Rule ONE Not all photographs of people need them to be staring into the camera. Ocassionally a photo works when they are walking away from the camera.
However, when we talk of photographing people we are ususally refering to portraits. The key to great portraits is above all lighting.
The classic movies of the 1940s are famous for flattering photography of the leading ladies. By learning from these films we can set out with confidence on our road to great portrait photography.
Above is a very basic three light source set up. The main light (L1) should be above head hight, pointing down onto the subject. L2 is a backlight about half as strong as L1 to diffuse shadows and give the classic 1940's etherial quality. The third light is a small filler at about head height which removes facial shadows and can be gelled to add colours to the composition.
A more simplistic setup, often seen in 1970s black and white photography comprises simply the window (w) and a reflector instead of a light at L3. L1 and L2 are not used for these naturalistic and moody shots lit only by natural lighting. Often a long exposure is required because of the low light levels in these shots.
Black and White seems to lend itself to this sort of image.
Also when using reflectors be careful not to have them too low. You might introduce new upward facing shadows on the face that can be quite unflattering.
Single natural light sources are also great for portraits. This shot was taken on a rainy afternoon whilst we were walking around an old castle ruin. We were inside looking out of a window and the light gave a peaceful mood to the shot. I dialed back the exposire by two stops and clicked off a couple of shots before she even realised I was taking a photo of her. In post processing I dodged out the jacket Nic was wearing because it had a big logo visible, but other than this and a crop, the shot is as photographed.