photo even better. Your photos will be real, and captivating!