I have been able to pick up on the patterns of successful artists that all photography-loving individuals should take note of, if not from my own personal experience, then from the good portion of my free time that has been devoted to stalking the beautiful photos of great photographers.
1. Editing. (It's not what you think.)
When I first started taking photographs I used iPhoto to "edit" them. Basically I over-saturated them and doused them in sepia tones and auto-fix adjustments. Looking back, it was truly awful. One day I was telling someone who was significantly older than me that I like to edit photos, and I thought they misunderstood me. They responded, "Oh I like to edit down photos, too. I had a whole bunch of them from a trip I took, and I just kept deleting the bad ones until I had a nice collection of good quality photos." At the time, I thought "that is EASY editing...I do the difficult stuff." But honestly, after having a couple years of experience, I believe that what he was saying was actually much more difficult than the "editing" I was doing, and I think that this kind of editing is the key to being a good photographer. No one enjoys seeing thirty pictures from one shoot; they get bored. Find the three best photos from a session and let them shine. What this tells people is that you have the self-control and good judgement to be a photographer. I know it is tempting at first, when you have done only two or three photoshoots to post 100 pictures. But chances are, if you do this, some of them will be sloppy, or not as polished, and their content will overlap and become uninteresting. So, moral of the story, editing: it's important.
2. Photoshop Skills. (It is what you think.)
First, bite the bullet and buy Adobe products, then take the time to learn how to use Photoshop, either through free online tutorials or paid classes; it is totally worth it. Your skills will make you a more valuable photographer, and your photos will be worth so much more if you can edit them. And trust me, any "bad" photo can be transformed into your best piece of art, if you learn to edit it. It isn't as scary as it looks, and once you get the hang of it, you'll never go back to your old editing software.
3. Camera Knowledge.
The scariest thing for me when I was just starting out was shooting in low-light situations. It can still be tricky, but having control of my camera makes a huge difference (in anxiety alone). The last thing anyone wants is to hire a photographer who shoots on auto all the time. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the automatic setting, it's quite useful for fast shooting and capturing moments when the lighting is constantly changing.
It's okay to use it, if you know how to use the other settings, too.
My problem was I never wanted to take the ten minutes it takes to mess around with my camera and figure it out. I just wanted to play with my camera when I had a subject to shoot, and when there is a subject to shoot, there is no time for playing around with your camera. Don't be like me. Do it. Your camera has so many useful settings that I beg you to take advantage of, seriously begging.
4. Step Back.
This is such a useful tip; it should be number one. Most people want to really zoom in on their subject, but this should only really be the go-to or default setting for macro photos and close up portraits. Otherwise, the rule of thumb is step back! I almost always find myself in a rut until I step a few feet back, and when I do, I'm so thankful to my past self when I start editing the photos.
So there you have it. Four things that will make you an excellent photographer, just like the pros.