Digital Photography Tip: Sunny 16

July 16, 2012

Digital Photography Tip: Sunny 16

I just came in from a walk with my small dog. It’s hot out there! Even this early in the morning, the sun is strong outside.

And, that’s not a surprise I suppose. July can a pretty sunny month.

But the strong sun reminded me of a rule in photography that can be helpful in setting the correct exposure on a sunny day like today. The Sunny 16 rule can help you estimate the correct exposure when the sun is bright.

The Sunny 16 rule is pretty simple. On a bright, sunny day, when shooting a subject that is in direct sunlight, set your camera’s aperture to f/16 and set your shutter speed to the reciprocal of your ISO setting (or as close as you can come).

Let’s look at a few examples.

  • If you have your ISO setting at 100, use an aperture setting of f/16 and a shutter speed of 1/100 seconds, or the closest setting available on your camera.
  • If you are using an ISO setting of 200, use an aperture setting of f/16 and a shutter speed of 1/200 seconds.
  • With an ISO setting of 400, use an aperture setting of f/16 and a shutter speed of 1/400 seconds.

Not a lot of folks talk about Sunny 16 anymore, given that a camera’s internal light meter is usually pretty accurate. And, it’s just a rule of thumb. But Sunny 16 can be a helpful tip to know for those times when your light meter is having trouble dealing with the bright sunlight or anytime you want just want to be able to check on the exposure settings coming out of your camera.

For more on the Sunny 16 rule, check out these links:

The Sunny 16 Rule

The Sunny 16 Rule in Photography




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