What was your first camera? Mine was a Pentax K-1000 given to me one Christmas by my parents while I was a junior in high school.
It was a very basic camera. I’m old enough that I pre-date digital cameras (my stepson would say I even pre-date cave drawings). The Pentax was a 35mm film camera that was all manual. There was nothing automatic about it. The only thing electronic about it was the light meter, which helped determine if I had the exposure somewhat right. That meant I had to learn what an f-stop was, and how shutter speed and aperture settings affected the picture. Unlike digital, however, I had to wait until the pictures were processed before I could see the end result. That is one great thing about digital.
I would have to say I am very grateful for that experience. I learned 99% of what I know about photography simply from trial and error. Granted, it was an expensive lesson with all the rolls of film I had to get processed, but in the end, it was all very much worth it. I also think of how cool it would be to be starting out again with a digital camera.
Digital cameras have revolutionized photography. With film, you didn’t know whether you got the shot just right, if it was over- or under-exposed, or whether grandma had her eyes closed. Now, you can instantly check all of those things the moment you take the picture.
So what makes a photographer? Obviously you need a camera. From there, it’s all a matter of being willing to learn, and practice, practice, practice. There are so many online resources for learning the basics of photography. Learn what the different settings are on your camera. Most cameras have an automatic setting that does most of the thinking for you. Start with that. Take pictures. Lots of them. See which ones you like. Over time, start exploring the other settings. You will begin to learn which setting to use for the particular scenario you are shooting.
As far as how to take good pictures, I think beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Unless you intend on selling your pictures, do what works for you. Look through photography magazines. Search sites such as Pinterest. Or even visit your county or state fair and check out the photography exhibits. See what you like.
Hopefully you will find photography as fun and enjoyable as I do. May you have many wonderful years full of photographic memories!