A great way to begin this course is to cover cameras themselves. And you might ask, "what is the best DSLR camera to choose?"
My (personal, of course) simple answer is: Nikon or Canon. Some people will tell you Canon is better, others will say Nikon. This is an on-going battle in the photography world. Pro photogs go back and forth about this all the time, and no one has a perfect answer. If one really was better than the other, then they wouldn't be as big as each of them are, or they wouldn't be in business at all. It all really comes down to which one you pick up first at the store and which one you feel a connection with.
I've heard and read reviews from top photographers that a lot are married to their point and shoot Canon but prefer the Nikon DSLR. It's funny how one brand can differ camera to camera. So ultimately, it's up to you whether you go Canon or Nikon. It's really just a battle that no photographer will ever win.
All the top photographers use, basically, one or the other. The VERY best camera (again, in my opinion) is a Hasselblad but, I personally could never afford one. The very very very best camera that photographers use in the commercial industry are the Phase One cameras and backs. Pricing is anywhere from $15,000 to $32,000 or more. See why I'm not getting one of these but drool over the thought of owning one? I held one in my hands a couple years ago. It's a remarkable piece of equipment.
My advice: Stick with Canon or Nikon.
As to which brand, that is up to you. If you plan to have pictures printed larger than 11x14's, I would recommend a 10 MP camera. I have heard that a Canon Rebel XTi body is a good one to begin with as well as the Nikon D40x. Both are great professional-grade starter cameras!
It's no secret that I use Nikon. I have photographer friends who use one or the other and I made my decision at the time on price. Nikon's tend to be a tiny bit more affordable. I also read reviews and they were outstanding. I ended up with a Nikon D200. I don't own a back-up camera, and I admit, it is SUPER risky. So right now at this very moment I'm contemplating which back-up camera to get. I can't take anymore chances. I'm in between a D60 or a D80. I've heard the D80's are perfect for back-up use. However, the D60 just came out and it looks pretty dandy, too. Any advice for me?? What do you use?
There you have it. Day 1 of Digital Photography 101. There's tons more to come!