The absolute worst thing a person can say about your pictures is, ‘"That’s nice." It’s the kiss of death.
I have always taken photography seriously, and the magic of photography, regardless of the camera, lens, developer or computer chip, I will always consider serious magic.
Go for the gut. Make a strong statement. Challenge your viewers’ intellect and sensitivities. When people love it or people hate it, THEN you know that it works.
I will give them the same advice that was given to me a long time ago. Be prepared to work extremely hard for 10 years and to make no money learning your craft. Be prepared to work another 10 years defining your craft, and maybe if you're lucky to make a little bit of money. The next 10 would be devoted to making a few real fine photos and doing okay. In the next 10 you will be kicking ass and taking names and making a lot of money. By then you will probably need at least three different pairs of eye glasses, and your best friend will be a chiropractor. But seriously, take what I have told you and multiply it by a factor of 10. It is getting tougher day by day. Some of the best photography I have ever seen has come from the eyes, heart, and souls of amateur photographers. They do it for all the right reasons and none of the wrong ones.