Taking Pictures Is Only Half the Battle
Going out and shooting is really only half the battle. And the better portion of what's left is sifting out the good from the bad. Let's say you have 20 pictures (or even 50 or more) of the same subject. You absolutely need to throw out the bad ones and only keep the good ones. Of any given subject, you should only keep 1-3 pictures from the shoot, and they should all be very different compositions if you keep more than one.
I know it's very hard to let go of some of your work if you really like it. But this is truly a part of the art of photography. Think of how the reputation of a mechanic would suffer if he did a good job on only 4 out of 5 cars. As a photographer, likewise, you can only get respect if you do a good job every time. You're not a true artist if you throw everything you have out there for public scrutiny.
Take for example this series of shots I took back in February. Can you guess which one I decided to keep and put my name on? (Answer at end of post.)
This is also why you need to learn to critique the work of others. Getting really, seriously critical of others' work will make it easier for you to be critical of your own work. A good place to give and receive strong critiques is on the Score Me group at Flickr. Not everyone will actually leave a critique, but they will give you a score from 8 to 10, and even that can be helpful.
The more you shoot, and the more pictures you throw out, the better your actual shooting will be next time. If you eliminate one composition on day 1, and you go out shooting again on day 2, you'll be more aware of what shots you are better off just skipping rather than trying.
But don't take this as advice to go easy on the shutter, especially if you have a digital camera. Particularly when you are just beginning to hone your craft, you will need to shoot a lot and make a lot of mistakes. That's what learning is made of.
And of course, you may have to throw out every single shot that you took of a given subject or on a given day. It happens, but don't let it stress you out.
And I didn't forget--this is the picture I decided to keep:
Is that the one you would have picked? There's not necessarily a right or a wrong answer, here!
And finally, I'd like to invite everyone to join my Flickr group for this course. If you post there, you'll be sure to get an in-depth critique from me!