For someone just starting out, this is a nice picture.
As you develop (hah!) more skills in photography you will rely less and less on post processing.
Let me ask you this. What made this your favorite?
If post work and editing is a joy to you , you may find photo manipulation becoming a stronger part of your shots. So basically you will spend most of your time in photoshop / lightroom and not worry so much about distracting backgrounds or lack of surreal lighting as you will be changing all that later, weeks after the capture.
If you are a purist and you want the scene as real as possible "as shot" , then I would look into scouting powerful yet minimalistic locations that support your main character without competing with him / her. Off camera lighting will help you to get the exposure right how you wanted without trying to repair clipped whites or blacks later.
As mentioned earlier. A popular technique is to make the camera think it's taking a picture of the bright background ( or ambient ) and then throw in some reflected light or a puff of flash to illuminate your subject. Once your exposures are close, you just tweak and enhance to taste.
I like that you are not afraid to ask questions.
I hope some of that helped you.