I am an amateur photographer I will readily admit. It bothers me however to see people pick up a camera that is fully automatic, and knowing nothing about the basic elements of photography, call themselves professional photographers.
While I do like the convenience of a fully automatic camera for taking pictures, I think there's a world of difference between taking pictures at your kid's birthday party and real photography. To me, photography is capturing an image that somehow conveys a message beyond what is pictured in the image. That message can be just about anything, an emotion, a story that appears beneath the surface, whatever. The image is a means of communication. The camera, in the hands of a real photographer, is a tool much like an artists brush. the artist understands what his brush can do, and he uses it carefully, changing it when necessary to capture the effect he's looking for.
A camera is the same way. A good photographer understands how his camera works, the effects of light, the proper use of filters, how his lens changes the image he's attempting to capture.
I use a digital camera to take pictures. These are snapshots that are important to me. They capture the passage of time in my life and the different stages in the lives of my family. I love to take pictures.
When I want to dip into photography, I take a whole different approach. Then I drag out my old 35MM cameras, and a hand held light meter. I guess these are considered antiques now, but they are the tools I used to develop my eye and my understanding of photography. Because I learned how to use a light meter, I learned how to use varying exposures to create different looks in my photographs. Because I had to set the f stop and shutter speed on my camera by hand, I learned how the changes to one or another can change the picture as a whole. I learned how to take my time and set up a shot because film was expensive. I did not have the luxury of taking 100 shots and just deleting the rest.
Take your time and learn the basics of your camera, learn how the changes you choose can change your picture. You'll learn a lot about photography, and gain a greater appreciation of the old masters.