By PAUL LONG
Josh Triggs was in sixth grade when he discovered the passion that would eventually guide his career and his life.
In the late 1990s, Triggs and some friends signed up for the photography program at the Boys & Girls Club in Martinsburg. His friends only stuck around for a few weeks, but Triggs was hooked. He stayed in the program for six years, winning three national Boys & Girls Club photography contests along the way.
As a reward for winning the first contest, Triggs got to go to the X Games. The following year, he was able to attend a pro surfing event in California, and the year after that, he went to Universal Studios and Disney World.
While he was in high school, Triggs launched his own business, 3MI Photography, which is still thriving today. Triggs said he owes it all to Pat Murphy, his Boys & Girls Club instructor. “He got me started,” said Triggs.
In fact, one of Murphy’s favorite sayings, “think weird,” is a phrase Triggs still uses today in his work.
The unconventional approach to photography that he learned nearly two decades ago has helped Triggs carve out a niche working with models on their portfolios, or even if they just want to try something different. It’s just one aspect of his multi-faceted business, but it might be the one he enjoys
On any given day, Triggs might be found working with zombies, body paint or just about any prop you could imagine.“You name it, I’ve probably shot it,” he said.
Currently, Triggs is working on attaining his Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) certification so he can incorporate drones into some of his shoots.
Once he develops a working relationship with a model, Triggs said, photo shoots often get more extreme as they explore new possibilities. Some shoots require weeks or even months of advance planning, which can lead to a letdown for both the photographer and the model “The actual photo shoot is almost a downer,” Triggs said. “Months of planning go into it, and it’s over in half an hour.”
While some of his work may veer into the realm of fantasy, Triggs also does plenty of traditional shoots, including weddings, senior portraits, team and individual sports photos, maternity, couple and family portraits, business head shots and portraits, real estate and even food. For the past three years, Triggs has been the primary photographer for Hornby Publishing. His work is prominently featured on the pages of Valley Homes and Style and Around the Panhandle. He estimates that he spends approximately two weeks each month shooting for the two magazines.
Triggs got 3MI Photography off the ground during his sophomore year in high school. He did three senior portraits that year and shot one wedding for a modest $50 fee. He also shot some sporting events and sold the photos to friends who were playing on school teams.
He got plenty of help from his mother, Keech, and father, Goldie, along the way. Goldie passed away in 2011, but Keech is still actively involved in the business as her son’s business manager, secretary, accountant and photography assistant. The name of the business drew its inspiration, at least in part, from the famous “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” monkeys. Triggs briefly called it “3 Monkeys Incorporated,” but since he never incorporated the business, he decided to shorten it to 3MI.
According to Triggs, having his mother around to keep an eye on the finances has been beneficial to the business. Photographers always need new lenses, new gadgets and new software, he said, but Keech has kept him from spending too much.
At one point, Triggs said, he dreamed of working for National Geographic, but as time went on, he realized he wanted to continue working close to home. For about six months, he put 3MI Photography on the back burner while he went to work for a local photographer. But that didn’t work out, and he soon reopened his business and never looked back.
“It’s a blast,” he said. “This is the only thing I’ve ever done.”
Since he already knew what he wanted to do with his life and was already making it happen, Triggs decided not to go to college. That decision paid off financially; he was able to use his college savings to buy equipment and lighting while also avoiding the tens of thousands of dollars in debt often faced by college graduates. He may not have many options beyond photography, but, having found his niche, Triggs doesn’t really need anything else.
“I’m qualified to do two things – take pictures and be a fry cook,” he joked.
By not limiting himself to one particular aspect of photography such as sports or portrait work, Triggs has positioned himself so there will always be work available. And, with a wide variety of shoots on his calendar, life will never be boring. “I wanted to do something different,” he said. “If it involves a camera and a dollar, I’ll do it.”
When he’s not working, Triggs often spends time making YouTube videos featuring tutorials, set builds and other behind the scenes footage. He also takes full advantage of social media and the expanded audience it provides. Many of his models have found him this way. And, sometimes, one opportunity will lead to another. A few years ago, Triggs was shooting a Playmate fashion show in Philadelphia and met a model, Bobbie Brown, who was best known for her appearance in Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” music video. The two wound up working together.
More recently, Triggs took food photos for the ROCS convenience store chain to use in an advertising campaign. A few days after that, he was on his way to Ocean City, Maryland, to shoot that community’s annual Bike Week.
Early in his career, Triggs worked out of a studio on Grapevine Road. He then moved to Winchester Avenue and stayed there for about five years.
Earlier this year, he bought a home on eight acres of land on Runnymeade Road in Bunker Hill and opened a new, 3,200-square-foot studio there.
The new location offers considerably less indoor space but, according to Triggs, more than makes up for that with an abundance of outdoor space that offers plenty of options for outdoor photo shoots. That means he no longer has to find a park or other public site. And his clients have been happy too. “They don’t mind driving out here,” he said. “They haven’t said it’s too far or anything.”
With modeling shoots, engagement and couple photos, sports and senior photos as well as his work with Hornby Publishing, Triggs works approximately 50 to 60 hours a week. In 2016, he did around 440 shoots, and this year, he’s on pace for close to 500. So what’s the secret to his success? “We’re unique,” he said. We offer a unique perspective on photography. We mix the old-school approach with the new stuff. We have fun.”