I would categorize myself as an amateur photographer. My skill lies more with photo editing than it does with photo taking - I could spend hours on the computer adjusting contrast and adding special effects layers...
All the photos you see on the this site were taken by me, including those in the masthead. This is the camera I use and love. It's my second Cybershot. The first one lasted me from November 2002 until May 2008. That's pretty good, right? I definitely want to save up and buy a digital SLR camera and pursue photography at the next level.
The reason I am telling you about my cheap digital camera is I want you to know that you don't have to have expensive equipment to take great photos. If you want to take professional looking portraits at home, one of the biggest factors is lighting. I always turn off the flash and take my pictures near a window that has indirect sunlight. If there is too much sun, I close the sheer curtains to soften it. The early and late hours of the day usually have the best quality light.
Another tip is to use a tripod. When you're not using flash, it's harder to get a focused image. Using a tripod will allow you to use a slightly longer exposure, which gives the photo more depth, light, and detail.
Look for details in your subject that you want to highlight and shoot those up close for artistic and unique photos. If you are photographing a bouquet, for example, zoom in on your favorite flower, allowing the others to move out of focus. If you are taking a picture of a baby, get a shot of his tiny toes or his mouth up close. Don't be afraid to use a prop and remember that you don't always have to put the subject in the exact center of the photo.