James Corbett, owner of Firefly Photography, originated from Belper and began his journey into business by attending St Johns Junior School, Woodlands School in Allestree and finished off his pre-graduate years at Derby College. James then attended Coventry University to study Geography; however James said that he soon realised that his true passion lay within visual media, rather than the physical process that he studied on his course. After 2 years of university James left in a bid to pursue his love of the visual arts.
James then spent a year travelling and gaining experience in a wide range of different careers. With his passion of the arts still thriving James enrolled on the ‘Level Zero’ course at Derby University, which was set to follow onto a Photography Degree. Right from the start of the level Zero course James was interested in people and intrigued by the personal nature of imagery.
“The emphasis on the degree course was on the Fine Art side of photography as opposed to the commercial. This was a huge influence on how I approach photography in the studio today, as we at Firefly try to provide a ‘Fine Art Photographic’ style to all of our studio work.”
After graduating from Derby University, James struggled to find work as a photographer for several months, however after about 6 months of endless interviews and looking around James landed a job as a photographer at Olan Mills in Nottingham, which was relocated to Derby a few days after. Three months later and James had acquired the experience needed in order to place him in charge of the Derby studio. From this point on he learned a huge amount about the photographic industry in the UK and saw how he could operate successfully within it. Within the space of a year, James and his team had developed Derby Olan Mills into one of the best and most profitable photography studios in the country.
Despite James’s success locally the company were losing a lot of money through its many failing studios and by the end of 2006 they went into administration, making James and several staff redundant the week before Christmas.
James had over the years acquired the photographical, artistic and business experience that had led him to the idea of setting up his own studio. After spending Christmas and New Year’s pondering over what to do, James set out researching how best to go about beginning his business venture. It took him a while to devise a plan, but by the spring James Corbett LTD was founded. He secured his first property a couple of months later which was based on Friar Gate Street in Derby.
James said ‘I chose this location because it was away from the newly built Westfield & the ghost-town of a city centre that the shopping development had left in its wake. As we were aiming to be a high end portrait studio the Cathedral Quarter part of the city was a big draw.’
James spent a lot of time & money on the property to transform it from an old framers into a modern boutique style studio. That was the easy bit. The next step was to get customers through the door. James’s experience at Olan Mills gave him a good insight into customer acquisition & he set out on a big marketing campaign.
After a run of promotional shoots, the first customers booked in October 2007 and the long winded process was finally paying off. The following year saw James expand into makeover photography with the addition of his first full time stylist. Since then James has photographed hundreds of families and models and taken many thousands of photographs.
In November 2011 James started work on a new studio, choosing to move to a bigger premise in order to allow for the huge demand for his services to be met. Three months and £30000 later Firefly opened its doors to the public. The last 7 months have seen James and the team go from strength to strength with the addition of a studio manager, 4 new stylists, two new photographers & a customer service assistant.
This October sees the 5th anniversary of the first ever customer at Firefly. When asking James on his experiences within the industry he said ‘Looking back, there have been many changes and things I have learned along the way. Our success is based on a huge array of things. I have been fortunate to be surrounded by a very talented and committed team of people, without who this wonderful business would not function. One very important thing I have learned is that the customer experience is vital to what we do here at Firefly & we are very keen to personalise this as much as possible.’
Plans for the next five years are to build on the strong team James already has employed. In the shape of additional staff to help run the ‘behind the scenes’ process and hopefully lighten James’s workload in order for him to concentrate on what he does best, which is to create high quality personal fine art photography, with his wide range of unique and varied clients.
Firefly are planning on celebrating their 5 years by giving a bit back to their highly valued customers in order to promote their various studio sessions and latest offers.