Definitely get some good quality pastels of both types! Cheap ones don't handle the same. An experienced pastelist can make them perform well, but the problem with cheap student products is that they're not as effective.
Broken color is what you're describing with the crayon-like choppy effect. It's a useful technique to create texture, it does not need to be there. I do it deliberately and sometimes sketch with it. You can get light over dark with soft pastels. One way is to try many different brands and have more than one type of stick. Sennelier half sticks are relatively inexpensive artist grade and happen to be among the softest. A Sennelier white or a few tints can give very strong light over dark effects on more firm medium soft or "hard" pastels.
"Hard" pastels are the least expensive and act more like sketching materials. They are the same formula as the cores of pastel pencils. Many realist and photo realist pastelists use pastel pencils or hard pastels for their effects.
Medium soft brands like Rembrandt are versatile, offering almost as much control as the hard pastels and a variety of textures. Entire paintings can be done in any of these types.
Hand rolled are fluffy, lighter, go on easily and tend toward loose expressions. Getting detail means breaking the stick and using its sharp freshly broken edge for fine lines and details. It's possible also to narrow a line or harden an edge by working back up to it after blending out a little beyond the line.
Super soft pastels like Terry Ludwig, Schminke and Sennelier are going to wear down fastest, leave bold marks and great for scumbling, broken color over many other layers without disturbing them. Or laying light over dark final accents.
A huge tip, possible even with the pastels you have, is blending out to get a smooth flat area of color or a smooth gradient or soft edge. However, working with fresh strokes gives more intensity to the color and value, a sparkle that isn't there in any other medium. Blending can be very useful for preliminary layers since you can put fresh marks over blended areas without mixing in the color under them. Most pastels are reasonably opaque. A blended underpainting can tone the paper and let you work darker and lighter from a muted or bright medium tone.
I'd suggest given your interest in realism that you get some sample pastel pencils and test their textures, then get a ful range set in the brand of your choice. A lot of realism in pastels also involves large passages that are done with bolder strokes but the strokes are close in value or texture and don't jump out as dramatically as those first strokes of broken color on a white surface. They just become textures.
Try painting with a red on a bright orange paper with broken color, or with any combination of paper and pastel that are close to hue and value. Give it that broken color stroke. Then try using light and bright colors on black paper. There's a particular zing that comes from black flecks showing thrugh light colors that makes them vibrant and seem even lighter.
Having an assortment of different pastel types allows a wider range of ways to get the same effects.
Colour Shapers can also help create fine detail and blend pastels without breaking down the crystals as much, though the best way to blend is by using an intermediate color stick. That'll keep the whole surface fresh and sparkling.
What pastels have going for them is instant gratification and a vibrance matched by no other medium. It's pigment with an absolute minimum of binder. If you're skilled at painting realism in wet mediums, you might take to Pan Pastels. They come in 2 1/2" round compacts like a lady's makeup compact and are applied with special Sofft tool micropore sponges that last longer and hold much more color than women's makeup applicators. A good starter set is the 10 Painters Colors which includes some tools, the 20 Painters Colors set has a wider range of tools and all their pigments. It can also be built up to the full range easily by adding the other 20 color sets.
I use 10 Painters as a plein air set, it has primaries, earths, black white and a couple of secondaries. A good range of hues if I were putting together 10 oil, acrylic or watercolor tubes. The tools handle like brushes and the sharp corners of the wedge sponge are very good for details, even more than the knives with soft covers.
They handle the most like paint, blend like paint, go over each other well especially on PastelMat coated pastel paper. It takes several layers before they blend at all on PastelMat, which also works well with stick pastels. An absolutely minimal set is the 5 Painters, just primaries, white and black. I found it limiting without the earths and secondaries and I do like the convenience colors, tints and darks and deep darks. But I was able to get decent results even with the 5 painters if your budget's tight.
So there are the different pastel types. All of them last a lot longer than I expected when I started out. They handle differently on different types of paper too. Sanded papers hold more layering and allow more complex effects, the more fine grit ones still allow as much detail as a plain paper but have much more tooth. Ampersand Pastelbord has a lot of tooth and very fine grit.
Last, in terms of getting detail, just working larger helps. I went from colored pencil realism with meticulous accuracy to pastels and discovered a different kind of realism, resting less on minute detail and more on accuracy of light, intensity of light and textural effects. One problem with photorealism is focus - there's a tendency to overdetail peripheral areas and draw attention away from the main subject. It will sometimes flatten out photorealist paintings and some painters do that deliberately, many also become expert photographers in the process of overcoming that. Or started out as photographers and became artists. The camera becomes a type of sketchbook with its effects part of the artist's overall tool kit.
Without seeing your work, I don't know as much about what you're looking for in pastels. They need to be glazed but they have a remarkable archival quality, pastels contemporary with oil paintings will still shine bright as the day they were created while the oils have yellowed, cracked and suffered with time.
So try different artist grade brands. A good workhorse starter set in one of the medium soft brands can help a lot. Pan Pastels handle like paint so you don't need all the colors, the small sets are enough to try them. Pastel pencils are very good for detail and much softer than colored pencils, it helps to work a little larger than for colored pencils realism but they do about that and a large range helps with those.
Half stick sets are a good bargain to increase the range of colors for less money. They don't wear down evenly. I thought that most weren't wearing down because they didn't get used much, but found instead that there are a few colors that wear fast by being used in large areas while most of the rest of the essentials are sometimes only essential for small areas and final touches, so a big range really helps.
There's free book on pastel painting by Deborah Secor online, Landscape Painting in Pastels.
Her Materials chapter is a good guide to what you'll need to start and what's good to have later on. My own experience and many beginners I taught, it helps to have as large a range as possible to start. Going from a large palette to a small one takes some skill, but you're not a beginner artist so you may already have that skill. With a big palette what you have are convenience colors that save you trouble mixing and layering. Something can be stated in two sticks that might take me five or six layers to get that hue with a limited palette.
I hope that helps. You've mastered so many other mediums already that I think you'll enjoy pastels and get something different with them.
I'm also active on the Oil Pastels forums and the same thing applies with oil pastels - artist grade are much smoother in quality, softness varies with brand, and artist grade ones are much more lightfast. Some student grade brands though fugitive can handle well in sketchbooks and where the digitized art or prints are the final form. Try different brands and techniques. Some of the ways to get detail are similar, others not. Where oil pastels would use solvents, soft pastels use blending.