Wow, great feedback! I really appreciate everyone’s information here and the diverse opinions.
Firstly to KeithR’s point – I agree that the software here isn’t the problem, I admit I don’t know how to use it. I’m sure each program is perfectly capable of producing stunning images – just not by my hand yet!
7enderbender – no I don’t really have a workflow established yet. My organization has been quite literally the was the Canon EOS utility downloaded my photos, sorted in folders by day.
I am not planning on being a “heavy editor” in terms of magically erasing individuals from photos or going crazy with a lot of those type features – my main intent is to improve a photo that looks okay, but could be better with a few changes like white balance, hue/saturation, etc, and some noise reduction efforts on high iso stuff.
In the attachments, see my example of what I'm looking to do mostly. Recently I took this photo of a mink on a pond (really wish I had a zoom lens with more reach!) – the white blance was off (looked blueish) and the mink wasn't nearly as brown as he looked. I used Lightroom for this example (beacuse I had the trial open) and added lens correction for the 55-250 lens, what balance adjustment - and poof, its better (not great, but better). The bluish one is right out of the cameras JPEG (I shoot jpeg + RAW) and the whiter one I edited.
So while I know nearly all the programs out there can do this - I am especially interested in the one that requires minimal effort to learn so I can spend more time out there taking pictures, that hopefully don't need editing!
A few notes on the programs I gather from the comments:
I am a Windows user so Aperture is out.
I did checkout DPP a little bit, though didn’t really do a whole lot with it yet and wasn’t sure if it was a friendly program to learn and use.
Paintshop Pro just didn’t feel intuitive to me, that’s mainly why I wondered if I was just out of the loop and needed to spend more time on it or not. I hadn’t looked at AfterShot Pro, but I think I’ll look into it too.
There are a few Photoshop elements classes at my local art institute, however it seems like a bit more options than I really need.
I was honestly unaware of the freeware out there for RAW files, I understand both points being made by the posters at odds with the software – however for the immediate I think I’ll stick with something I can get a book on or learn from tutorials/classes.
There seems to be a lot of people indicating Lightroom is fairly easy to use. I did download Lightroom and it does seem reasonably intuitive – there are a few books out there I see and ghosh9691, that link for SLRLounge was very informative. Mt. Spokane, you make a very good point about making a purchase and being able to cancel before it ships…. I do like the lens correction profile options here (is this in a lot of other packages too?)
Thanks for everyones comments!