Fine art photography has its place, but very rarely can a photographer avoid people and portrait photography altogether. So I suggest to new photographers that you get out there and start practicing your people skills! As I have begun to get more involved in shooting personal portraits I have seen that there are significant aspects to consider.
1) The person: their likes and dislikes, their comfort level in front of the camera, their humor, their personality, their physical characteristics (sparkling eyes, winning smile, awesome hair – whatever it is about that person that is picturesque and should be highlighted). A natural smile is what I love to capture as a photographer, and often it is so hard to find amidst the “cheese.”
2) The place: I am getting good at calling random people and going to random places to shoot portraits, but there is something to be said about planning out a shoot. Everything from the colors of the walls and the plants to the texture and colors of their clothing. But as an artist, I crave organic creativity as opposed to a canned method of design. So I like to find a solid middle ground between the two.
3) The time and weather: If you show up at a crowded park in the middle of the day, the sun will cast some memorable shadows on the faces of your subjects. Sunrises and sunsets offer the most beautiful and fleeting light, but with the right equipment (and maybe an assistant) you can get a good shot at any time of day. Cloudy days are my favorite – you get diffused lighting (little to no shadows) and a potentially dramatic background in your shots.