Riverview Photographer Focuses on Pets
Michael Troy Salisbury uses a Nikon camera to capture precious moments in a pet's life following the death of his beloved schnauzer.
It wasn't until his beloved schnauzer, Max, died on Dec. 27 that Michael Troy Salisbury realized how precious the photos he'd taken during his dog's long life were.
A wedding and portrait photographer by profession, Salisbury, a Riverview resident, would snap the occasional picture of his dog for fun. Salisbury and his wife, Jennifer, have no children, and Max was a kind of surrogate child for them.
An insulin-dependent diabetic who had to have two daily shots, Max was admittedly a pampered pooch. So, his death at the age of 13 hit Salisbury hard.
"The photographs I'd taken of him became so much more important when he passed away," said Salisbury. "As part of my grief therapy, I had one of the photos of him enlarged and framed with his name on the mat. It reminds me of him every time I see it."
It occurred to Salisbury that, if he felt this way, so would other pet lovers. With that in mind, he's branched out to include pet portraits in his photography business.
"It's a heartfelt thing," said Salisbury. "If you don't have a portrait of your pet taken by me, have it done by someone else. Otherwise, when your pet is gone, you'll regret it. It's something I strongly believe. Pets are family members and should be photographed in the same way you'd photograph any member of your family."
Taking photos of an active dog, however, is no easy feat.
"It takes a lot of patience and you have to be able to make loud noises to attract their attention," said Salisbury. "Not all dogs will stay still for very long."
Salisbury not only takes formal portraits of pets but photographs pets at play. With the owner accompanying them, he takes dogs to dog parks or the beach to photograph them in their natural environment.
I like to photograph dogs having fun, doing what dogs do best. Those are the great photos that bring back memories," he said.
"You shoot quite a few photos to capture that moment when the dog looks as if he's smiling or he looks as if he's having a good time," said Salisbury. "It's quite the challenge."
Salisbury is accustomed to tackling challenges, however.
He began his love affair with photography when he was in the eighth grade in Greensboro, N.C., and made a pinhole camera for a class assignment.
"I was totally fascinated by it," he said. "I went around school, taking pictures. Then I went into the darkroom and opened it up and watched the pictures develop."
He later acquired an Canon AE-1 when he was a freshman in high school.
"I attended a magnet school and took some photography courses," said Salisbury. "My father had this Canon camera that he'd used once and I asked him if I could use it. He ended up trading it to me for a Yanni CD. I used that camera throughout high school, photographing friends and landscapes."
His first job out of high school was at a Walmart photo lab. He ended up helping Walmart open four more photo labs.
Nevertheless, he never really considered making photography a career. It'd always been just a hobby.
He attended the University of South Florida, majoring in environmental studies and urban planning and went on to work for Manatee County doing comprehensive land use planning. He served as the bicycle/pedestrian planning coordinator and the greenways coordinator for the county and did historic preservation work.
He was eventually hired by the city of St. Petersburg to manage the city trails project.
"Then I became a casualty of the economy," he said. Like a lot of city employees, Salisbury was laid off in October 2009.
"I'd been doing weddings and portraits weekends since 2001," said Salisbury. "When I got laid off, I realized I had to reinvent myself and I became a full-time photographer."
While many wedding photographers concentrate on formal portraits, Salisbury uses a photojournalistic style to capture decisive moments during the special occasion. He often converts color photos to black and white to emphasize the photojournalistic quality of the photo.
"I have a different way of viewing things, and every photograph is different, depending on the personality and preference of the client," said Salisbury. "I do some traditional poses but my photos are more 'in the moment' stuff that the bride and groom can look at and relive the moment."
Salisbury, who now shoots with a Nikon, said there are moments he likes to capture that can't be posed, such as the moment the bride and groom see each other on their wedding day for the first time.
"There are no second takes, no going back," he said. "You have to capture that key moment. I don't like reposing everything. I prefer taking photos as it happens so the people are in the moment."
The pet photography, he said, was a natural extension of his wedding and portrait photography because animals are always "in the moment."
For information on Salisbury's services, visit http://www.michaeltroyphotography.com/ or call (813) 376-2349.