It doesn't matter how skillful the photographer or how expensive the camera, if the shot is not taken it counts for nothing. There are numerous excuses as to why certain shots were not taken: you were not there, you didn't have your camera, you were not ready, you didn't want to embarrass yourself, you didn't think you could do it, you didn't want to inconvenience others and worst of all: you couldn't be bothered. Don't make these excuses; excuses are no substitute for the shot! BE PREPARED! Always bring a camera, even if you don't use it. At least bring your camera phone. When you see a shot take it. If you can't be bothered you're not a photographer.
There's all the difference in the world between a blurry concert shot from a distance with peoples heads and arms in the way, because you lacked the assertiveness or courage to push to the front and a clean shot from close up. Likewise between a shot of a mountain lake from a bad angle with branches in the way because you couldn't be bothered walking to the side and climbing those rocks or from the best angle unimpeded. Similarly between a family shot with blown out sky and dark faces with the sun behind them, because you didn't ask them to move around or a nicely balanced version taken in the shade or with the sun to the side. Think about your shot before you take it. What position would yield the best result? Are you a photographer or a time waster? Make the extra effort and get the best shot you can. BE ASSERTIVE BUT NOT PAINFUL! To get the shot you will often need to push to the front, ask the driver to stop the car, stand up when others are sitting or get people to pose. Don't overdo it. People hate pushy, distracting and ungrateful paparazzi. Be polite, smooth and efficient. Get your shot quickly, thank the people and get out of their way.
One of the greatest things about digital photography is that once you have bought your equipment, IT IS FREE! Go ahead, knock yourself out, take 200 pictures in a day, take 2,000 pictures in a month. TAKE EVERY SHOT THAT OCCURS TO YOU. Take the same shot from different angles if only to learn. It is only your time that you are spending. And be ruthless with delete! GET RID OF EVERY SHOT THAT ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH TO STICK ON YOUR WALL and get rid of duplicates. When you've got tens of thousands of shots in your collection you don't want to be wading through the boring, weak or repetitive.
Try things that other photographers do. Try things you've read about. Try things that come into your head. If you don't have the right tools, IMPROVISE! It doesn't matter if some of these don't work, or if you make mistakes the first few times. Listen to what other people say but don't just take someone else's word on something, try it out yourself, form your own opinion. You will improve as a photographer and you will have new tools and approaches to add to your repertoire. You will also develop your own style.
I know a shot when I see it and I can tell if a picture is good, bad, or indifferent. My EYES tell me. You would think that everyone would have this talent but strangely ... they don't. Even amidst the enthusiasts there are many who simply can't tell that a shot just doesn't work. You don't need technical training for this, just an artist's eye.
I use SLRs, compacts and mobile phones and I have numerous examples of loved shots which were taken with a phone! The SLR will generally take the best shots in low light or when a special lens is needed, but for the rest you just need a decent tool, whether it's a compact or a phone. You can't take good shots with a piece of rubbish and sadly many phone cameras and some compacts are in that category, but not all, so look carefully at a range of sample images from your prospects BEFORE you buy. Once you've got a tool that does what you want, use the hell out of it! Don't go buying new cameras just because you can. Buy them only when you NEED them. The object of the exercise is the PHOTOS not the camera!
I shoot RAW with a constant -.7eV adjustment so that I can leave the image adjustment for post-processing. Similarly I like to use auto ISO (provided I can set the minimum shutter speed). When you are TAKING the shot you should be concentrating on that and not the exposure, ISO or the white balance. I only adjust the exposure on shoot when it is way off and that only happens in rare circumstances. If you routinely adjust all your photos at the computer than you MUST shoot RAW, nothing else compares.
You need an adequate camera and a good subject but provided you have those two things THE REST IS UP TO YOU! Why are the professional's shots better than yours? Unless it's a subject that requires specialised gear the difference is between him and you. Perhaps he has more technical skill, more experience and makes more of an effort. These are things that you can address, by taking the time and trouble to LEARN AND IMPROVE. Then again perhaps he has a better eye or an special style... But perhaps by using your own imagination you can develop these...
Look at some of your pics every few days on your computer, on your TV, on your phone, on your tablet or printed out. Get a photo viewer that stores your collection details in a central database so that you can view your photos by date taken. Then you can sit down and watch what you did and saw for a given month. Share your photos with friends and family, via web galleries, via email for just one or two images or via social media, especially the ones that involve them! Organise slide nights and afternoons using a projector or large screen TV. Don't bore your audience though. Make sure the subject matter is interesting to them, the photos are good and don't let it go on too long. THERE IS NO POINT IN A PHOTO THAT IS NEVER SEEN!