On a photography group on linkedin someone asked for advice on what settings worked best for portraiture. I replied thus:
You have great advice, and a wonderful example (which I have made a favourite on flickr).Let me add some basics, apologies for teaching you to suck eggs if you know all this already, but just in case …
As stated elsewhere… there is no ideal setting, it depends on what you are trying to achieve. You would be better learning to use natural light first and, in particular, the benefits of reflecting some light.
I was teaching a friend some photography over the weekend. I set up my camera on a tripod (so I could work at slower speeds as the daylight was starting to fade). I sat her close and side on to a window and took some shots. I then put the camera on timer mode (tripod needed) and held a mostly white tea-towel next to her on the opposite side from the window. This reflected and balanced out the light so one side of her face was only slightly darker than the other. Learning this is key.
When you get your flash out, BOUNCE it off a white surface, or put it through a softbox. See strobist.com for guidance.