If you are just starting in Photoshop, and you want to make your photos look better, there are a few simple things you can do.
First, you need to be shooting RAW, which is the highest possible quality your camera can produce. Shooting RAW gives you a lot more freedom and flexibility in post production, because there is simply more information to work with. It allows you to retain high quality if you need to crop, and more importantly it let’s you pull out and manipulate colors.
You can use two simple and popular techniques to make your photos look better. The first of which is the famous black and white filter. Not every photo will look great in black and white, and there is not a cut and dry solution to get the proper adjustments. Photoshop has an initial camera RAW editor that pops up once you open your image. There you will have a multitude of adjustments. The first thing to adjust is the saturation, you will want to bring that bar all the way to -100. All of the other settings you will need to worry about is the middle section, you don’t have to worry about temperature, tint, or vibrancy, because they will make little to no difference. I would suggest going through the settings in a linear fashion to find what looks best for you. Everyone has different tastes, but I am positive that a lot of people will share your preferences. I personally prefer high contrast in black and white. I like dark shadows, and bright highlights, so my adjustments are changed accordingly.
The second simple method is making the colors “pop.” The point of this is to exaggerate the colors to your liking. It is the same basic process, the only difference is that you are focused on what colors look right. I will generally warm the image slightly by adjusting the temperature. I don’t really mess with the tint setting, so I wouldn’t worry about it for now. Again, you will want to go through each adjustment in a linear fashion to find what looks best for you. My approach is slight adjusting, I want to moderately exaggerate color so that it still looks believable. Small adjustments can go a long way.
The next step, for both methods, is to get rid of any blemishes. This is simple, all you need to do is first make a copy of the original layer, then open up the “spot healing brush tool” and go to work. This tool is like magic, you set the size, then click, and the blemishes vanish. If you run into problems however, you may need to resort to the patch tool, stamp tool, or other means of fixing blemishes. But you shouldn’t run into too many problems, and the best thing to do is to stick with it and try different approaches. You want to edit the photo as minimally as possible, because the more you mess with the pixels, they can sometimes end up looking extremely distorted. But that is why you always make a copy of the previous layer before you attempt to make any significant changes to the image. That way you always have something to revert back to.
What I would do next is adjust anything else that you think needs adjusting. I can’t tell you exactly what needs to be fixed or what you can leave alone, that sort of hunch comes with practice. The goal when editing people photography is to help make the subject look their absolute best. That is really important, and that is why I emphasize exaggerating features that either you like, or that you know the subject will like. In contrast, you may want to get rid of, or reduce, embarrassing features such as scars, pimples, difference in eye size, the list can go on. And that is why it is important to keep communication with the subject, and find out what they may be self conscious of. You don’t want to explicitly ask “what do you dislike about yourself?” that is a very bad idea. But I find that you can learn body language, verbal queues, and sometimes the subject will just simply tell you what bothers them; as well as what they would want you to fix in post.
The best thing to do if you want to improve your post processing is by practicing, and finding a rhythm. The more you do it, the more techniques you will master, and the better your photographer’s eye will become.