Portrait photography is simply photography that focuses on the face of a subject. While the whole form may be included, the face and facial expression are the most important parts of the image. This can apply to people or animals. Regardless of what your portrait subject is, I have 5 tips that will help make your portrait photography shine.
1. Soft Lighting - Soft lighting can also be called diffused lighting. All this means is that the lighting used in the photograph (natural or artificial) is not harsh. This type of lighting avoids dark shadows and helps maintain a reasonably even light across the entire subject. Reflectors and diffusers can help with creating softer light.
2. Natural Smile - When working with people, capturing a natural smile is very important. A forced smile will make a portrait look fake and unappealing. Lesson on How to Capture a Natural Smile
3. Go Vertical - In photography, matching your image orientation to the subject will help you produce strong results. For portrait photography, especially of people, this usually means going vertical. Lesson on Vertical vs. Horizontal Photographs
4. Watch the Joints - Be careful when framing your photographs that you do not "cut off" your subject at a joint. This means that you should not have the edge of the frame match an elbow, knee, hip, wrist, or other joint. If you match a joint line this creates an unsettling visual effect.
5. Rule of Thirds - It is certainly not the only composition technique but the rule of thirds is a strong way to add punch to your portraits. Place subjects eyes along strong points of the rule of thirds.