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To feel connected to the person in the image you need to get in close without invading personal space the easiest way to do this is with a telephoto zoom.
It's always polite to ask when photographing someone, especially when your focus is their face. After all, you don't want them to suddenly turn around and scowl at you because they didn't know you were taking their picture.
To really pick out the details that make a portrait captivating blur your background and always, always make sure the eyes are in focus. To stop the portrait looking lifeless make sure there's a catch light in the eyes. A small burst of flash or having a light source behind the camera, facing the subject will help you do this.
Most people when they're asked if they can have their photo taken become quite self-conscious and will grin like the Cheshire cat until you've finished. To combat this, you need to talk to them and this is not only about what you're trying to achieve but also ask them, about their life, what they do etc. Keep this conversation going, giving them pointers and if it helps, compliments while you snap away. This will help them relax and soon they'll have forgotten about the lens they have pointing their way.
If you can, position your subject at a 45 degree angle and get them to turn their head to camera as this is often more flattering than photographing them straight on. However, directing them to look away, down or up will convey a completely different tone in the image. A sombre expression on a face that's looking away from the camera can appear reflective while someone looking up or into the distance will have a sense of determination and strength.
Your subject always has to be the centre of attention so if you do want to use surrounding scenery make sure it compliments the portrait and isn't distracting. Back lighting the subject can help with this as you'll get a halo-like effect on your subject's hair and body which will help them stand out from your background. If you're using the sun as your back light you'll need to bounce light into the image to stop your subject appearing as a silhouette. To rectify this, bounce light onto your subject's face with a reflector or you could use fill-in flash but you'll need to make sure it's stopped down by two stops under the ambient exposure so your portrait still looks natural.
You've read the article, now go take some fantastic images. You can then upload the pictures, plus any advice and suggestions you have into the dedicated Photo Month forum for everyone at ePHOTOzine to enjoy.