I'm an amateur photographer. I started in October 2010 when I was looking for a hobby that would help lower my stress, allow me to be creative, incorporate computers, and teach me a new skill. Photography is amazing, and I seldom feel as focused as when I am behind my camera, concentrating on the shot I'm trying to get.
The reason I will probably remain an amateur is that photography is expensive. It takes serious money to afford lenses, tripods, filters, and so on. It boggles my mind how lenses and cameras can be as expensive as they are, and my common sense tells me that by now consumers are probably being ripped off quite badly. I don't know much about lens manufacture, so maybe I am just full of hot air, but normally with most kinds of production manufacture, costs drop off sharply after you have produced a certain quantity of an item, and your initial tooling up and outfitting is where the major expense lies. So, to my mind, by now we should be able to buy most standard lenses (which have been produced in bulk) quite cheaply, yet this seems not to be the case. So why are cameras and lenses still so expensive? Could it be corporate greed?
Anyway, it is fortunate that today's cameras are very powerful, and there is a lot you can do with relatively inexpensive low-end D-SLR's and middle-of-the range compact cameras. If you are looking for a hobby, if you want to be creative, if you like computers, and if you have some bucks to spend on a camera (even a compact will do to get you started), consider photography.
Of course, photo-editing today is what a personal dark room and developing equipment was to film photographers prior to the advent of the digital camera. Most digital images really benefit from photo-editing, except possibly for those images taken using a really top-of-range camera. Most people have heard of Photoshop, and it seems to be the most popular choice for professionals. I've never used it, and it will probably be a long time before I do. Why? Because of the price - I just can't afford it. Besides, my operating system of choice is Ubuntu Linux, and Photoshop would probably not run on it even if I could afford it.
So, I use GIMP (http://www.gimp.org/). Like Linux, it is open source and free, and performs most photo-editing tasks very acceptably. There are plenty of plugins for it (see GIMP Plugin Registry at http://registry.gimp.org/) and GIMP remains in active development, and getting better and better with each new version. There are some drawbacks, of course; mostly that GIMP isn't as user-friendly or as automated as Photoshop. But, I've found that using GIMP has taught me a lot about photography, light, how the human eye sees, and about photo-editing. There are also lots of GIMP tutorials all over the internet, and a very interesting GIMP magazine (http://gimpmagazine.org/) which is well worth reading.