Updated: Sep 20, 2020
1. Modern cameras are as easy, or as complex as you want to go. Most have bells and whistles that used to only be on professional cameras. So you have many neat features on everything from a point and shoot on up.
The way to handle these features is explained in the manual that came with the camera. Don't have one? No problem, check the manufacturer's website or the old reliable, Amazon. Most have download versions of the manual, or you can order one.
This will give you a way to learn the different features of your equipment so you can enjoy all the tools at your disposal. Alternatively, classes are available with many camera stores and that is also a good way to get a handle on the different features. So in my opinion the first step is: Know your camera.
2. An important creative tool in pictures is the light. Depending on the time of day, the outside light can be either harsh or pleasant and affect your picture in positive or a negative way. The best light is either in the early morning or around sunset. During the rest of the day, pay attention to the sun and the shadows. Ideally, you want to shoot with the sun to your back. Check the light.
3. How steady are you with handholding a camera? Do you need something to help keep it level, or from shaking? Often with long lenses it is very difficult to keep everything steady hand held. I have used monopods and tripods throughout my career. I have a familial tremor, which means I almost always prefer some kind of steadying device. It can be a tree limb or a fence or a small tripod or a large tripod. Different ones for different needs. Tripods have gotten much lighter in recent years and are often ideal for travel photography. Just keep up with it! Sometimes on a bus you will stow it and not think of it when you are back at the hotel and getting out for the day. If you don't have the same bus the next day, you may not have your tripod. So plan ahead and keep up with your tripod/camera. Need camera support?
4. Sometimes you have no choice but to shoot into the sun. In these cases it helps to have a lens umbrella. Choices for this include hard lens extenders or soft ones. You can easily make one with a piece or cardboard and some duct tape. Many longer lenses come with one that attaches to the front of the lens. If you choose to make one, be sure it doesn't end up in the frame or attached to the focus ring.
With point and shoot cameras, holding your hand over the top of the lens will work also. The goal is to keep the sun from causing reflections in the lens. You want your image to look normal, not have rainbows or rings in it. Keep sunspots out of the picture.
5. There are many styles of photography. What is your eye attracted to? What is your favorite subject? If you want to take pictures of your kids (or grandkids) playing soccer, that's sports photography. If you like taking photos of animals, that's either wildlife or pet photography. You get the idea. Every style has reference webpages and materials you can study and learn from. Feel free to try different styles until you found your favorite. Anyone can be a good photographer, even if you don't have an "eye" for it. So have fun experimenting and learn a new skill! Find your style.
6. If you are interested in learning to create better images, pay attention to your subject. You probably don't need as much background as you think. Ask yourself, "Why am I taking this picture? What is the main subject?" Once you are certain of that, you can concentrate on that. If you are in a national park and want to photograph, Buffalo, say, is it a better image with a group of animals or just one? Look both ways through the viewfinder and decide what story you want to tell. When. it comes down to it, photography is just another way of storytelling. Video as well, but that is more obvious as you include audio, lighting and picture together. Most cameras have video capabilities, but the techniques are not all the same. For now, we're talking still images. Focus on your main subject and tell your story.
7. The best way to become a better photographer is, as in most things, practice. Pros don't get the best shot necessarily with the first picture, especially in wildlife work. The more pictures you take, the sooner you become a better photographer. Have fun, always have your camera handy, and shoot lots of images!