I was just one year taking photography lessons after work. It was still the time where we only had film, no internet and no smartphones.
My photographic teacher told us some important things while developing our film in the darkroom. Her standpoint was that we should photograph the person as he/she is, without as little as possible judgement but using our deep imotions to make it "our" story.
A consequence is that you no only to have an intensive look on the model you are woking with, but also have to setup a relation of trust.
It will be the mix of respect, time, experience and direct interaction to come closer what might be a good portrait.
In sonsequence I prefer to work on free projects where model and photographers will work together.
There is no guarantee of any outcome but foucussing on the creative process itself, rather than on the result, can be a wonderful experience.
B&W or color?
I prefer the raw structure of black and white. It is a kind of reduction to the max and thus revealing a certain kind of emotion I like.
But I also have to admid that I am not an expert in color and all the filters and automatisms give so much choice that I can't really focus.
In black and white I can.
I mainly work with Fujifilm. I love the small form factor and the direct buttons. It feels like having the light under control.
When you ask me what to recommend I only recommend the gear that feels good in your hand. Sony is excellent but not intuitive in a way I need it. I love the Leica M, but just not affordable for me (waiting that Leica sponsores me), I worked with Nikon for years, I quite like the D850 but I am not a fan of the charartes of the lenses anymore. Canons are work horses, but the interface was never to my taste.
If I am asked to recommend a camera I would recommend the XT-3 or the X100F. They have all you need for an acceptable price point.