Tattoos are becoming a lot more "main stream" than they were just a few years ago.
What many people thought was a way to set yourself apart 10 years ago has turned into something for everyone—literally! Often times, there are adults over 40 years old sitting in the tattoo shop getting their first ink, right next to the 18th birthday girl. Just because everyone else is lined up for some ink, you should still do your homework and find out what is right for you.
While it is possible, there is a lot more to getting a tattoo than walking into any shop you see on the side of the road, looking at a few drawings, picking the one that looks the prettiest on paper, and letting a stranger stick you with a needle. By looking into designs, shops, and reasons before getting a tattoo, you will feel much better about it afterwards, as well as avoiding potential medical problems.
Getting a tattoo should be thought of the same as getting a medical procedure. There is a high-risk of infection from contaminated needles, and other medical waste if you don't be careful. A doctors office shouldn't have dirty needles laying around and filth all over the place, and neither should a decent tattoo shop.
It's not hard to pick whether a tattoo shop is safe or not. A good shop will have its rules in plan view, and normally won't let anyone under the age of 18 in the doors without a parent. The shop should have a staff member that can talk to you when entering. They should be able to direct you to the portfolios, answer questions about their artists, make appointments, sell gift certificates, and make you feel comfortable. Shops that ignore you when entering are generally the same way throughout the experience.