First things first, let me go ahead and say that you do NOT need the most expensive camera or equipment to take good photographs.
The biggest insult you can say to a photographer is, "Oh that's a nice camera, no wonder you take such good photos.." Any talented photographer, who knows the basics about how light and cameras work, can take amazing pictures with a phone camera or even a box with a hole in it..
Which brings me to my next point..
Close the tape..and.....PRESTO!
You have taken an image!
Now, the reason I'm breaking down the camera into these basic terms is because that is how we will be able to understand what all those little fancy settings on your digital camera do. Once you know how all of these elements work, you have complete control over how you photograph the world. If you're still having fun just shooting in AUTO, by all means, keep clicking away.
But, if you're ready to take your photographs to the next level and have control..march on!
In my first semester of college, our first project was literally on building a camera with a shoe box and tape.** We even had to develop our images in a DARK ROOM. Yes. Those still exist my friends...
The images on the right are my actual photographs from my homemade camera (aka pinhole camera) I made in college. Those are from the square in good ole' Denton, TX.
Anyway, once you think you understand the basic parts of a camera (the box, the hole, the tape, and the film (sensor for us digital folks)), you're ready to move onto the APERTURE page to get this ball rolling!
**An interesting side note..
In fancy photography terms, this is called camera obscura. It's a pretty amazing thing actually. If you were to completely black out a whole room, and make a small hole in one of the windows, you would see the world outside literally project onto the walls. Upside down. Why upside down?
That deals with more of the science part of it, so I won't bore you. If you're interested in that type of thing tho, Google is a vast place. ;)