Photographer Spotlight: Yasi

Photographer Spotlight: Yasi

Yasi – take the stage! Next up in our #PhotographerSpotlight series, we welcome the Iranian-born, L.A.-based music photographer.

Photographer Spotlight: Yasi

Yasi – take the stage! Next up in our #PhotographerSpotlight series, we welcome the Iranian-born, L.A.-based music photographer.

Yasi (Jasmine Safaeian) was nominated in our 2023 Undiscovered Photographer of the Year category for her incredible portfolio, which included images of Halsey, Florence and the Machine and Carly Rae Jepsen. We sat down with Yasi to discuss her creative process, what makes a good subject and top tips for any music photographer.


How did it feel to be nominated in the Abbey Road Studios Music Photography Awards 2023?

When I was nominated for the MPAs, I honestly thought that maybe no one else had submitted their work. Eventually, I learned that over 15,000 images had been submitted, and my work had been personally picked by Rankin to receive the mentorship prize. Step aside, imposter syndrome, I’m going to London!!


Getting Started:

How did you fall into music photography specifically?

I’ve always been fascinated by the entertainment industry and obsessed with preserving my memories. As a teen, I would go to local shows and I’d support my musician friends by documenting the experience for them. We only had MySpace and Photobucket at that point, so “content creation” wasn’t a thing yet. My intention was to build an archive for my friends and eventually release a book of my work.

Was there a particular image, body of work or photographer that was a major inspiration when starting out?

As a teen, I was inspired by Autumn de Wilde. She toured with and published photo books of so many of my favorite bands and I wanted to do the exact same thing. There was no social media back then — all I wanted was to publish photo books like Autumn.

What makes a good subject in music photography and what makes a good music photographer?

Halsey is my favorite subject to photograph because we are on the same wavelength. I can anticipate what she’s going to do next onstage and I’m ready for it. I don’t place myself where she is, I place myself where she’s going to go, and when she comes toward me she’s always ready for me as well.

Good photographers can read the room. They know when to put the camera down.

What advice would you give to someone getting started?

Stop trying to be like anyone else. Focus on what makes you unique and hone in on standing out. Everyone and their mother has a camera now — what makes you any different?

Get familiar with your client and understand their comfort zones. Ask what they are comfortable with (“May I come in? Are you comfortable with pre-show photos? Do you mind if I use a flash? Are you cool with me posting this photo?”) and don’t overstep.


Top Tips:

What are your top tips you can give to any music photographer?

I see a lot of music photographers using unflattering photos of famous people in their portfolios. Just because a celebrity is in the photo doesn’t make it a good photo. Don’t get distracted by public attention from adoring fanbases — the celeb is privately paying attention too!

Creativity / Inspiration:

Can you share some insights into your creative process? Are there any specific techniques or equipment you prefer to use?

Equipment is secondary to the creative eye. Vision and intention are my priorities. All of my gear is old (weathered and leathered, just like me). I’m resourceful and know how to get what I want from the tools I have. I don’t jump on new tech and I never feel like I need fancy gear — today's musicians want their photos to look like it was shot on a potato anyway.

In your opinion, what distinguishes a remarkable photograph from an ordinary one? What elements do you prioritise when framing your shots?

My mission with concert photography is to photograph my feelings rather than document what's in front of me. Fans remember concerts like they're remembering a dream, and I want my photos to feel the same way. I seek moments that seem silent, solitary, and surreal with a sense that the air in the image feels heavier than the human form. I visualize the image I want to create, and I wait for it to happen in front of me. I also take great pleasure in documenting the way a strand of hair dances in the wind!

Who is someone, alive or dead, you’d love to photograph?

Paramore. I've been a fan of their music since the Livejournal days and I feel like I grew up alongside them. They're the #1 band on my teen dream wish list of artists I haven’t worked with yet.


Working with Artists:

How does your approach differ when working with upcoming talent versus established artists?

Upcoming artists don’t always have creative direction for their image, so it’s hard for me to know what they want. Meanwhile established artists don’t always have time to tell me what they want. I’ve gotten pretty good at guessing though now that I have 20 years of experience in music photography. My first step is always to look up their socials, research how they present themselves, and take it from there. And I don’t try to reinvent an artist’s image unless I’ve been hired to be their creative director.

How does the photographic process differ between working with introverts and extroverts?

I personally am an introvert who can pretend to be extroverted. Most of my clients are the same way, so I'm confident I can anticipate their needs. I’m more performative with extroverts, and more relaxed with introverts.

Have you ever been starstruck when photographing someone? How do you overcome that?

My initial career path was such an uphill battle… I worked so hard for so long that by the time I was being hired by celebrities, I didn’t feel starstruck because I felt like I belonged there. I felt like I should have been there five years earlier.


In one word, how would you describe your photography?