California-based photographer Chris Burkard, who specializes in surf, outdoor, and travel shots, offers a few rules.
Nail the Timing
"I think the best photos are taken an hour before or after sunrise or sunset, so some of the simplest things you can do to improve are to get up earlier and stay out late. You get the best quality of light, but I also find that if you explore early, there's less traffic and more honest moments."
Mind the Background
"I look for environments that give you a sense of location. If you go to shoot a portrait and you zoom in superclose, then you could be in your backyard or in Russia. Backgrounds provide context, and shooting a wider angle gives you a lot more information in the shot and shows off the surroundings."
"Try to do some research before you travel and have an idea of places you want to shoot or photos you want to create. That way, you're not overwhelmed by decisions in the field. This may not sound intuitive, but if you go with a plan, you'll be ready to capture the spontaneous moments."