... and I think it boils down to Clarity, Color/Contrast, Composition/Cropping, and Content.
(My 4 C's of Photography?)
I don't have any secrets for taking clear/sharp pictures, other than having a decent camera (which, for me, means auto-focus!) and holding it still. The better the lighting, the less still I need to be.
However, tripods plus a timer to delay the picture taking by a few seconds can be extremely useful - especially if you have to be an active participant in the picture taking process (by squeaking a toy just out of range, or holding bait, or...)
Clarity is imporant for the principle subject, but a soft "fuzzy" background adds atmosphere to pictures, which is a plus. It also hides the fact you didn't think ahead and pose the dog away from hoses, garbage cans, and the like (see Composition, below). Some camera's have a "portrait" mode that helps create a "fuzzy" background. You can also get it using "macro" mode (my favorite!) and taking extreme close-ups.
(It has something to do with focal length, I think, but I don't really know that much about photography.)
The pictures people comment on the most (of mine) are the high contrast ones. Those are actually very easy to take, assuming you can find the right conditions. A light subject, with strong natural lighting from the side coupled with an shadowed background does it every time. It's an exposure thing - the camera sets the exposure for the light subject and everything else goes black.
(That's about all I can say - remember, I don't know that much about photography!)
Color is subjective, and as my dogs don't have much, I don't have much to say. In a perfect world, I would find backgrounds that complemented their color. At the moment, they look stunning posed on the fallen leaves of our Bradford pear tree.
Composition/Cropping: Yup, two more C's together. That's because mediocre composition can sometimes be improved by good cropping!
I do know that centering your subject smack dab in the middle of the picture, unless doing a portrait, is boring. Of course, I do it all the time, since that's how you get the auto-focus to focus on what you want, and not the ugly thing you forgot to avoid in the background.
Hint: if you back up a smidge, take the picture, you can then crop it so that it looks like you took it artistically off-centered!
(Hey, didn't I warn you I don't know much about photography!)
Shots from way down low, up high, and off the side can create really wonderful pictures. I adore extreme close ups, but that could just be an artifact of my camera, which takes lovely close-ups but rather ordinary mid-to-long range shots.
Content: This is all I used to worry about - do I have a dog in the picture? We're good to go! Content can be either irrelevant or all-important, depending on the rest of the pictures. For a high contrast, black background shot, just about anything can be in the frame and it will be lovely.
Most pictures fall somewhere in the middle, and perfectly ordinary content can sometimes be greatly improved by good composition/cropping.
And that's about all I know when it comes to Photography!
(Sorry, I know these were all "recycled" photographs - but finding, or worse yet taking, new ones just wasn't possible in the amount of time I have. I did take some nice shots of Henry this weekend, which I'm desperately trying to hold off uploading until Wordless Wednesday!)