Updated: May 26, 2020
Being a photographer is a little bit like being a movie director with a one-woman crew. You are your own location scout, story-teller/script writer (more about this later) and are in charge of blocking (posing) and scheduling too (making sure everything happens on your client's timeline). So how does one person do all of that? It's actually not as hard as you would think!
Start by being willing to fail. It's a hard truth but this is the absolute BEST way to learn! While reading up on how to use your camera is important, the best way to learn is to get out there and start shooting! Nobody learns their craft overnight, not even the greats. Keep in mind that I have been doing this for years and I still make mistakes all the time. I use every mistake to better my craft, however, so that it will not happen again. Mistakes can actually sharpen us if we let them! The only true failure is inaction.
I promised to tell you what I meant by being a "story-teller". Maybe it's just because I grew up a "theater girl" but I believe that every image tells a story. You're not just looking at a girl leaning up against a wall, you're looking at "a CEO of a major company who is strong and capable to manage any job" (or at least thats the story we are creating). There is ALWAYS a story within every photo. Ask yourself "who is the person in the photograph?". What message are you trying to convey about your subject? I would recommend that you get to know your client before the session if you can.
I also like to share ideas with my clients ahead of time on Pinterest, especially if I have a particular vision and I want my client's input. Even if I don't have a full-blown story in my mind, I typically always have some kind of a vision. If I get stuck, I will browse Pinterest but I never force inspiration to occur. Keep in mind that sometimes the location can inspire the story as well. Low-traffic outdoor locations are great and many business owners are more than happy to let you shoot inside their establishments if you just ask. Be BOLD. You don't know unless you ask right?
Two things that will help you greatly if you STUDY them: posing and lighting. There are thousands of posing guides out there on the internet that you can study. A lot of times, your subjects will pose more naturally as they begin to feel comfortable in front of a camera. If it feels right, you can show your subject how great their photos are looking off and on throughout the shoot. Remember, the better your model knows you, the better their photos will be and the more their personality will show. Most people do not have professional photos taken every day and they need to know that they don't look silly in front of a camera.
Most important to creating a good quality image, however, is lighting. I cannot stress this enough! There is almost nothing you can do to save a picture in post if the original lighting is bad. Some of this you will learn by reading books and watching videos and the rest you will have to learn by "doing". Always try to shoot at golden hour or in the shade at the very least if you are taking outdoor portraits. As you begin to study studio lighting and to purchase equipment, you will really begin to see your photos take on a life of their own.
At the end of the day, the most important rule of all is to do what you love! Your passion will show up in your work and it will keep you going during those 'not so great' times. You are drawn to capturing life for a reason. Follow your gut and what makes your work unique to you! As cinderella once said "have courage and be kind".