The temptation is great. Filters are awesome. Everyone has their own artistic vision, but after the shiny-newness of all those cool Alien Skin filters we all love to use wears off a bit, you may want to take your photos to the next level, and the way to do that is by subtle changes.
Here is a before-and-after. The original is a film photograph I took in my photo studio, and had printed by my high-end local photo shop. Because they have color chemistry, their black-and-white prints always come out as sepia. (CLick on image to see it larger.)
The modified photo has gone through the subtle set of changes that I feel makes for a stronger photo. In this case, the subject matter is neutral, and therefore could be considered a bit boring, but I chose it because there is nothing to take away your interest from the pure processing differences between the two images.
You want the nitty-gritty on the changes I made, don't you! Well, I'll give you the basics here, and stay tuned for the video version, with the walkthrough of the changes I've made.
First, I scanned the image with all presets off - no in-scanner-sharpening or anything like that. I cranked up the brightness in the brightness/contrast adjustment until the histogram shows the brightest part of the photo nearly at the right edge. Contrast is also increased to give more drama. Adjustments/Black and White is next, bringing it back from sepia to true greyscale. Some people prefer sepia, but I'm showing you what I personally chose, so there you are. A little bit of vignetting is added through the filter/distort/lens correction selection, and there you have it. I didn't do anything drastic. Practice with these few adjustments and see how much better your own photos start to look!