What sliders should I focus on when doing basic touch-up with programs like iPhoto?
As a follow-up to this previous question
of mine, I'd like to explore the optimal, most efficient was to enhance RAW digital photos with programs like iPhoto, Aperture and Photoshop.
I'm not looking for complex post-production or fancy-pants special effects such as HDR. I'd simply like to make basic adjustments to exposure and saturation to make the photos more appealing and attractive. Yet I find that once I begin to adjust sliders, I fall into a "slider K-hole," in which I become obsessed with achieving perfect results. Inevitably, I go overboard, and the photos are overprocessed and unnaturalistic.
1. How can I upgrade the efficiency of post-production to achieve great results on the quick?
2. When I launch iPhoto or Aperture, what's the optimal order for making adjustments? Which should be first, which should be next? Which should I ignore altogether?
3. Given that I'm only interested in basic touch-up and enhancement, is there value in springing for an (expensive) copy of Photoshop? Can professionals with needs like mine get by with iPhoto or Aperture?