Note: when I refer to a picture as "raw" it means straight out of the camera, with no editing. I almost NEVER post any raw photos for anything.
Note 2: I usually use either Photoshop or Picnik to edit my photos. Picnik is free (well it has free stuff you can use) and relatively user friendly.
Tip #1: Auto-Exposure is your friend!
Using an auto-exposure correction or simply adjusting the exposure yourself can really bump the quality of your picture up astronomically!
Here's the raw photo of my cute little friend when she was in the pool.
And now, my cute little friend after I've adjusted the exposure down a little bit.
Though the difference is subtle, it really goes a long way into keeping your photo from being over or under exposed.
Trick #1: Cross Processing
Now, this is an effect from Picnik, but I'm sure some of the other photo editing programs have something similar. It's basically an easy version of this really complex double-exposure color enhancing photography technique. I love Cross Processing. I find it gives most of my photos a nice color palette.
Here is me and my friend Jay one Halloween.
Now, here is the same pic with a (little) cross processing.
In case you're trying to guess what I was...I was Swine Flu. (swine flew?) That was back when it was an epidemic. A timely costume, I think. Oh and the marshmallow/powdered sugar on us is from a party game.
Here's one more example of my love of Cross Processing.
Trick #2: All of your powers combined!
Using exposure and sharpening tools with a nice effect like cross processing, orton-ish or a even something more dramatic like a tint or color boost will really take your photos from bleh to awesome! The more editing you do, the more fantastical your result. Want to keep it simple? Go for a few tweaks. Or, you could do this...
I took this of my drink this morning. Booorrrrriiinnngggg.
After some editing (admittedly more than I normally do, but still fun) I got this...
I hope this provides some help and inspiration the next time you pick up a camera.