Whether we take photographs of our holidays, our hobbies, our family, for business, for pleasure, or because we are camera club members and want to do well in competitions, we all have a desire to produce better pictures and would like to impress our friends with pictures having the 'wow' factor. However, before the 'wow' must come the 'how'. We see many posts on this forum from new photographers who want to improve their photography and see buying a new camera as the way to achieving that goal. Unfortunately, for most people, this isn't the solution. Often, when that still doesn't produce the right results, the next step is to consider upgrading the next perceived weak link in the system - the lens. All this can become a costly business. Fortunately, it is easy to improve your photography enormously for very little cost. If that's what you want, then read on. Cameras are now mass-market consumer items as opposed to something that was once considered to be the realm of the enthusiast. The computer age and digital photography has led the marketing departments to make everybody believe that anything is possible with just a click of a button. Sadly, this isn't true. Though a modern digital camera can let us see results on a LCD screen moments after taking a shot and that D&P costs no longer restrict the number of shots taken, the basic principles of photography remain essentially as they have been for the past 150 or so years. Think of your camera as a tool. A tool that has potential to make a masterpiece. Like any tool, it's not the tool itself that produces the masterpiece but how it is used and that comes down to you, the user. It is your skill that ultimately produces the image and not the technology in the camera. Yes, technology can help (though it sometimes gets in the way too!) but the basic principle is that a camera, like a computer, is essentially dumb and doesn't do a great lot unless we direct it. That's where our skill and knowledge of photography comes in. After all, I can't go to the High Street and buy the same canvasses, the same paint and the same brushes that van Gogh used and expect to paint like him. I need to master the tools. So, how is this achieved? Well, we have to learn the basics of photography. I'm not suggesting that we enrol in 3-year degree course and learn all the obscure theory but we do have to learn the basics. Neither is it a case of reading the camera instruction manual in much the same way as reading a car owners manual doesn't teach you how to drive. So, what do you do? Well, buying a good book on photography is an excellent first step. Don't just buy it though - read it from cover to cover and try out the techniques mentioned. A lot of photographic learning is by trying things out and seeing what results you get so theory must be followed with practise. Buy photo magazines - these often contain lots of high quality images than can inspire you or give you ideas for your own work. If you like what you see, ask yourself how the image was taken and what you need to be able to take photographs like that. Also consider evening classes, joining a camera club (there are good ones and bad ones so don't just try the first one near you for one evening only) and there's even AP's own School of Photographic Imaging (SPI) whereby you can undertake distance learning at your own pace. So, before thinking that your equipment doesn't take decent photos and that you should buy something else, ask yourself whether it's really your own knowledge that needs to be upgraded. With the right technique, a £50 camera can produce marvellous results while a £1000 camera will never produce anything decent if you don't understand what it is doing for you. £20 spent on a learning photography book is a far better investment than spending £500 on a new camera. OK, a new camera is nice and if we just want something to impress our friends but it's only good until it is superseded by the next model. A good photograph, on the other hand, will stay a good photograph forever. Remember that it's not the camera you have, but what you do with it that makes the difference. From my personal experience, a good photograph is made up as follows: 1) Artistry, knowledge and skill of the photographer 70% 2) Quality of the lens used 20% 3) The actual camera used 10% So, addressing 1) is not only the cheapest option but the one that has the most impact on the final result. Good luck!