1. Lighting is essential!! The right lighting makes the picture. If shooting outside, choose a time when the sun is somewhat low on the horizon, that is between sunrise and 10 am or between 5pm and sunset. When shooting colour with artificial lighting, make sure that you adjust the white balance. Having a tungsten yellow or a fluorescent blue cast on your images can be very disappointing.
2. Find intimacy with your subject when photographing them. It should almost make you feel bashful.
3. Look past the subject's exterior, past the smile, wrinkles, and the light in their eyes; show us how you see that person.
4. Blurring the background is not always the best solution; incorporate the space into the image.
5. Watch your framing. Make sure you aren't chopping off fingers or framing too close to a joint.
6. Composition is very important. Pay attention to the placement of your subject AND to the negative space being created.
7. Do a little Art History homework. Look at great portraitists: Richard Avedon, Barbara Bosworth, Alessandra Sanguinetti, Sally Mann, Mary Ellen Mark, Van Gogh's self-portraits, Velazquez.
8. Always have your camera with you! Once the camera becomes a part of you, people won't get as camera shy and awkward once you point it at them.
9. Work your subject. Their "best angle" might not be the most interesting one. So move around them, and shoot, shoot, shoot.
10. Have Fun!