So I thought I would walk you through a quick edit and let you in on my thoughts.
The first step that sets the tone for the image and helps clarify the editing is getting the crop and composition how I like it. I crop to the image, not to a set ratio, but some folks prefer to keep certain ratios for printing… it is up to you. Since the main story of the image is the boy and his bike, there is a lot of extraneous area that can be cropped. For action shooting, it is often better to shoot a little wider/looser and then crop after the fact, where as in most slower situations trying to get the composition in camera is always a good practice. In this crop I put Sam on the left third to give him room to move into the frame, and I made sure to show a little of the ground to give visual clues about how high he is jumping.
After the crop, I then click Auto tone to make sure the black and white points are set, and then I usually bring back the exposure just a touch as it tends to run a little too bright. I tweak a few settings such as Highlights and Shadows and add a little Clarity. Lately, I have been dialing down the Vibrance and Saturation just a touch also, but that is a personal taste.
After working the toning, I look for distractions that I can remove. The rock on the jump, the post and some bright spots and lines in the background. This helps settle the image and not have parts that are pulling the eye away from the main story.
After removing distracting elements, the next step is to tone down any parts of the image that are too sharp or bright. Bright parts and sharp areas call for the eye to investigate, so if I can tone these parts down, the eye will spend more time where I want it to… so the first thing I do is tone down the dirt hill in front that is pretty bright by using the Gradient tool and setting it to darken just a touch and using a -100 Sharpness to give it a bit of a blur, so that the eye will pass more easily from the hill to Sam’s face.
Now I use the Adjust brush to tackle the back area and tone down the bright tree trunks and give the whole area a bit of a blur, so that Sam has even a bit more separation.
So there you go, nothing fancy but, this is the kind of editing that I do on a regular basis with most of my images. Hope that helps