The more I read, and the more I go and get involved with digital photography, the more I am sure that Image Quality is readily available to everyone cheaply and easily now, but the nuances, the very refined 'best of' for the pro's also requires the right kit.
These are just some random Sunday thoughts, but if someone starting out asked me what they needed to do to produce top flight images I'd say, in order...
Get a camera with AT LEAST an APC sized sensor. The Mp argument is less clear, but sensor size matters.
Learn to use the camera properly, right from the very basics up. So many pics are spoilt by people who don't understand their tools.
Buy good quality lenses. That is, make sure your glass will out resolve your sensor, or equal it.
Love your subject and find time for it, not only on site, but in the 'darkroom' later.
Learn post processing. At least get Lightroom or similar, but preferably get full photoshop and learn to use it.
I'm talking here about aiming to exhibit your work in a gallery for example. I think there is a good arguement for saying bollox to most of the above and just taking snaps with a camera phone IF you are a goddam artistic genius.
I'm not, so the above would be my route.