You've already got half the battle won if you've got a willing victim... errr I mean subject! And a live in one at that. You can't go wrong with the entry level dslr's from Canon or Nikon. Don't neglect to look in the used market. There are some great buys out there on some of the forums. Starting out using available light outdoors is a very good plan. Welcome to GG and be sure to post some of your shots. There are a great bunch of photographers around here and they are usually quick to offer advice and suggestions.
"Nobody belongs to us,
except in memory"