Gathering the best reference
Take the time to really learn how to use your camera. One of the biggest issues I see when reviewing student work is terrible reference that handicaps the work. Learn to make costumes and create models for reference. This can be an invaluable and fun part of the process.
Building models is a great way to get realistic reference when you don’t have access, due to size or availability. Start collecting interesting objects whenever you can. Thrift stores and garage sales are often full of cheap and interesting objects. I keep some clay around in case I need to sculpt a quick head or figure for imaginary subjects.