without setting up a studio how often would I get to chance to shoot someone with a perfectly clear background?
Thanks for the help!
Well, I want to tell you that I'm learning as well. Maybe the only advantage I have is that I have a "pro" photographer behind my back telling me what's "wrong" in general terms. This can be a pain in the neck because they tell you you're responsible for your photo and the way it is presented to other people, they can be very hard sometimes
What I have learned so far about portraiture, is that you have to be under control of the situation, let's say, the model, the background and the light.
What do they say? Well, if you can move your model, then do it to a better place, if not, try to find a better angle, let's say, from a lower angle. Then there's the light. You can have some help from artificial light source, incandescent or fluorescent D55 to soften shadows. Depending on where's your window, you can decide where to put your model and what kind of light you want to use to give a certain mood to the photo. If you have problems with the shadows, you can bounce light with a white cardboard (believe me, it works) that is an unexpensive solution to this problem.
About the lines behind the head, if you can choose where your subject is going to be at the moment of the photo, then place her (him) somewhere else, if you can't, then look for a ladder and take the photo from above, or get on your knees and take it from below, if none of those are possible, then try to highlight your subject as much as you can with the light and using a very shallow depth of field (f2.8, f2.2, f2.0... f1.
to blur as much as you can your background. You have to be very careful when using shallow depth of field not to distort the face of your model and getting the most of the face in focus, first of all, her (his) eyes or look.
I know that working without a studio gives you lots of things to take care of, but generally, if you're not going to be a fashion or commercial photographer, you're not going to have a studio. You can check on famous portrait photographers and their technique out of a studio, they are amazing. I'm telling you to encourage you to use whatever you have (light, background, model) in hand to get your ideal photo. In the end, the photo you're taking has to please you, in first place. You're the boss there.
I noticed that I talked too much today... I have to go on vacations again...
I hope I was of some help.