Apropos the video we linked the other day, I would just like to throw this out there for what little it's worth...if any young or beginning photographer of real ambition within the sound of my voice would like to radically improve his or her photography quickly and efficiently, I suggest shooting with nothing but a Leica and one lens for a year. Shoot one type of black-and-white film (yes, even if you're completely devoted to color and digital, and hate film and everything it stands for. You don't have to commit to this forever; it's an exercise). Pick a single-focal-length 50mm, or 35mm, or 28mm. It doesn't have to be a "good" lens—anything that appeals to you and that fits the camera will do. Carry the camera with you all day, every day. Shoot at least two films a week. Four or six is better (or shoot more in the spring and fall and less in the dead of summer and winter). The more time you spend shooting, the better. The amount of film you shoot is related but not so important. (Photographing is like jogging: benefit accrues to time spent doing it, not how fast you go or how much ground you cover.)
Proof the rolls of film by contact and file them sequentially in a notebook. Get or make between one and six workprints per roll, however you choose to do it (even if you scan your picks and look at the pictures on a computer screen), and, every five or ten rolls or so, have one nice print made, or make it yourself. Craft well, but don't crop and don't fuss; just take what the camera gives you.
If you don't like this idea, no need to get all scornful or whimpery with me. If there are, say, 30,000 people reading this (approximately our average daily readership, an astounding fact that still mystifies me), a couple of thousand might think this suggestion is a sound one; 50 to 100 might read this and sincerely intend to follow the suggestion; and, maybe, one, two, or three people will actually follow through and do it. So if you're among the other 28,000, no need to bother defending or rationalizing your opposition. You're solidly in the majority as it is.
But I'll say this: A year with a single Leica and a single lens, looking at light and ignoring color, will teach you as much about actually seeing photographs as three years in any photo school, and as much as ten or fifteen years (or more) of mucking about buying and selling and shopping for gear like the average hobbyist.
At the end of your year, sell the Leica and go back to doing whatever you really want to do, whether it's full-frame digital or a digicam and Potatochopping or whatever it is. I guarantee you will be a much better photographer after you finish the year than you were before you started. You just will be. It's a promise.
I'm not trying to be didactic or contrarian or provocative here. What I say is simply true.
Mike adds: In response to many of the comments, no, it doesn't have to be a Leica—except if you want to take my advice, in which case it does have to be. Must be, in fact. There are half a dozen excellent reasons why. I'll try not to get my feelings hurt that people would think I'd specify something like that (in the title of the post no less) without good reason. Of course, no one is under the slightest obligation to take my advice, and many people would want to modify my suggestions to suit their own taste: a different mechanical rangefinder is next best, a "manual, mechanical, metal" 35mm SLR next after that.
Also, contrary to popular belief, Leicas for projects such as this are not costly; they're free. Or very close to it. Although, if you find yourself suddenly interested in buying a Leica from Ebay, I'd suggest waiting a few weeks so you won't be bidding against other people who have also just read this post.