Thanks for the suggestions, I'll try BW, options..good subject... the images would be much better in black & white and a shallow depth of field to isolate the subject. Ultimately, you'd want to eliminate the flash and go with nice soft light, coming through a window, for example. But I realize you didn't have that option here.
In the final shot, I would probably crop in a little tighter on the 'face' and try to implement the rule of thirds (but that's my personal preference in most cases).
I also think shots like that are best when you can get a little of the person's expression included, or eye contact. That's why I strongly prefer your first shot. Great expression!