It is interesting to find, especially in the light of my earlier remarks perhaps, that most self-styled photographers judge photographs very much by how close to one commodity or another they are. On forums people ask "am I ready to go professional" and all the twits who pretend to be working professionals judge the presented work, invariably by how closely it resembles everyone else's pictures.
You're ready to "go pro" apparently, when you can produce pictures that are indistinguishable from all the other cut-rate jamokes in whatever cost-cutting madness you've elected to target.
In "Fine Art Photography" we see the same thing. When you can screw on your Lee Big Stopper, and take that one picture of a pier extending out from the bottom center of the frame, like a great black (albeit curiously squared off) penis, into the misty mess you've made of some water's surface, you're ready to start selling giant Canvas Wraps to suckers.
Even the casual amateur seeking to "improve" whatever that means, is urged to strive for sameness with everyone else.
As noted, once you're in the commodity biz, it's a race to the bottom. How are you supposed to "stand out" if, well, you don't stand out? Lower prices is the only answer, and the only price lower than market rate is to pay people to carry your photographs away.
If you're in the coal business and someone invents a way to make coal by the trainload with two spoons and a glass of water, you don't stand around griping about how everyone with two spoons should stand shoulder to shoulder with Big Coal to keep prices up. You don't stand around bitching about fauxcoalproducers and how awful their coal is. You get the hell out of the coal business.
Don't be a commodity.
This doesn't mean you shouldn't take pictures. It doesn't even mean that your business should not involve taking pictures. You might even be able to take the same damn pictures. Your business can't be about taking those pictures, though.
You can't build this sort of business, practice, or artistic portfolio around gear or technique, since those are almost trivial for a competent practitioner to duplicate. I propose (repeatedly, ad infinitum) building it around ideas. If you're doing "stock" photos for some corporate web site, your business in that moment is your ideas about how to photograph Collaboration or Innovation or whatever the hell they want. If you're doing corporate portraits.. I dunno, ask Kirk Tuck. If you're making a photoessay about Mumbai, find your own idea of Mumbai and go from there. They can duplicate the way you handle color, but nobody sees Mumbai quite the way you do.
Ironically, whenever some poor bastard finally gets beaten in to producing the same damn photos as everyone else does, the next question is "how can I find my unique voice, my vision? How can I rise above the masses and get noticed?" and then all those fake professionals kind of start mumbling and remembering appointments in other places. They are, after all, in the peculiar business of pretending to be in the commodity business.