There are dozens of "How To" articles when it comes to portrait photography. Very few, if any, focus on things to avoid. With these quick tips you can steer clear of unwanted experiences and take your portraits to the next level. Here's a list that the professionals in the industry never share with you.
1) When directing your subject’s posing it's crucial to make them feel comfortable about the pose you have in mind. Photographers by nature, stand there like a statue, command and point when instructing. This is something to avoid. If you want them to look natural and feel comfortable, put down your camera and tell them to imitate what you are doing, then strike the pose you had in mind. Another option is to show an example of a photo/pose you had in mind. I have an album on my phone for this exact purpose. Directing them by pointing fingers and making demands rarely results in natural looking poses. If they aren't feeling it, it will show in your results and your viewers will not feel it.
2) Don't be afraid to say that it was a stupid idea, and to move on and try something else. When I first started portrait photography I didn't have much confidence in myself. I would mention an idea or pose to my models and 3 minutes after I started shooting I realized it was a totally stupid idea. Too embarrassed to admit it wasn't a good idea, I'd keep on shooting. I would waste half a shoot for no reason until eventually I worked up the courage to say something. If you come up with a concept on a shoot and realize after a few pictures that it wasn't the best idea, just say "lets scratch this and move on." Don't waste precious time on images you know you'll never look at twice.
3) I bet you came to read this article thinking I'd share tips and tricks for settings on your camera.... wrong. Don't get caught up on settings. Once you've mastered your settings move on and stop worrying about it. The more technical you get, the less you'll actually be concentrating on taking a solid photo. No one cares for a technically sound photo. Spend your time thinking of creative ideas, capturing the right expressions and helping your subjects pose.
4) If there's one tip natural light photographers should learn first it would be the golden hour rule. Avoid harsh sunlight at all costs. Schedule your shoots 2 hours before sunset. That soft golden hour light makes it hard to take a portrait with bad lighting. (Here's an article that will help you find that perfect natural light)
5) If you don't absolutely love it when you shoot it, don't rely on retouching to change your mind. I mention this in my online 1on1 mentoring sessions and can not stress it enough. It's a mistake I still make on almost every one of my shoots. I glance at my camera screen and tell myself "I can make this great later on in post." Cut that bad habit. Don't stop shooting until that perfect image is captured. If you don't love the photo, don't even bother trying to convince yourself that it'll look better after you edit it. Retouching is only meant to enhance a photo that's amazing SOOC.