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My photos look so dull

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Probably the most noticable item on most of those shots is the white balance is off
are you always using auto WB? regardless make sure you shoot RAW and you can tweak the WB a little
also tied in with White balance is sometimes skin tones can benefit from just a very slight tweak of the magenta
when tweaking white balance (in lightroom this only needs to be as subtle as +2 from the base value)
the first shot the lady's skin looks very pasty and pale so i would suggest the following

I'll put some values in to try in light room other programs the values might differ

increase the whitebalance temperature to warm it all up a bit (not sure without the raw but maybe 5200 or there about)
add in a little magenta on the wb colour tone slider +2

in some cases bring up your exposure a bit much better exposing a bit more than trying to pull it up in post though
then increase contrast a little +10 then tweak up or down a bit to taste
increase clarity a little maybe try +20 and again tweak to taste
increase vibrance +10 and tweak it

Add a subtle tone curve to bring in a bit of punch into the midtones also some very minor adjustment to the

black level can really help especially if your blacks are looking a little grey

if you are shooting jpg you should be aiming to nail your white balance in camera grab one of these and set custom white balance for each scene
these are easier to use and carry than grey card and work really well

What do you use for post-processing?  Picking up a copy of Lightroom is much cheaper than it used to be since Adobe decided to cut the price in half.  Immediately after I purchased it, actually, but oh well.

A little extra exposure would help, possibly brushed onto the faces only, or perhaps by raising "fill light."  Also a little bit of "vibrance" and a small tad of "saturation." 

I agree with WickedWombat on the white balance point.  Add a touch of warmth in the WB, and you should be there, though getting it close while in-camera helps a ton if you shoot JPG because the camera is discarding data and making decisions that cannot be fully reversed as would be possible if you were shooting RAW.  If it is an important shot, consider shooting in RAW +JPG so you have both.

Also, to go low-tech for a minute, your subjects are wearing washed-out colors (grey and faded denim).  The photo you liked of that kid was bright orange and other vivid Romper-Room colors.  Sometimes it is just as simple as colorful clothes and backgrounds.

My swing at it.  levels, curves, contrast, adjusted color, fixed tones and skin, a bit of dodging and burning.  All and all about 2-3 min of work.

There is something to be said for using good glass (e.g. L lenses), where all the post processing in the world won't help... The 50mm 1.8II is a great lens for the price, but it's just that, good for the PRICE.  It can't compete with the 50mm f/1.2L or 50mm f/1.4 in color, contrast and bokeh (The L lens more than non-L).  Those pictures you posted that you like so much are all taken with either the 50mm f/1.2L or 50mm f/1.4 (at least according to the author's tags).  You pay a premium for good glass for a reason! :)

The well lit photos that you've shown (especially the first and last ones) are illuminated with photo lighting equipment. (The second one looks natural light but with a brush on the face to increase its brightness.)

That means that the subject is lit so that it fills the entire optimal dynamic range and tonal range of the eye. This happens because of light intensity, light spectral power distribution and light distribution / direction.

You can recognize this from the lack or softness of shadows and also from the exquisite colors and the very high resolution of tiny detail.

You can compensate (to some degree) the lack of photo lighting equipment with RAW processing, depending on how much time you're willing to spend processing photos.


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