If I had to choose the one most important composition tip it would be to really look at the background before you take a picture.
When we photograph something we concentrate on that something, on the subject of the photo – after all that is what we are photographing, and when we concentrate on one thing we ignore everything around it (that is what concentration is after all – so when we take a photo, unless we make a point of looking at the background, we just don’t see it.
This tends to lead to disappointment when we look at the photo and see our great subject in front of an ugly dirty trash can (or, for pictures taken indoors, in front of a pile of dirty laundry).
This leaves us with two options – the first is to digitally remove the problematic object in the background (the few latest versions of Photoshop are absolutely amazing at that), the other option is to fix it while taking the picture and make a mental effort to look at the background before pressing the shutter.
“Fixing” the bad background is actually easy If you notice it, the easiest option is to move your subject to a better background (if possible) but you can also move right or left to throw the problem out of frame, you can shoot down the use the ground as a background or shoot up to use the sky, you can even use a flash to make the background brighter or darker in relation to the subject.
So next time you take a picture before you press the shutter take a look at the background, look for trash, dirty laundry and other objects you don’t want to include, look for mess and clutter and while your at it look for objects in the background that blend in with your subject (we’ll talk more in the future about separating the subject from the background)