Metal Maven Podcast Transcript: Episode 4
The Power of Transformation with Jeremy Saffer
Welcome to the Metal Maven Podcast, where we explore and discover the process and passions of artists in the metal music and art community.
Metal Maven: The fourth episode of Metal Maven Podcast features rock photographer, Jeremy Saffer. His work has donned the covers of Metal Hammer, Outburn, Revolver, Kerrang, and many more. Jeremy, welcome and thank you for being here.
Jeremy Saffer: Thank you for having me.
Metal Maven: Of course. So let’s start from the beginning. You were originally a musician before becoming a rock photographer. Can you talk about that transformation and how you changed your professional path?
Jeremy Saffer: Yeah, without getting too deep into it. Basically, I started as a musician who took photos of other musicians that I was playing with. My band opened up for a lot of bigger bands and I would take the photos to sort of show, hey, this is who we played with. And then the promoter who booked our shows booked the bigger shows, saw me shooting and had me shoot all his local shows, which are, you know, Metal and Hardcore shows. And he worked for a bigger company called Mass Concerts, which ran, you know, The Palladium, The Webster, all these bigger venues, much more, you know, not global, but all of New England. And so I started shooting for them as well, shooting concerts. But it was very much, you know, a fan thing where, you know, I shot concerts to get into the concert for free so I could see the bands I wanted to see.
But you know, they use the photos and we all got something out of it. At the time I was still a musician. Going to Berklee School of Music was like the dream. And I got there and as I was going to Berklee, I started hating playing music and I would skip homework to shoot shows. I was finding much more in photography than music at the time. And after a few semesters, I went to this person, Scott Lee and asked him, “You know, hey I’m dropping out of Berklee. I hate this. I don’t want to play music.” You know, the thing with music is I could play Metal and love it. If you ask me to play jazz, I’ll hate it. You ask me to play blues, I hate it. If it’s not Metal I’ll probably hate it. With photography, I could shoot anything and love it.
So anyway, I went up to him and you know, I was like, “I’m done with Berklee, I don’t know what to do with my life.” And he asked me, “You know, what do you want to do? What do you like doing? What do you have fun doing?” And I said shooting shows, taking pictures. And he looked at me like I was the last person to get it. He was like, “Do that.” I didn’t think of it as, “Okay, someone can make a living at it.” I always looked at it as like, “Oh, I’m a fan who takes pictures of bands that I like.” I never looked at it as I can make a living or even a dime doing this. I always did it for fun. And so I basically put down the guitar to pick up a camera and just kept going.
And you know, started touring, went to a photo school for a little bit. It was a 10-month intensive program kind of thing at Hallmark Institute of Photography. So I did that and I basically jumped off tour to go there, went there, jumped right back on tour, and over the next two years is when everything from those 10 months really soaked in and I kind of understood what I had just gone through and all those lessons, all the things I’ve learned, you know they were – they become part of your foundation basically. But it takes a while for those things to soak in as you actually do them on the field. It’s one thing to be in this controlled teaching environment being told, “Okay this is how you light this, this is how you shoot this.” And then it’s another when you have abandoned in front of you and you have five minutes to shoot them because they’re about to go on stage and you have to nail it and get it right. And then you figure out, “Oh, this is what they said, would happen, you know, time-wise if you shoot this way, if you light this way, how to light it correctly.” All that fun stuff. And yeah, that’s basically how I kind of hit that fork in the road and went to photography.
Metal Maven: That’s awesome. But it’s like, you love Metal music, you’re playing that as a musician. But now it was kind of like an easy transition into being a photographer because the enjoyment was there and it was still in the arena that you wanted to be in. You’re still in the audience taking photos, you’re still backstage – you’re still kind of like, I don’t know, in your zone, in your location that you’re supposed to be in and thrive in.
Jeremy Saffer: Oh yeah, for sure. I’m definitely neck deep in the music world. I’m not very good at being like the quote-unquote artist, like the photographer, if that makes sense. I’m much more like, you asked me who a gallery owner is, I couldn’t tell you one. You ask me who these well-known, super famous, amazing photographers are, I know very few. You ask me who a Tour Manager is for any given band I’ll give you their name and what band they’re out with right now, and who the Guitar Tech is, and who the Touring Drummer is. And you know, my world is very much music, more so than art. And so I’m kind of… the way Scott put it, you know, he’s kind of my mentor, he’s like, “Okay, so you’re like, you didn’t become a rock star by playing music. You became a rock star by being a photographer. I don’t think I’m a rock star or anything like that. I’m not that type of person or that egomaniac or anything like that, but I get what he meant. It’s more like I’m in the music world – I’m not in the art world. It’s just my instrument is a camera.
Metal Maven: I think that lack of ego is to your advantage. You are an amazing photographer, and you should know that and be like, “I am great at this,” because you are Jeremy.
Jeremy Saffer: I have my moments every now and again.
Metal Maven: You have a lot of good moments I’ll say that. I mean, I’ve met you backstage and you’re super professional, you have everything set up ready to go, and it just seems like you do it flawlessly. Just to watch you transition from backstage to in the pit and then you’re off taking photos in the alley afterward for personal things that you may sell at your store. So I was like, “He’s got it down.”
Jeremy Saffer: Oh, you’d have to after this many years. Thank you very much.
Metal Maven: You’re welcome.
Jeremy Saffer: It was a lot of trial and error for sure.
Metal Maven: Oh yeah. So, all of these people you know and have met, and now that we have your backstory, when an artist or a band or the band manager contacts you, what is your creative process start to finish? There’s definitely more to it than point and click.
Jeremy Saffer: Well, every shoot is kind of its own thing, everything’s very different, there’s no one path. It’s kind of a choose your own adventure if that makes sense. So sometimes a magazine will assign me a photo shoot with a band and they’ll have a very specific concept. Sometimes they’ll be like, “Go do your thing.” And that’s all they’ll say. Sometimes a band will hit me up and hire me directly and say, “You know, we have this really intricate idea. We need a make up artist, we need this, we need, you know, an effects artists, we need extras.” And then sometimes bands are like, “Oh, I don’t know, we just need a photo on a background.” And you know, it’s more up to me sometimes – it’s usually when there’s an idea, it’s very collaborative where they’ll come to me with a concept and ask me how to make it happen and I’ll come up with some ideas and we’ll, you know, tinker with it until we make it happen or change the idea a little bit.
So it’s always different for sure. You know, most times I would say eight out of 10 times, there’s no concept. It’s just we’re doing a photo shoot and it’s up to the lighting, the background, and the band to kind of make that a unique photo shoot so it doesn’t look like every other photo shoot and there’s no concept. And you know, concepts can get real cheesy or they can get real awesome. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. And the problem with conceptual shoots is when you’re doing a regular shoot without a concept you have – okay, I have these three spots, I can shoot it with these four different types of lighting. We get like, you know, nine, 10 different sets. Okay, we have a concept issue, we’re shooting that concept and if that doesn’t work we are effed. You know, because there’s so much more that goes into concept with like building stuff. But sometimes it’s so much more fun than just a normal photo shoot. So it varies. It ebbs and flows.
Metal Maven: Yeah. Has there ever been a shoot where you thought, “Oh my God, this may not work,” but then it ended up being amazing in the end?
Jeremy Saffer: I’m sure there are. I have the memory of Dory at best. So, I’m trying to think of it.
Metal Maven: No worries.
Jeremy Saffer: I know there’s so many shoots where I get stressed sometimes in the moment, where I’m like, before the shoot I’m messing with lighting. I’m like, “Oh, this isn’t gonna work.” And then I’ll move something and like, “Ah, this doesn’t work,” and will move something like, “Ah, hell yeah, we got it. This is it, awesome.”
Metal Maven: So just a little micro-adjustment and you’re like, “Okay, now I see what we need to do.”
Jeremy Saffer: Yeah, most times. Conceptual things are usually locked in pretty well. I don’t think there’s any – there was a concept I shot that didn’t work. It was a very well-known Metalcore band and we wanted to do something with them – and this was early 2000s. We wanted to do something with them, kind of tied up with shirts around their head and blood on the shirts, kind of like a horror-inspired captive thing. And it ended up looking like – there was a beheading video that came out, maybe the same week of that photo shoot. And we looked at the photos and were like, “Oh yeah, no, we can’t use this. Nope.”
Metal Maven: It was just too similar?
Jeremy Saffer: Oh, it looked liked a straight-up terrorist kind of thing.
Metal Maven: Oh God…
Jeremy Saffer: We were just like, “Okay, this doesn’t come off as horror, it comes off as you know, 911 kind of stuff, and it’s not good.” That was one situation where it didn’t work. But I want to say that’s within the first year of me doing photo shoots where I was just not thinking about, “Oh okay, what – you know, I’m just doing this for fun. This was kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing – What can this image mean to certain people negatively?” And usually I don’t care, I like pushing the envelope. That one was just a big nope.
Metal Maven: Yeah. I mean, you learn from those things though. And then that stuff never leaves your mind as you move on to other projects. You know, you just move on and get better as you go. So, over the years, how would you say your photography has evolved? What is your signature style that makes you stand out and have your work featured on magazine covers?
Jeremy Saffer: Well, I don’t know that I have a signature style. I know a lot of people say I do, but I’m not good at pinpointing it, other people are. I think if you do something enough, and no matter how different it is, it all gets put into the same Venn diagram, if that makes sense. Like, you do different things, but they all have your little twist on it, but you don’t see it because you look at it as, “I’m doing different things.” So I don’t really know what my signature style would be or what.
But I mean, that’s the whole thing about having a signature look is a lot of photographers don’t know that they do. And it’s up to kind of – you know the same thing with art, where it’s up to the viewer to sort of say, “Okay, this is art and this is not art,” or, “This is a signature look and this is not,” you know? That’s a really cool thing about art because it’s not always the artist’s – you know, I think artists calling themselves artist is such bullshit… sometimes. You know, it’s just like an ego stroke. It’s like, okay, you’re a painter. Sure. You’re a photographer. Sure. An artist? That’s up to them. That’s up to the critics. That’s not up to you. But I mean, I guess if you make a living off it, you are what you are. I just don’t see myself that way. I guess I look at myself differently.
But, in terms of how my photography has evolved, it’s a lot of trial and error. A lot of, you know, changing different types of lighting, trying different types of lighting, getting new gear that kind of changes the way you shoot certain things, looking at what doesn’t work in certain shoots. You know when you have that shoot where you’re like, “Oh, if I just did this differently, this would look so much more awesome.” And then you do that differently in the next shoot and make it better. It’s always about trying to improve and learn: learn more equipment, learn new things, learn new techniques, learn new lighting, learn newer stuff. As with anything, technology is constantly evolving, so everything you do now is going to be obsolete soon. So you got to keep on learning and keep on figuring out ways to better yourself.
Metal Maven: Exactly. So currently, what is your weapon of choice in regards to equipment and technique?
Jeremy Saffer: Equipment is all over the place. My cameras are all Canon: 1DX is my main, with a bunch of different lenses. My 24-70mm is probably my main studio. The 85mm f/1.2 is probably my main natural light and outdoors, and I use that live as well. My main live is likely my 16-35mm along with the 85mm f/1.2. And then I also break out the 15mm fisheye for live because it’s such an underused, live lens. Canon discontinued it, which didn’t help. And then the 70-200mm I break out every now and again in studio, very rarely live, and I have a 2x extender I use if ever there’s a soundboard shoot, which aren’t many because I’m mostly not shooting, Beyonce and Lady Gaga anymore. Mostly doing Metal.
Metal Maven: Yeah, because I’ve seen you – you have this rig. It’s like a utility belt almost where you can just put the camera down and quickly change your lens. I’ve seen you in the pit when you’re photographing live music. So I was just wondering, how many lenses do you keep on you when you’re in that kind of situation? I know it varies from being backstage, at your home studio, or something that’s isolated and not in that live setting. I was just wondering what you hold on you when you’re doing that?
Jeremy Saffer: Well, save from one lens, I usually have the same lenses with me. The 70-200mm is the only one I would ever leave at home and not bring it with me to the show or shoot. But usually, I have it with me and it always depends on the venue. I’ll know what venue I’m going into and what the shooting conditions are so I’ll know if the stage is too high or not wide enough, I won’t bring my fisheye. Well, I’ll bring it, I just won’t really use it. I always have the 16-35mm and the 85mm f/1.2 on me at all times for live. For shooting in studio, I always have the 24-70mm and 16-35mm at all times. Yeah, so those are pretty much the lenses I’ll always have with me: 85mm f/1.2, 24-72.8mm, and the fisheye.
Metal Maven: Do you research what the band’s performance is before you go into it? Because I know they have different lighting and when certain things change – do you research what the lighting would be on stage for the bands that you’re shooting for or do you just go off of what the venue offers? I mean, or just what the venue has initially?
Jeremy Saffer: Well, most bands I shoot actually have their own lighting and their own LD. They’ll have their own Lighting Director with them who will do the lighting for the show. But there’s no way to really research that unless you watch all the live clips from that tour. And even then, if they’re not bringing their own lighting with them, which you know, some bands have their own Lighting Director, but not their own lighting with them, it’s going to change every single night. It’s not going to be consistent. So unless you’re on the tour shooting multiple dates of the tour, you don’t really know what you’re going into. And you know, shooting multiple days of the tour, if you’re shooting more than the first three songs, is a great way to get an idea of where to get the best shots the second night, you know, or the third night. The first night, you’re kind of seeing it. And when you’re on a full tour, it’s super easy to get all the key shots because you know, you’re seeing it 30 days in a row.
Metal Maven: Yeah, you know the pattern, you know everything.
Jeremy Saffer: It’s a lot of counting and that’s something I teach. You’ll watch the lighting and you’ll see it’ll go, you know, say red, green, yellow, red, green, yellow, red, green, yellow with the music. And if you count and get ready and you want to hit that yellow because you don’t want that red, you just wait for that green, get ready to shoot, take the picture when it hits yellow. But the trick is you got to make sure the yellow lines up with whatever the artist is doing in front of you. And that looks cool because if they’re doing something cool when it’s green and then something in between, or dumb, when it’s yellow, you kind of got to roll with the punches and get the next shot.
Metal Maven: So you have to be super aware and adaptable when you’re photographing live performances it seems like.
Jeremy Saffer: Absolutely, because you’re not really in control of the ambient lighting. If you shoot with a flash, which a lot of people are very against, a lot of bands say, “No flash,” a lot of venues say, “No flash.” I often use it when I’m allowed to. I often ask the band who says, “No flash,” to allow me to use it because I don’t use 100%, I use like 20% as fill. And what that does is it locks in the artist and then I bleed in the ambient lighting. So if there’s red lighting and I have this red, Hulk-looking Hellboy creature in front of me, or this blue smurf or green Hulk kind of, you know, what are you going to do with a photo of that? Turn it to black and white, that’s the only thing you can do. But you add fill flash and they get a natural skin tone. You know, the white fill and then you have all that red, purple, and green, and whatever lighting behind them in the photo. So that’s what I try to do when I’m allowed to. But sometimes the lighting is just so dark that there’s nothing you can do other than, you know, you have to use flash. And then other times the lighting’s much more adequate, especially if you’re shooting in say, an arena. So shooting something like Alice Cooper, his lighting is incredible and you know, I think they have spotlights, I’m not sure. But either way, you don’t need a flash with Alice Cooper because there’s so much lighting. He’s playing big, big, big venues. Whereas Metal bands, you know, they keep it dark, they keep it creepy, they use lots of reds, and it’s not as easy.
Metal Maven: When you’re in the pit. I mean, I feel like most other photographers that are in there with you are, you know, everyone keeps it professional, but does it ever get competitive down there? Do you get somebody who wants to really get the right shot or is it pretty amicable?
Jeremy Saffer: It depends on the situation. There’s certainly been situations where people have thrown elbows and gotten kicked out of photo pits, and people jumping in the way of other people, and people getting aggro. I’d say there’s more competition on Facebook threads and more negativity on Facebook threads then there is in a photo pit. It happens, it is what it is, but you know, everyone’s there for different reasons. I don’t look at it as competition. It’s like I’m shooting for this reason. This photographer’s not shooting for the same reason I’m shooting. We’re not in competition with each other. Yeah, we probably want similar shots, but you know, I’m not going to steal his job. He’s not going to steal mine. It’s all good.
Metal Maven: Alright, sweet. Well, in regards to professionalism, there’s also more to being in a creative business than just the actual work – there’s all the behind-the-scenes and you have to maintain high reputation and integrity. And I was wondering, what are your standards and expectations of yourself that got you to this point in your career?
Jeremy Saffer: I’m not sure how to answer that properly, but I would say in terms of my standards and my reputation it’s just being professional at all times, being kind, being fair. I don’t know, and not being shitty I guess.
Metal Maven: That always works. That always helps. And always delivering amazing work. How much do you go over your photography and give it a critical eye before you hand it over? What is that behind-the-scenes for you when you’re basically judging your own work and making sure it’s good enough to give to your client?
Jeremy Saffer: Oh, everyone’s kind of their harshest critic. A lot of times I’ll hand something in and then I’ll be told, “Hey, can you fix this, this, and this,” and it’s no problem. But, I look at everything as print. I don’t look at it as, it’s just another image, you know? I want to say like, “Okay, I want to make this photo strong enough where it could be used for a poster, used for a cover, used for a photo print.” I think of things in physical form. I’m not thinking of, “Okay, this is going on Instagram,” and I want everything to have that sort of quality where it’s worth having on your wall, it’s worth having in a magazine, because if it’s not, what’s the point in taking it? You know?
Metal Maven: Like, if it just has one use, then what’s the point? You should have multiple – you’re trying to get the most out of every photo that you take.
Jeremy Saffer: Oh, absolutely.
Metal Maven: Perfect. Well, I know you also do other photography besides rock photography. And I just wanted to talk about your passion work. I know you just recently announced your Daughters of Darkness project that you’ve been working on for almost a decade.
Jeremy Saffer: Sure, yeah. Daughters of Darkness actually is the Corpse Paint project. It’s the title for it.
Metal Maven: Oh, alright! Okay.
Jeremy Saffer: The way it came about is, years and years and years ago, my friend Karim, who was, at the time, a Tour Manager for like Napalm Death and Black Dahlia, and he works for Indie Merch – he’s the best dude. He wanted to start a clothing line called, “NLSL Clothing” and there’s a famous album cover of a band called Pulp. And the name of the album is, This Is Hardcore, and it’s a girl face down with a red kind of pillow or background, and she’s just looking down. And his concept was to shoot this with a model in corpse paint and say, you know, “NLSL Clothing: This Is Black Metal.” And I’d shot plenty of Black Metal bands, Black Metal being my favorite genre, you know, Immortal is my favorite band, so it made sense. And Karim and I had known each other years, and so he was like, “Yeah, do this, shoot.” And I got a model in and we did the mock cover shoot, which ended up being on a shirt, and the funniest thing, it was offset printing so it wasn’t dead center. And if you look up the shirt you might be able to find it. If you look up the Pulp, This Is Hardcore shirt, album cover, you may find it. It was basically printed on the belly. So when you put on this shirt, the corpse-painted woman’s face is down dead center on your lower abdomen with a mouth open. So it became the “Black Metal Blowjob Shirt.”
Metal Maven: Oh! Unintentional.
Jeremy Saffer: Extremely unintentional, but super funny.
Metal Maven: Oh my gosh.
Jeremy Saffer: So when we did that shoot, I had worked with that model a few times and it was a nude shoot because the woman is nude in the cover, and I’ve shot nude with this – well, I’ve shot this model nude multiple times, you know, for fine art stuff. We decided to kind of shoot more than the gig. We wanted to shoot, you know, on a background in the basement of the studio, all around, do a bunch of stuff in corpse paint. And you know, I immediately was like, “Oh this is awesome! This is everything that I grew up on.” So after doing that first shoot, editing those photos, I immediately wanted to do a project with it, and I think within days I lined up like 20 shoots for it and I wasn’t sure what that end result was going to be. I wanted to do at first, you know, a series and then a calendar, which I did put out two calendars years and years and years ago, but that’s a long time ago. And then I’ve been wanting to put out a book for years and years. But it just kind of like, I just kept on shooting. I’m not good at stopping. I’m not good at like letting go of things. So it was just like, “All right, well there’s these five models I haven’t shot yet, so I’ll shoot them too.” So then it turned out to be, you know, 400 models I’ve shot for this.
And the whole concept behind it is, I don’t know if you ever did this, when you were younger, you would go into a music store, go to the Metal section and start scanning through CDs or records and not knowing who the band is – you saw a cool cover or cool logo and you’re like, “I’m going to buy this because it’s probably going to be good.” And then for me it was anytime I saw a band with corpse paint on or you know, all those classic Napalm and, I’m forgetting the other label they were. And even the old Cradle of Filth stuff. You see this, you know, nude model in this beautiful landscape and there’s a Black Metal logo over it and you’re like, “Oh my God, this is going to be the most epic album ever!” And you either get this amazing Black Metal or Doom record and you had no idea but the cover is what sold you, it was the imagery that sold you. And that was really my passion behind this project, because it’s like, “Oh okay, this is what inspired all the music I grew up on,” you know? Oh well, for me to grow up on it. And it’s kind of has that duality. It really has that beauty and the beast kind of thing, which is – I always think is a cool thing. Like, Legend is one of my favorite movies ever. I love the whole duality of that. So you have this – oh yeah, such a good movie.
So you have this beautiful figure and this evil jarring, you know, corpse paint face doing Black Metal poses or you, you know, we mix it up. There’s some where they’re doing like straight up Black Metal poses, some where they’re doing more elegant, you know, calmer poses. But all those photos have that sort of duality to it where it’s evil, it’s beautiful, it’s dark, it’s sometimes creepy. It’s, you know, it’s a whole lot of all of that, which is what I was going for. And now we’re finally, you know, I have new management now and they’re kind of setting up the gallery thing, looking for a publisher, trying to get that to happen.
Metal Maven: That’s awesome.
Jeremy Saffer: Yeah. And today I posted about it, which is probably what you saw.
Metal Maven: Yeah.
Jeremy Saffer: And then the cool thing was, from that post, a lot came out of it. A lot of galleries hit me up and said they’re interested. A couple dream venues, two dream venues hit me up and said, “Hey, let’s do this. Let’s make it happen.” So I figure the gallery shows will happen and then from there the book will happen, and it’ll be awesome.
Metal Maven: If it’s featured at the Satanic Temple of Salem, I have to go.
Jeremy Saffer: My fingers are crossed, but –
Metal Maven: Dude, so amazing if that happens.
Jeremy Saffer: Yes.
Metal Maven: I’m sending out the good vibes for that.
Jeremy Saffer: Or the evil vibes?
Metal Maven: Yes, the good/evil vibes.
Jeremy Saffer: It’s just such a perfect pairing if it happens. So my fingers are crossed… invertedly of course.
Metal Maven: Of course. So to conclude, I’d love to discuss your Music Photography Seminar and Workshop on May 25th and 26th in Chicopee, Massachusetts. You’re passing on the knowledge to help fledgling artists get their foot in the door and level up their skills. What’s the goal or fulfillment from teaching others? And of course, obviously, you know, let’s discuss what you’ll be doing in this seminar and workshop.
Jeremy Saffer: For sure. I’ve been doing workshops for the better part of a decade and my whole thing was when I was starting, I reached out to a lot of photographers who weren’t helpful. They were very secretive. They didn’t want to give you their secrets, tell you how to accomplish what you wanted to accomplish because they’ve looked at you as competition. And I think that’s not the right way to do it. I think that’s a very bad way to be. You know, you want to help each other out. You want to be a community, you want to teach people so they don’t have to go through the hardships you do. I mean, there’s a lot about paying your dues and I understand that, yes, you have to pay your dues. You don’t get a free pass, but sharing your knowledge is not a free pass, that’s, “Okay, this is what I did to get there. This is what you can do. It might not work for you, but it’s how I did it.” And I don’t mind sharing this stuff. I’m not a secretive person. I’m not holding on to that and keeping it from people because I just think that’s not the way to be.
So in the seminar, this one’s called, “Capturing Music.” Or actually, no, I finished that one. This one’s just the music – it’s just titled, “The Music Photography Seminar and Workshop.” It’s what I used to do. I used to do one called, “Capturing Music,” but this one’s been extended. It’s basically two 8-10 hour days, which they’re long days. And the first day is the seminar where it’s basically a PowerPoint for the first majority of the day, and I go over everything from getting published, getting paid, what to charge, how to rate your stuff, how to sell your stuff, how to send invoices, how to negotiate contracts, lighting, using different types of lighting, different lighting techniques, a full lighting tutorial, ]photo breakdowns where I’ll have a photo up there, talk about the lighting and then have a next photo and have them try to figure out the lighting. And then I tell him what it is. That kind of stuff. Talking about concert photography – so much more, it’s a very, very long but very informative and very thorough slideshow. And then after the slide show, we do a lighting tutorial where I’ll set up a full studio set, go over my equipment, show them how it works and what I do with it, and the different types of lighting I use. And then they get to try it out.
The next day, I have guest bands come in and then we do a Q&A and they get to ask the bands stuff like, “What do you look for when you hire a photographer? What type of photographer would you take on tour with you?” And everything in between – things that they normally don’t get to ask bands. And then, I do a live photo shoot with a band and I have a really, really cool one for this upcoming one in Massachusetts. So I’ll do a photo shoot with a band and it’s not a mock photo shoot. It’s a legit photo shoot and it’s being used. And then after that photo shoot, the students take everything they learned from the seminar, take everything they learned from the lighting, and then they use my lighting to do different photo shoots with the band, but I make it real life. I become the Tour Manager and I say, “Okay, you have three minutes to get this shot before they have their Meet & Greet, go!” Because that’s a real life situation I’ve dealt with and I feel like throwing them in there where they get more than one chance – it’s not like they have one set. They have probably 5-10 sets of shoots with the guest bands and guest artists. So they get the hang of it, which is pretty cool. You can see people are kind of nervous at first and then by the second or third round they’re getting into it. They’re giving direction, they’re telling them how to pose, they know the names, they know the lighting they want, they know exactly what they’re trying to get, and it’s awesome. And then we wrap up and I actually live edit a photo from the photo shoot I just did, and I do a group shot, a solo shot, a close-up, one further away so they could see every different way I edit because I edit those very differently.
And yeah, I’ve been doing it for a while and this is going to be the last one I do on the East Coast. I’m going to be announcing a final West coast, a date for this seminar, sometime, you know, summer or fall. And then the idea is like, this takes so much out of me doing, you know, two 8-hour days in a row plus talking in between, and talking after, and all that that I end up with a sore throat for like a week and a half. So, I just need to not do that anymore. I need to kind of, rather than having, you know, 75 subjects I touch on, kind of separated out so I can do more, not smaller seminars per say, but basically focus on one thing and maybe take something like a lighting tutorial that’s two hours long and make it a 5-hour lighting tutorial. Or take something like the business and music photography where we talk about pricing, invoicing, contracts, negotiating, endorsement, and all that kind of stuff, and turn it from like a little half-hour segment into maybe a two-hour kind of seminar. And I can really go in and, well you know, this seminar’s for everybody, pros, amateurs, it’s a little bit for everybody. Maybe I can do some seminars in the future that aren’t, some that are for established photographers who need to know this, and then some that are specifically for beginning photographers who need to learn lighting. So I’m definitely going to change it up in the future. These are going to be my last two for a while for sure. And these are definitely my final two all-inclusive 2-day, super long seminars.
Metal Maven: That is amazing. I mean it’s not just accessible but fully loaded. I know if I was a beginner photographer I’d be like, “Thank you for this,” because sometimes people, they just think about the work, you know? They think about the act of just taking photography or, you know, doing what needs to be done creatively, and they’re not thinking about invoicing and the business. And then actually being there is different than thinking about going to do it. And then you’re giving them the chance to mess up, but not officially. You know, perhaps when you first started, you didn’t have that choice. You were like, “I might make a mistake today. That’s on me.” And you can kind of teach them, “This is how I” – you know, that feeling of getting thrown in at first. You know?
Jeremy Saffer: Absolutely. When I started music photography, seminars didn’t exist. When I started doing them, they didn’t exist, not to my knowledge anyway. And now there’s a few photographers out there that do them, which is great because you know, it gives you that little cushion. It gives you that safety net of being able to try it when it doesn’t count, when it’s not going to go against, you know, your professionalism and you’re not going to ruin an assignment, or ruin a shoot for a band, or ruin a shoot for a record label and lose pay over it. You know, you have the chance to just do it, which is awesome.
Metal Maven: It’s also a level of – building up a level of confidence. You know, sometimes you get super scared before you do something – you’re just hyping yourself up and you’re like, “Maybe I’m not going to get this done correctly.” You have that anxiety. And I think if people take this seminar with you they’ll feel much more relaxed in that first environment they’re in. You know what I mean?
Jeremy Saffer: Yeah, that’s absolutely one of the biggest things that students have said having taken it. They didn’t have their confidence, they were scared to pose bands. One of the – a big thing about the seminar is: Confidence Is Key. And that’s something I bring up again and again, and being able to pose people and direct them. And a lot of feedback I get from bands shooting them is, “Wow, you actually direct us. No other photographer does. They just tell us to be evil.” And what does that even mean? And so I definitely come from the school of, “you need to direct your shot because you need to control it.” And when you see these students starting to shoot and they’re just like, “Um, hi,” you know, they’re scared. And then by the third or fourth set, they’re like, “You – chin down, you – turn in this way, you – do the,” you know, it’s awesome.
Metal Maven: Yeah.
Jeremy Saffer: And they leave with that confidence and then they apply it. I’ve had so many students go on to become published photographers, touring photographers, and then other things in the music world. One of my past interns and students was the Tour Manager for Of Mice and Men. Now he’s the Tour Manager for Diplo. Another one is the photographer and touring merch dude for Silverstein. Another one tours on Warped Tour, or two of them tour on Warped Tour. It’s great to see these guys use what they learned and apply it and get to the next level and get, you know, beyond that – way beyond that – they just kept going and going. The only way you can really fail is to give up. If you keep going, you’ll get there.
Metal Maven: Definitely. That sounds amazing. I mean, it’s confidence, discipline, and control. You kind of need those three things to make it in this industry and that’s what you’re teaching people to find in themselves. It all starts inside. Yeah, you can work a camera, you can do that, but you have to carry those traits with you when you’re in this business.
Jeremy Saffer: Absolutely. It’s pretty vital.
Metal Maven: Oh my gosh. So I’m super glad that you’re teaching people this because I don’t know, even in my own work, I’ve always been trying to figure things out on my own. So when I see people help others, it just, I don’t know, it makes me feel great, especially in our industry that we work in, you know? It’s like, if more people can help others and have them contribute to the music community, that’s a great thing.
Jeremy Saffer: Absolutely.
Metal Maven: So is the East Coast seminar sold out? Because last I checked you only had six tickets left, so I was just wondering.
Jeremy Saffer: Nope, there’s still six tickets left.
Metal Maven: Perfect. All right guys, jeremysaffer.com/seminar – you really should invest in your photographic future with him.
Jeremy Saffer: Thank you.
Metal Maven: All right. Well, Jeremy, that’s all the questions I have for you today, and I really want to thank you for taking time out of your night to chat with me.
Jeremy Saffer: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me.
Metal Maven: You’re welcome.
To view more of Jeremy’s photography, including his latest personal project, Corpse Paint, visit jeremysaffer.com. And if you’re interested in learning the ins and outs of music photography, check out Jeremy’s hands-on and in-depth seminar happening in Chicopee, Massachusetts on May 25th and 26th. Tickets are limited, so head to jeremysaffer.com/seminar now to secure your spot and level up your skills.
Visit metalmavenpodcast.com for links to Jeremy’s social profiles, videos, and read the full transcript of this interview. Thanks for tuning in, and be sure to subscribe to Metal Maven Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, and Google Play.