I'm not a great photographer, if you couldn't tell from my photos. I've been learning, off and on, for the past few years. I started with an EOS 20D way back in 2004 to take product photos for a computer company that I was trying to start and haven't stopped since.
I've picked up a few nuggets of wisdom that generally fly in the face of most photographers. First, the big one, lens sharpness matters. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. Because if it doesn't matter, why do they all spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on sharp lenses? Because sharpness matters.
Not for the image, per se, but for the flexibility of that image. If you have a sharp lens, you can take a photo and then cut, chop, and otherwise mutilate the image without a significant reduction in final quality. A sharp picture on an 8MP camera is more flexible than a blurry picture taken on a 20MP camera.
My second bit of wisdom that I've learned is that anyone who tells you that it's not the camera, it's the photographer is lying. Yes, the photog matters a lot. A shitty photog will take shitty photos with a Leica just as well as with a Lomo. But think of it this way, a crappy hunter will kill nothing with a pea shooter or with a bazooka. But a great hunter still won't kill anything with the pea shooter.
I've taken some great photos with my cell phone, but not many, and only in very particular circumstances. Likewise for my point-&-shoot and any other recording device. What the tool is good at is critical to the final photo. And in most cases, to get the shot that makes people stop and go "wow" requires a beefy camera.
Not insanely beefy, mind you. But you do need a camera that's north of $500 bucks, and you'll need multiple lenses in the same area. The camera matters a lot for flexibility and being able to get ANY shot that comes your way.