After sorting the images using Adobe Bridge, starring the keepers, I pull them into Camera Raw. Camera Raw is a program within Bridge and Photoshop which makes almost all the adjustments you could need, besides the hardcore head and face swaps and tiny little things Photoshop is superior at managing. Camera Raw allows you to adjust the kelvin temperature, tint, exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks, clarity, vibrance, saturation, noise, chromatic aberration, lens correction, and so much more. You're also able to adjust the variables within a single image, copy and paste those adjustments to a batch of images. This makes post production fly!
I prefer straight lines in my images oftentimes, but I rarely shoot a straight image so the crop tool is my friend. I was afraid to crop when I first began this career, as I was afraid to do anything to make a mistake with someone's wedding photos, but I learned to trust my instincts and use logic. Leave enough room for both a 4x6 and an 8x10 crop. 4x6, sure, that's normal, but why 8x10? Because you or someone else may want to print a different aspect ratio. 8x10 is a super popular print size. Don't forget the Rule of Thirds and symmetry when you're cropping. I correct exposure and color to skin tone then the dress or tuxedo. Keeping whites white and blacks black without blowing out highlights or muddying shadows is key to a timeless image.
Camera Raw stores the adjustment data in sidecar .xmp files and keeps the raw files in tact, which allows you to alter those adjustments later. Once you've saved the images/processed them into .jpeg files, you're not longer able to revert the image to the original default. Also, raw files naturally contain more data and more data means more paint to work with on the canvas. You're capable of pushing the elements in a raw file much further than those in a .jpeg.
After I make my usual adjustments in Camera Raw, I pull the raw images into Photoshop. I always work on a second layer, only merging them when I'm satisfied with my work. Sometimes, I use a third and fourth layer for more blending options. I make some more adjustments to the light and color in Photoshop before I begin retouching the skinBlending is the key to skin retouching. I prefer the patch tool. When the tool is drawn around an area then dragged to another area with similar pixels color/texture, it'll blend the two and remove a slight imperfection like acne or a little stray hair that you just need to remove. After duplicating, patching, blending, opacity, merge, repeating many times to achieve an even and natural skin tone, I turn my attention towards shadows and highlights. I tend to shoot with available light, because I believe the colors absorbed are more organic and tell a better story than false light output from a strobe or speed light. When I rely on the sun and natural shadows, sometimes I get unwanted areas. Maybe the cheekbone didn't turn a certain degree far enough at that time of the day, so now I have to even out the shadow to make a smoother cheek. Maybe her eyes need to be brightened a tad. Makeup needs retouching 99% of the time. Eyebrows filled in to be a bit more dramatic. I love jumping into tweaking the color after it's all said and done.