This week we chat with renowned music photographer Jeremy Saffer, who has worked with bands such as My Chemical Romance, Jeffree Star, A Day to Remember, Megadeth, The Misfits and Hatebreed. Originally hailing from Western Mass, Saffer not only continues to shoot, but offers his own seminars and workshops, and even showcased his work in the 2008 photo book, Bring The Noise.Today, Saffer shares tips for aspiring photographers, along with some of his most memorable stories from the industry. Check it out below.
Infectious Magazine: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. How are you?
Thank YOU! I am good! Staying busy with shoots and editing as always.
Can you tell us a little about your background and what led you to begin shooting?
Ok, short version… haha. I started off in bands, sometimes opening for big bands, always taking pictures of the bands when we did, a promoter saw me and had me shoot all the local shows (which at the time were Killswitch, Hatebreed, Shadows Fall, All That Remains, etc. etc.) – which snowballed into me shooting for the larger company he works with – which lead to me giving up music for a career in photography, as I was going to Berklee School of Music. I was miserable with music and loved photography so continued down that path, or as I always say I put down my guitar for a camera.
You do your own seminars and workshops. Can you tell us a little about those?
Yes, Essentially it’s teaching the things I wish I knew when I was going through everything I went through to get where I am today (getting published, getting paid, how to determine what to charge etc), as well as all the technical things I can teach such as lighting, editing, etc. I try to do one or two a year.
Photography can be one of the most difficult fields in the music industry to break into it seems. What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?
The only way to fail is to give up, and 90% of music photographers fail. If you keep at it, and work hard, stay dedicated, you will get there.
Have you had any nightmare shoots where things just weren’t working well due to gear, weather, or something else out of your control?
I’ve had plenty of shoots where things have gone wrong, but in general, when something goes wrong, it’s usually weather, or timing. Meaning if I have a 30 minute shoot with a band at 7pm – it gets pushed to 725 pm, and I have 5 minutes to get everything done, which is always a nightmare, but you manage to deal with these situations as they are somewhat common. And weather is always against you it seems, so I always have a safe area indoors or under cover where I can shoot in any location.
You’ve mentioned that you used to play in a band. What was your name and what type of music did you guys play?
Ha, well, I’m going to keep the name confidential, cause its pretty bad! haha. But I was in six bands in my time. A metal/punk/thrash band, a death metal band, a female fronted metal band (which played the shows), a Metallica cover band, a black metal band (which is the one I am most proud of and may come back one day), and a power/thrash band.
You were recently featured on an episode of Warped Roadies. Would you mind telling us about the experience? Did knowing that the shoot would end up on TV make you nervous?
I had no idea! Basically the artist who does my tattoos (Vic Back – look him up, he’s the best, ever) – became a very close friend over the years as he was a touring tattoo artist (The Used, My Chem, etc) and got his brother Danny into touring, who you may know as Danny Bateman of Warped Roadies, so I’ve known Danny for years. He mentioned he wanted to do a calendar, and of course I was down to shoot it, hes like family. So, we made the plan, and before shooting he told me they might shoot it for the TV show. Which was something new to me. SO! They went over some details, collected my info, interviewed me, and got roll of the shoot, which essentially promoted the calendar which was made as a fundraiser for MusiCares. In the end my interview was cut haha, I must have not been that interesting, but they used it as a lead the week before and as the closer for that episode – so it was kind of cool. It didn’t make me nervous other than I knew I looked like complete garbage having shot in the hot summer weather for 12 hours.
Not only do you photograph bands, but you have also photographed many celebrities like Rob Schneider and Robert Englund. How does photographing celebrities compare with bands?
Its somewhat the same. You have an assignment, time frame, publicist, all the same things that happen with bands. Almost no real difference from shooting a single celeb or a single band member.
So you’re a really big horror movie fan. Have you ever watched a movie that REALLY freaked you out?
I mean, horror movies in general aren’t very scary, any horror fan will tell you that. They are fun! Many are funny, cheesy, etc. but the few horror movies that I felt were actually made to be scary are Event Horizon, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, and Poltergeist. Those three movies are serious straight through, not very cheesy (unless you date them as Poltergeist is a bit older now) – but in general most horror falls under the horror/comedy – gore – slasher – revenge – jump (volume goes quiet then all of a sudden very loud to make you jump) – etc. none of which are very scary but I guess clown movies are scary for people who are afraid of clowns? If I had a fear of something physical maybe it would be scary to me, but no horror movies have really freaked me out, even as a kid, I looked at freddy as a hero, not a nightmare.
What is your creative process leading up to a shoot?
Depends on the shoot – some shoots have no planning and they just happen, other shoots are planned for weeks or months and then happen. For the ones that are more planned out, generally its myself going back and fourth with the member of the band, manager, label etc. whoever is most involved with what we are doing, and coming up with an idea, and solidifying it to the point where everyone is getting what they want and will be happy. Sometimes (most times) its generally in my hands – other times it’s collaborative with a band. I have yet to do a shoot that has been 100% someone else’s idea with no input from me. Which is awesome, I love that everyone values my opinion and eye enough to let me have my voice heard in these things… but I assume that’s probably why they came to me… so give some sort of artistic direction, which I often do.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
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