As a photographer, many people shoot over my shoulder and then when they compare their images with mine of the same subject, they always ask what my secret is as a photographer. The answer is simple: stylizing the image. This is not putting things together with your items in an image to make it look better such as why you need to add a scarf with a model doing a fashion image. The styling we are talking about today is post production work.
I would think that if you are still here, you take images and then run to the local print shop and just print the images. That is great if you trust the programming in your camera. They are designed to give you a decent image, but unfortunately, not the best. This is why we stylize all our images. Even in the darkroom, we stylized our images, so don’t think this is a digital only concept — being digital only makes it much easier.
Stylizing is simple editing done to give a particular feel to the image. Note that this isn’t full fledged editing of the image. This is the simple editing that most photographers do to add contrast, adjust color, maybe convert to black and white, or similar whole image tasks. This isn’t going in and fixing problems in the photo or removing wrinkles or getting rid or the big hickey in that wedding image on the bride or groom. This is just the simple adjustments: color, light temp, contrast, initial sharpening, noise, fringe, exposure, etc. It may include desaturation or black and white conversion or even adding a vignette. Just this simple editing will make a big difference in the image, and make it look more professional. Over time, you will find that you do similar things to almost every image.
The next question will probably be what should I do? How should I know, it is YOUR photograph! You should try to think what you would do and play with the image a bit with an image editor. Unfortunately, I can’t tell each of you what you need to do. You have to be your own worst critic and figure that out on your own.
Some suggestions would be to vary the contrast in your image, maybe play a little with vignettes to start. Play with other things and experiment.