Someone might use the best cameras and lenses and still not be a good photographer!

More important than the equipment you use is the development of what I call your "photographic eye."Many years ago, one of the major photo magazines gave simple, inexpensive box cameras to a number of professional photographers and asked them to take some "great" pictures.

They succeeded by taking advantage of their photographic eyes and by using various types of films - a high-speed film for a low-light situation, for example - to overcome some of the camera's shortcomings.

Anyone interested in taking better pictures should try to develop his photographic eye. You don't even need a camera to do it - just a vivid imagination.

Do it while riding or walking to and from work. Seek out pictures and better vantage points for taking them. Learn to see everything. Think of your eye as the camera.

One eye is roughly the equivalent of a 17mm lens covering a 150-degree vertical and 120-degree horizontal field. The binocular vision of both eyes creates a 180-degree angular field. That's a lot of territory, so you have to learn to isolate your subject matter - sort of like using a telephoto lens.

A simple way to do this is to make a rectangular frame with your hands, or use a piece of cardboard with a rectangular hole cut into it. Held close to your eye, it gives you a wide-angle view. Held farther away, it crops out things that might detract from the picture.

Getting close to your subject is important. Fill the viewfinder with only the things you want in the picture. When photographing people, have them do something besides staring into the camera.

Always check the background and foreground for anything that might distract the eye from the main subject. Are there any telephone poles or wires "growing" out of your subject's head? If so, move yourself or your subject until the distraction is gone.

When photographing children or animals, remember that the best pictures are usually taken from eye level, so get down to their level. And, while you're down there, why not try something new? How about getting flat on your back to shoot a group standing in a huddle over you?

Later, you might have an opportunity to shoot a larger group looking up or down the well of a circular staircase. You never know when you're going to happen across some unique and exciting stairwell in your travels unless you keep on the lookout with that photographic eye!

But it's not just stairwells you should look for. How about unusual frames, such as a doorway that frames an interesting building across the way, or a window with a magnificent view of a mountain or lonely tree?

The most successful wedding photographers are always scouting out interesting backgrounds in local parks or the countryside for wedding portraits. Commercial photographers always look for different sites for photographing models or products. They're always using their photographic eyes.

When driving through the country, I keep one eye on the road while my photographic eye looks for interesting scenics. I'll try to imagine where the sun will set or rise, since the most beautiful light appears early in the morning and late in the day.