Emily. Taken with an Olympus e-30 and a 35-100mm f2 zoom lens.
Gosh, I really like photography. And I think it's a lot like playing the piano. You need to practice all the time if you're going to be any good at it. It may seem like one of those crafts where you can learn all the stuff you need to know and then shelve it until you have time. But I think that only works for hobbies like stamp collecting or artistic pursuits like conceptualism. If you paint you need to learn to control the brush and the more you do it the better you are at it. It's the same with musical instruments.
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. When will I be done learning to meditate? When I'm dead. And how do I learn to take better photographs of people? Shoot and shoot and shoot. There's really no shortcut and there's really no advantage to learning every little fact as a cerebral tidbit. When you shoot a portrait your hands do some stuff your mouth does other stuff (talk, sing, lie, cajole, praise, engage....) and your brain does some other stuff. But to make them do everything at once and make them do it reasonably well you have to give your creative muscles daily exercise or they atrophy.
So I call friends and people I meet and relatives and anyone that will listen and I invite them over to my little studio and make photographs. And it's nearly always a nice collaboration. When it isn't it means I wanted everything my way and ended up not getting anything nice. Or the subject wanted everything their way and that didn't work either.
The image I keep in my head as I shoot a portrait is that of water in a stream. Every time a rock comes up I try to go around it. I never try to push the rocks out of my way. I don't know what's on the other side of the rock but I know I'll get there if I just stay fluid.
The way to stay fluid is to be the water, everyday. And flow.
Practice, practice, practice. Enjoy the process and you'll enjoy the outcome. Force the process and the outcome is worthless.