I've one word for the amateur photographers of the world:
Seriously. Take your camera, and rotate it 90 degrees (either direction will work -- chose direction as you see fit based on mechanics and comfort). Marvel as an entirely new world of photo taking becomes available to you.
This week is Art Fair in Ann Arbor, and massive crowds of people have descended upon our city. The fair itself is cool, and I wish I had enough time to take off an entire day for wandering around. I also wish I had enough money to buy myself some artwork, but it's not feasible right now.
Anyway, because of the tourists, I see a lot of people taking photos. And I see a lot of people taking crummy photos because they don't realize that they should be rotating their camera. In my mind, the biggest problem with the construction of cameras is that they've been built in a horizontal orientation. If I were a camera maker, I would seriously market a vertical camera with the marketing premise of "better photos -- instantly."
I thought maybe the photo problem would lessen because of the LCDs on digital cameras. I mean, you don't have the excuse with film ("I can't see the picture!" -- crappy excuse anyway, because the viewfinder is the picture). People can literally see their crummy photo on screen, yet that doesn't improve the composition.
Furthermore, I'm frustrated that even people with nice cameras haven't all figured out composition. When I went to the Tiger's game a few weeks back, my friend and I had a guy with a really fancy camera take a picture of us underneath a huge, snarling tiger statue. When I looked at the picture later . . . horizontal picture, you can see that my friend and I are in there (full body, so no good closeup), and you can see a tiger paw but no snarling face. At least I have the satisfaction of knowing that I took a great picture of him and his wife.
So, in conclusion: turn your camera vertical, and look at the picture. Looks nice, no? Feel free to break the rule for a fun photo, but at least give the vertical a try. Perhaps later on this week, I'll try and post more of a tutorial with actual pictures of when to follow the rule and when to break.