There are several ways to establish a connection with your next portrait subject. Here are three.
1) Shooting straight on with your subject at or near eye-level establishes eye contact and a close relationship between the subject and the viewer. There is an intimacy to a straight on camera position that evokes an emotional response.
The straight on shot can work from any height, but it is most effective at eye level. If you want to establish an immediate connection between the viewer and the subject, shoot straight on.
2) Try to get an honest, genuine expression. Expression sells portraits. So get a real one. If you just tell someone to smile it rarely works as well as getting them to smile in a genuine manner. I am not above telling bad jokes to my subjects to get them to laugh or smile naturally. It makes the portrait more real and intimate in my opinion.
3) Take care of the technical stuff BEFORE the subject arrives for their portrait. Know what camera settings and lighting setups you want before they show up. The photographers who spend time fiddling with their cameras and gear don’t have as good a chance at establishing real rapport and connection with their subjects.