Whether you just purchased your first camera a few months ago or you're a seasoned vet, you're still learning and growing as a photographer. Or at least you should be. Some people will tell you that new gear will help you grow. Some will say to learn and grow you should go to workshops and learn from pros. And I totally agree that classes and gear can help you, but there's ways to grow without spending any money.
One of the biggest things to help me grow was giving myself a monthly audit. What does this mean? Every month I set goals for myself. Nothing big, just things like add 5 pieces to my portfolio, or just contact 4 businesses a day with a personal message for each and what I can do for them.
Along with this, I look at what I've done the previous month and see what I did right and what I could have done better. Did I achieve all my goals? Am I proud of the work I did? And I even see if I'm still headed in the right direction that I want to be going in.
Every full-time job out there has "yearly reviews" where your boss tells you what you can do to grow and be better at your job. So why shouldn't you do that for yourself? If you're at the point in your photography where you see it as more than just a hobby, you should really consider bi-monthly or bi-annual audits of yourself to see if you're actually headed towards your goals. When you're in the moment. When you're working every day and focused on the small stuff, you forget to step back and take a look at the bigger picture. Maybe your goals will switch or maybe you'll realize what you've been doing the last few months is the wrong thing.
Connect with Someone New
Your network is never big enough. If you're realizing you have a gap between work, try adding on some TFP to meet new models. Or maybe contact someone in your field and try to meet for coffee to talk a bit about what you've both been up to and try to help each other with your problems. Building a network of not just models and makeup artists, but other photographers is beneficial. Being able to bounce ideas off other people or get honest critique from people you trust can only help you down the line.
As a note, if you're in the NY/CT/RI/MA area, you can contact me! I'd love to add more creatives of every field to my network.
Take a Day Off
This is probably the least nuanced of all the 3 pieces of advice. There's countless people who say when you need a refresh the best thing you can do is step away from the camera. Trying something new or getting some exercise can help you come up with new ideas or solve problems in ways you never thought of.
Growing as a photographer isn't always something you can see in a physical way. Growth can take place through problem solving and just checking in on your own wants/needs. Whether you choose to go for a drive blasting Kanye West's 'Dark Fantasy' or you ask another photographer to meet up and chat. You can grow your photography without spending a dime.