Our faces may be made up of the same components but the expressions, shapes, lines, tones and marks that decorate them all tell a unique story that's waiting to be photographed.
What Gear Should I Use?
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. Working hand-held is fine but if you prefer you can use a tripod.
If you're not working on a portrait shoot, 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.
Eyes Need To Be Sharp
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 can produce flattering results. 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.
Think About Backgrounds
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 backlight 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 so your portrait still looks natural.