Hey man, no worries. When learning there is no such thing as a question that is too broad. That is one of the things I love about the crowd here, everyone understands that at one time they were also clueless. This isn't case on many other forums.
Anyway, in answer to your first question, I personally don't have a checklist per se. At least nothing written down and followed in order. However, what I do for almost every image is;
- Check sharpness. If it isn't sharp then I'll work some Unsharp Mask on it.
- Check for proper levels. You want Black to be black and White to be white, even there are only four pixels of each. Sometimes I'll bring up the midtones but I rarely have to sit back and wish I knew how to use Cruves properly! Brightness and contrast are what this step is all about, making sure everything I want visible IS visible.
- Color correction. I don't usually do much with this aspect but if the shot needs it I'll do it.
- Kill flaws. I will blow the image up to 100% and slowly scroll through an image looking for scars, scratches, lint, stains, electrical cords coming out of backs and so on. I get rid of these issues and then view the image in full to see if there any larger issues such as discoloration on one side of a model's chest as opposed to the other. If there are larger issues I fix them as best I can.
- Check cropping. All the previous stuff I do on the out-of-camera image and then I set up my crop tool. Depending on the shot I may crop for 16 x 24 or 8 x 12 (using the aspect ratio from the 10D). I always crop to 300 DPI regardless of the physical print dimensions.
- Usually this is where my processing stops. If I want to give the image a certain feel beyond these then I will continue to work it from this point on doing things like soft focus, color removal/saturation or any other effect I can come up with. The reason for this is that things such as blurring work differently on a large scale image than they do on a lower resolution image (a 10 pixel blur is dramatic on a small web image but hardly noticeable on a 16 x 24 300DPI image.)
As for my preferred method of converting to B&W, I like to use a plugin by The Imaging Factory called Convert to B&W Pro. It's $99 from their web site.
Lastly, for increasing the DOF behind a model, use a longer lens and wider apperture. 200MM at 2.8 is sweet and at 1/125 can still be handheld if needed. If you want to do it in photoshop you can but it's more difficult. You have to cut out your subject then blur the background. That's a lot of involved masking unless the Extract tool can pull it off.
I hope that helped. Sorry if these seems short but I'm at the day job and have to run.