I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the biggest ingredient for people photography is not what brand of camera you use, or how expensive your lens is, or even how good a photographer you are.
The biggest ingredient for people photography is your personality. There's a pretty famous saying that goes something along the lines of 'the camera reflects what the photographer is feeling.' In other words even though you're photographing something else, what appears in the picture is actually your personality and soul.
And I never really understood that statement. I mean I kind of got it but wasn't really 100% sure what it meant. Then I heard an interview with travel photographer Rick Sammon and it all made sense. He talked about how you could look at the face of somebody in a picture and you could imagine what the photographer was like.
Take this photograph here, taken at the Yosakoi Festival in Japan. Now what kind of a face do you think I was making as I approached this guy to take a photo? Look at the faces on the women in the background. Do you think I was frowning? Being quiet and respectful? Hell no. I had a big cheesy grin on my face that stretched from ear to ear and I was laughing along with him. And my face is reflected in the one he gave me for the camera.
To make your travel photography portraits really good you have to empathise with the people you are photographing. You have to want to know them, even if it is only for the briefest moment. You have to be prepared to open yourself up to have them let you in. If they are deliriously happy and laughing their heads off you can't approach them with a frown on your face because you're nervous about asking if you can take a picture. You have to be laughing and in on the joke with them.
And when you can adapt yourself to fit in with total strangers in totally unique situations, that's when you'll be on the road to creating some memorable travel portraits.