A friend said he would like to get into off camera flash but found everything was just too expensive. If you are just starting out it does not have to be expensive and I set out to prove it. The image below shows the setup. Now yes I am using a custom backdrop but you could just as easily use a white wall as a backdrop. If you want a kit like this it is about 160.00 CAD. It is portable, easy to set up, and you can add other backdrops to your kit. The small umbrella is about 30.00 CAD. The flash in this case was a real bargain. It is a Voking flash and I got it on sale for 29.00 CAD. Now it is not a stellar flash but it works well. It is very dependent on line of sight if you are using it as a slave. I would recommend going with something a bit more expensive to get a little more reliability but this did work out. And of course you need a light stand, which you can get for under 50.00 CAD. So if you want to include the backdrop the total would come to about 270.00 CAD and if you just wanted to use a white wall in your house it would cost no more than 200.00 depending on the flash you bought.
Once the photo is taken, and the light is right, then comes the next step in creating a portrait. For post processing I use Photoshop, some actions for Photoshop, colour grading and other techniques that I have learned on line. If you are at all computer savvy, many of these techniques are easy to learn. I would however suggest you purchase a Wacom tablet down the road to make the process a lot easier.
So I think you will agree that you can get a perfectly acceptable portrait with a simple setup and a little Photoshop knowledge.