One easy way to improve your photos is to get close to your subject. Then get closer. And just when you think you’re close enough, get even closer!
Birthday parties are perfect for this. Also, parades, backyard picnics and weddings. Occasions where cameras and photographers are expected and embraced. Get out there and shoot. But no sitting across the room comfortably clicking away. You need to walk over and sit down among the screechy children or get out on the dance floor with the celebrants. If the barbecue smoke isn’t burning your eyes, you’re not close enough.
And no big, heavy, long lenses. They have their uses, yes, but creating a sense of intimacy is not one of them.
Don’t be shy. Get close.