Posed group shots can look very staged and static, so for smaller groups try finding an activity or an action that breaks the ice and captures movement and expressions in a more natural way.
You can get a professional 'headshot' look in a home studio, using a single flash, a softbox and a plain backdrop. It doesn't need expensive gear, just a little practice with lighting and a little patience in setting up.
That way you don't accidentally walk out of the house with an unloaded camera.EDIT: In case the previous sentence didn't make it clear, I'm referring to when you're at home and can set the camera down somewhere safe until the battery is done charging / the card is done offloading. Don't do this in the field.EDIT 2: I don't know how y'all behave at home, but when I put down my open-door camera it's on a nice, remote table where I'm not likely to bump into it. Granted, it helps that I have neither kids, pets, nor roommates (other than my girlfriend, who has cameras of her own) so that reduces the risk considerably.EDIT 3: Note to self: Choose your words carefully. People apparently take the term "Pro Tip" very seriously. Next time just use "Tip" or "Suggestion"
It's not always easy to find someone to model for you as you practice your lighting techniques, so here's our top tip: Purchase a mannequin head! We agree that they're not great company, but they don't complain and they have the same shapes and features as human heads and are perfect for polishing up your portrait skills.
Night-time portraits can be very atmospheric and colorful, but often then need some subtle supplementary lighting to fill in the shadows and bring out your subject against a bright background. An off-camera flash is idea, or a portable LED panel may be better still, especially if you want to shoot video too.
Great practice, and it helps you with already having something to show your skill, raising your chances of being hired.
Try focus stacking to keep tiny subjects sharp from front to back. Some cameras can do focus stacking internally; otherwise you can merge 'focus stack' frames in photo editing software.
Extension tubes go between the camera body and the lens to allow it to focus far closer than normal. You need to get extension tubes to fit your camera system, so check before you buy.
Close-up filters are another low-cost route into macro photography. They are simple correction lenses that screw on to the front of your lens, and they usually come in threes, to be used individually or combined for an even stronger effect.
You can easily create a portable DIY light tent for outdoor flower photography. It shields your subjects from wind and rain, evens up the lighting and saves you from disturbing plants where they are growing.