The more Wedding's and Portraits I do, the more I realize everything in photography comes down to one word: vision.
Call it vision, imagination, or seeing; it all comes down to the same thing: the ability to envision a final result in your mind's eye, and then to make it so with your tools at hand.
It's never always been about the gear but it does help. It's always been about seeing something, knowing how you want it to look, and making it so. Making it so is the easy part; seeing it in the first place is what makes a photographer. Powers of observation are everything. Snapping a camera is trivial.
Photography and painting are the same. Each renders imagination in tangible form. The difference is that painters can work completely from imagination, although most of us work from life as a starting point. Both can take lifetimes to master the tools to render imaginations exactly as we intend. With inkjet printing they are identical in that each of us is using tools to apply our imagination as physical colors to flat media, often canvas.
The confusion is that photography is much easier for a layman to use and create what looks like a technically passable, sharp and well-exposed image. As most beginners discover instantly, simply having the best tools and technically sharp images doesn't get the glorious, passion-inspiring results they intended.
Painters and other artists often pick up any camera and make excellent images fast because they know seeing, visualization, composition and lighting, and immediately apply basic adjustments to change brightness and to optimise colours.
Artists know they have to drive the camera and make strong changes to basic controls to get their look. Beginning photographers, like me about 10 years when I started shooting I was usually afraid to do anything other than exactly what we thought were the rules. There are no rules other than to make your image as you want it. I often shoot at a deliberately "wrong" white balance or violent exposure compensations.
Photographers and painters both work from our imaginations. Painters can be a little freer with their imaginations, but now with Photoshop, photographers also can render directly from our imaginations into tangible form.
Art collectors and photo contest promoters (but not artists) freak out if they can't define a work by its medium, but art is the message, not the medium.