I think the biggest thing that’s helped me is just practicing. When my daughter was born (2 1/2 years ago) I thought I took good pictures, but then I started practicing and my pictures are probably 100 times better than they were then (now I look at those pictures and cringe, lol). And I try to look at tutorials on lighting, or composition, etc- not even photo editing tutorials- and practice the techniques in them as much as possible so I’m always trying to learn something new. It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to do that but I’m hoping to start again soon now that I’m not dealing with a baby that doesn’t sleep at night and throwing up from morning sickness 🙂
I have a family friend that has become a hugely popular wedding photographer over the last couple years, and I’ll never forget when she said it doesn’t matter what you have, you can still learn how to shoot manual, compose, and what makes a good picture before you drop lots of money into it. You can have a $3000 camera and lens and still take crap pictures if you don’t know composition and you just shoot auto all the time.