Todays phone cameras are capable of producing professional looking shots that often rival photographs taken with much more expensive equipment when used properly.
Portrait photography differs from landscape & scenery shots mainly due to the human factor. Capturing the essence of the person or the pose can be very difficult. If you approach the subject the way a more experienced photographer would you will notice a marked improvement in your results.
Setting up the background of the shot before taking it will help to draw your attention to the subject if you are not fortunate enough to have a studio to work in. That may sound obvious however look at your collection and see how many photos are ruined by the background.
You may have some wonderful shots of your children smiling & looking happy however how many of them would be improved if the background was less cluttered? Another mistake people make is to restrict themselves to a head & shoulders shot with no explanation to what they are doing. This is fine if you want to apply for a photo ID card however rarely works outside of a studio set up with effective lighting.
You will achieve a more natural effect if you allow your subject to engage in some sort of activity which is included in the shot. This will also help to relax the sitter and the end result will look far better than a forced pose. Natural is best. Your subject does not have to look directly into the camera and say ‘Cheese.’ You will achieve a much better shot if the sitter is looking in another direction or over your shoulder. Try it & see for yourself which you prefer.
Changing your perspective will alter the impact of the finished picture considerably. People have a tendency to position the camera at the eye level of the subject however a simple trick such as standing on a chair and shooting downwards can create a stunning picture.
Always try to take advantage of any natural lighting that is available such as positioning your subject close to a window if you are shooting indoors. You can position your model close enough to use the source of light without including the window in the shot. If you can avoid using the camera flash you will achieve better results.
Built in flashes tend to give off very harsh light that will make your subject appear very bright. If you have the option of an external flash you can create some interesting shadows & effects by pointing it to the side to bounce the light off a wall and onto your subject rather than pointing it straight at them.
The main thing is to keep experimenting. You can shoot the background before involving your model to get a better idea of how you want the image to look without the subject becoming bored. The beauty of digital photography is being able to review your results instantly and make adjustments as you go.