Sunny Sixteen

So early in 2010 we travel back to 1950. As follows: for beginners and for digital photographers who did not grow up in the film era: here’s the “Sunny Sixteen” rule.

When your meter is not working, you can set your exposure manually, within a fairly narrow margin of certainty. And you do this as follows:

  1. Assume your exposure time is set to 1/ISO. So if you are at 100 ISO, set your exposure to 1/100th second.
  2. Then use the following aperture settings:
  • Sunny, no clouds, hard shadows: f/16
  • Some light cloud, shadows soft around the edges: f/11
  • Overcast, hardly any shadows: f/8
  • Totrally overcast, no shadows at all: f/5.6

That’s all. Simple! And remarkably effective.

Of course you can use equivalent exposures in all this; e.g. 200 ISO at 1/200th second, or 400 ISO at 1/400th second. And you can adjust aperture simlarly: 100 to 200 ISO means f/8 would go to f/11, for example.

0 thoughts on “Sunny Sixteen

  1. I’d forgotten about that. I suggest that you use the exposure bracketing feature of the camera and get it to take three pictures at that exposure plus, say, one stop plus or minus. That’s one of the good things about digital – the film and processing is free.

    If I had my way I’d like my camera’s exposure bracketing feature to take more shots. For example at a half, one and one-and-a-half stops plus and minus. Is something like that available on higher spec DSLRs like the EOS-1D?

  2. Good tip.

    As for five shots: Not on Canon, but Nikons allow 5 shots rather than 3. That said, a half stop is well within the RAW adjustment range, so you probably don’t really need that. (All: You know that when bracketing is activated you should set drive mode to continuous, and it takes three shots and stops, right?)

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