Hi! My name is Ian Chin, a wedding photographer based in San Francisco, California. As a teenager who grew up a block away from the park, I spent my days enjoying the outdoors, and developed my passion for photography back then.
Fast forward many years later, and I have been a fulltime photographer for 6 years now.
My first film camera was a Honeywell Pentax, then evolved into the Canon digital line as I got more serious about photography. Using Canon most of my life, it was just convenient to continue with it to this day – and I have no complaints!
I remember enlarging an 8×12 print with my first L lens (Canon 70-200mm f/4) and was blown away by the quality difference.
Starting out with shooting only zoom lenses, I learned to simplify my shooting style and now primarily use prime lenses, and it has made all the difference in my development. I use 2 main lenses for weddings (Sigma 35mm f/1.4 and Canon 85mm f/1.2) but always bring extra gear just in case. I figure I have so much gear, I might as well bring them! :D
Canon 5D Mark III (2x) My workhorse bodies that I have never had to repair, even after 7 years of consistent shooting. That is what you call quality, no? I’m a big believer of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I still drive my first car, for example, so I figure if it still gets the job done, why change? And if you’re wondering, I only “upgrade” my phones when they stop working also :P
Sigma 35mm f/1.4 My workhorse lens that I use for about 80% of my photos. Back in 2014-2015, when I transitioned to only prime lenses, Sigma Art lenses were all the rage, for good reason. So I jumped on that bandwagon.
If it ever breaks I’ll get the Canon version though. I’m just a lazy consumer, to be honest, haha. People often ask me why I don’t get the Canon version. Hey… if it ain’t broke, right? :D
Canon 85mm f/1.2 The perfect, close enough but wide enough, focal length out there, for most situations. The bokeh with this lens is stunning and is an ideal portrait lens. I love shooting at 2.0/2.8 with this lens, as I typically use it to isolate the subject, and it’s a very versatile lens during the ceremony. This focal length is just right.
Canon 135mm f/2 Every time I use this lens (mostly engagement shoots), I always tell myself I need to shoot with it more often. It is just so dang sexy, which is why I always bring it to a wedding, even though there is limited time with it on my camera.
Everything about it is quality. I was intrigued with the length of a 105mm lens out there, but after recently handling it there’s no comparison for overall handling, quality, and build, in my opinion, with this lens. One of the best lenses in the Canon family and when I know I have the space to shoot with it, I reach for this lens.
Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 I love it for couples portraits where you really want to show off the grandeur of the scene at 16mm, but I use this mostly for the dance floor, where I love bumping shoulders with the action.
The spirit of the dance floor is best captured up close, and this is where this lens really shines. I only ever use it at 16mm, and when you are dancing with someone right in their face, they often give you the same energy you give them, compared to the same shot a few feet away.
Godox AD200 (2x) These are the perfect compromise for power and size, and are a staple in my off-camera flash setups. They offer enough power to overpower the sun for group formals and last long enough to continue throughout the entire wedding.
I typically use two of them for the entire reception and focus their flash with Magmod MagGrids. Having the grids on them help concentrate their direction to highlight whoever I want, whether it is the married Couple seated at a sweetheart table, or the Couple dancing in the middle of the dance floor.
With Magmod, the setup is super quick, and I typically only need a couple of test shots to get my lights where I want them
When I am shooting couples portraits, I prefer the compactness of a Flashpoint R2 Pro Mark II versus the flash for triggering, however, since I often contort my body and/or move around to get the shot, it is nice not worrying about my flash banging into things / people so I can focus on shooting.
Think Tank Airport Navigator This carries all the equipment I need for any wedding. It is light, compact, and has enough storage space for 95% of my gigs. All the extras I bring (lenses, lights, props), go in my LowePro backpack that I can quickly toss on my back when I am in a hurry (which is most times during a wedding!).
After 4 years, the wheels still work like a charm, and I only have scratches on the bottom of the bag to show any wear and tear. I can’t imagine how people carry all their gear on their backs after rolling this bag around… it is so much easier!
Spider Holster Similar to the benefits of wheeling my cameras in a rolling bag as opposed to carrying them in a backpack, it is so much easier having my two cameras holstered at my hips. I have gotten so used to this system and can never go back to straps around my shoulders.
I love the ease of use of these holsters and even get a bunch of compliments about them. I always joke with those people that even if I don’t know what I’m doing, at least I look like it :P
SLIK Pro Tripod I’ve had the same tripod since I started shooting as a teenager, so I’m sure the exact model I have is discontinued haha. I don’t do many slow shutter speed / evening photos, so I don’t use it often… but I have intentionally brought it along to a few shoots in hopes of using a slower shutter speed more often.
All the star trail / evening sky photos I’ve seen have been so amazing, so I should probably use the tripod more often! New year’s goal! Not a real staple in my typical wedding gear list but a piece of equipment every photographer should have regardless
Hardware & Software
Adobe Bridge – I may be one of the few wedding photographers that does not use Lightroom. I don’t even know how to use it, to be honest. I just started with Bridge when I first started editing and just got used to it.
As you might have noticed, once I stick to something I am loyal to it, haha. If there’s no critical need to switch systems, why bother? As far as I’m concerned, Bridge does the same exact thing as Lightroom, and all my presets work with it also.
Speaking of presets… I never used them until several years ago. I always heard of them in online forums but just disregarded them. I told myself, I’m a “photographer” (mimicking holding a camera to my face), and not a “photographer” (mimicking typing on a keyboard).
All of that changed when I took a workshop with Chrisman Studios and saw firsthand how Mauricio was able to transform an image. It’s one of those things I knew I should do, but never did. I just needed a gentle shove, and now it is part of my process.
DVLOP – These presets are the only ones I would use, considering the fact that all my favorite photographers (ones I’ve taken workshops with, as well) have their own presets with them.
Being able to combine presets and have a consistent look, regardless of camera brand, is truly unbelievable and so fun to use. I generally tinker around with their presets slightly to suit my own personal taste, but having 90% of the work done, with just one click, was such a game changer for ole, basic me.
Earplugs – The best secret I learned was to bring earplugs. Let’s face it, we attend more parties than the average person… and being around loud music takes its toll. I play bass in a band, and when you combine decades of loud drums, rockin’ guitars, and giant speakers blasting around you, your ears need a break! Shooting with these on during the dance party sort of puts me in the zone actually, but also helps block out the bad singers ;).
Bose QuietComfort 35 II Nothing beats these noise cancelling headphones for the drive home, as I normally drive home in silence, or put on a podcast. At this point of the day, music is the last thing I want to hear, haha. I tried them once, instead of earplugs, but for the dance floor I get too sweaty and can’t move as well with them on since they’re always falling off my small head.
Small Mirror – Part mirror, part photo prop, this compact mirror fits in my pocket and can be used for reflections, flares, and checking to see if my hair looks good for IG :).
Change of Clothes – With every wedding, I always bring extra clothes for the drive home. There is nothing better than relaxing in clean clothes for the drive back! A simple thing that begins my routine for winding down.
Once I get home, I start backing up the photos and then do a little yoga. A mini flow at the end of a long day is the best way for me to decompress my mind and body. And boy… does it feel good to stretch out at this point! We live some amazing lives as photographers following our passion… might as well take care of our bodies so that we can do it for a long time!