Tip # 1
Each time you spot a subject, snap a shot and then move in closer for a better shot. Having your subject almost fill the frame helps your viewer understand and appreciate your photo. Also, details are often more interesting than an overall view. Keep moving in closer until you are sure the photo will successfully represent your subject.
Tip # 2
If it is at all possible that your subject may move, bolt, fly away, stop smiling, or just get tired of waiting for you to take the picture, shoot once right away. Practice getting quicker and quicker to the draw. Do not worry about taking too many pictures and do not wait until you're absolutely certain all the knobs and buttons are in their correct position. As the motto of one of BetterPhoto old t-shirts states, "Shoot First, Ask Questions Later.
Tip # 3
Even if you don't plan on selling your photos, make every effort to keep it balanced and beautiful. On one level or another, everyone responds better to a picture that has all elements in balance. Strive to lead the eye along an interesting path through the photo, with the use of strong lines or patterns. Keep the horizon level; Crop out extra elements that you are not interested in; Consciously place your subject where you think they most belong rather than just accepting it wherever it happens to land in the photo; Play with perspective so that all lines show a pattern or lead the eye to your main subject; Work with the Rule of Thirds.