Wedding photographer Jim Davis-Hicks is driven by a few simple philosophies: aim high in life, don't let your business own you, and live by the golden rule. He and his wife Lara Davis-Hicks founded Davis Photography six years ago and have pushed for more out of life each year.
The pair parlayed their first $300 shooting fee into a wedding photography business that today covers 15 weddings a year with fees closer to $12K.
Both Jim and Lara respond to a gravitational pull to help othersóclients and peers, plus the local and world community. Says Davis-Hicks, "The freedom we've created with our wedding photography work has allowed us to pursue other business and personal projects we feel are important. These include development of a new software suite, expanding our business in new directions, and founding and managing a vital nonprofit."
A Plan Takes Shape
In 2006, both realized their schedules were becoming overloaded with a mounting tide of image editing from their growing business as well as the demands of their nonprofit organization, their family, and their community. It seems that when he started his studio, Davis-Hicks had decided that working with JPEGs made the most sense. He would need less CF and hard-drive storage space, he could shoot faster, and he had the overriding feeling that working in JPEG would be less cumbersome than that working in RAW.
But as time went by, he didn't find the tools he needed to make his workflow as easy or as fast as he expected.
"When you shoot up to 3,500 images per event, the amount of time needed to alter photos can become overwhelming," he says. "It used to take me three to five days to work through all the files from one event. I had no idea I'd be putting in so many hours of editing."
One day, Davis-Hicks overheard peers talking about their RAW workflow and how much time could be saved during processing.
"I was about to bite the bullet and invest several thousand dollars in an extra 25GB in CF cards, a Tera station for storage, a Tera station for backup, a new laptop with a bigger hard drive, and new software so I could shift to RAW," he notes. "I knew I'd have to adopt a new workflow, but realizing that with a RAW workflow, I would no longer be able to edit my images so they'd look like my images was a big obstacle."
By this time, Davis-Hicks had developed his own style and actions. He wanted to maintain the same look and feel and not have to rely on presets and the styles of other photographers. "I needed software that was fully customizable, fast, and could be easily assimilated with my current actions," he explains.
There had to be a way to retain his JPEG workflow yet speed up his editing time. Over the years, Davis-Hicks had developed a signature system using a fairly defined set of custom Photoshop actions. Why not automate the actions and queue edits into a continuous batch-process mode, he thought. Some time later, with an initial investment, he kicked off the development of ActionRunner, a software suite with custom actions that automates image manipulation, A to Z, using a series of batch-process commands.
With the nuts and bolts figured out, Davis-Hicks hired engineer and photographer Jeff LaPlante to code the software, improve the GUI, and make it dummy-proof. Development has been progressing steadily, and his beta testers already love the product. With the software still in beta, marketing has been limited to word of mouth, plus a few personal copy hand-offs to key photographers.
Davis-Hicks will tell you he didn't set out to develop a software suite. He was looking for ways to cut down on computer editing time, so he could direct more time and attention back into the business and his family.
As he explains, "Sometimes necessity is the mother of invention, and after letting a few photographer friends try it, I realized I had a great tool. What used to take me three to five days now takes about three hours. I enjoy shooting more and look forward to post-production because it's so quick and easy."
ActionRunner In Action
The ActionRunner Suite uses a folder structure and a series of 25 Davis custom actions to help minimize a photographer's overall editing time. ActionRunner can be customized to allow a photographer to add other readily available actions.