As I think about my photos compared to those of the photographers whose work I admire and am inspired by, I am coming to realize the importance of simplicity. In a sense, the aim of a good photograph (to me at this point, anyway) is to portray the subject in the most effective and honest way. In attempting to do so, a photographer must ensure that the various properties of the photo, whether it's composition, colors or shades, lighting, etc..., work together to strengthen the subject as much as possible. To do so, it's not only a matter of finding the appropriate elements that work together for the subject, but also of the paring down of the superfluous details.
Check out this photograph by one of my current favorite photographers, Linda Brownlee:
It's amazingly powerful and intimate, yet so simple and understated.
Yet, contrary to this thought, my photos often display a vast array of distractions and messiness. Sometimes it's because I haven't defined and isolated my subject enough, other times I am using gimmicks to make the image pop or look interesting that often serve as distractions rather than appropriate support.
And so, I am intentionally going to think about accomplishing this in my photos: Find a strong subject, and clean out the distractions. Simple and direct.
For now, this is my direction to grow as a photographer.