You may have heard before, it's not the camera that takes a good picture, it's the person behind it. Well, I agree with that. . . . for the most part, but I won't deny that having a good equipment certainly helps, especially lenses.
If you're serious about taking better photos, my best advice is to forget the big Canon or Nikon debate and do some research of your own to see what sort of camera will fit your needs. Everyone takes photos for different reasons. Once you invest in your camera, LEARN TO USE YOUR MANUAL SETTINGS. Once you gain a basic knowledge of proper exposure, the sky is the limit. It's not going to happen overnight, believe me, I'm still learning, but here are a few suggestions to help you get started.
Check out DP Review and do some side-by-side comparisons on some cameras. Read the reviews and specs, but ignore the brand wars. The truth is there are many great camera brands out there, you just have to find out what works for your photographic needs and your budget.
Be careful of black and gray market products and be sure to use a reliable source to purchase your equipment. B&H Photo Video and Adorama are two reputable places to purchase quality photographic equipment*
Don't focus so much on kits, but rather what it is you're going to be shooting and what sort of equipment will offer the best outcome for your needs. Perhaps you already have a nice DSLR, and you want to upgrade your lens. Having quality glass can really make a big difference, but again, isn't always necessary.
Check out additional review sites that are geared for a broader consumer audience and not just for professionals, like Ken Rockwell's site.
Invest in books that will help you gain a greater knowledge and better understanding of photography.
I recommend the Photography text by Barbara London, Jim Stone and John Upton and Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. I have older versions of both, and they are wonderful references.
You might also want to join, or browse, some online photography communities. Not all are geared for the novice, but many do have valuable information and resources. Here are a couple links you could start with.
Last, but not least, get out and SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT! Practice what you've researched and try to gain a solid understanding so your images will be consistent. If you're frustrated because your pictures don't look like the pros, but you feel like you have a solid understanding of basic photography, you can now get started with your post processing journey. Post processing is meant to enhance a photo, but nothing can replace proper exposure out of the camera. The more you shoot and practice gaining control of your camera's settings, the better your straight out of camera (SOC) images will be and the less post processing you'll need to do. I will touch on post processing someday, in the mean time, go out and practice your manual settings!
Until the next time. . .