The Sunny 16 Rule in Photography

_MG_0684Although you may think that no two situations are alike, the fact is that there are a few constants that you can rely on to give you a good starting point. The sun is one of these things you can count on to be consistent. Of course there are things that affect the sun’s output like the time of day, haze, fog, and clouds, but on a bright sunny day the light output is very consistent and knowing the camera settings for this condition will give you a guideline to make adjustments. This is where the “sunny 16” rule comes into play.

To put it simply, on a bright sunny day, set your camera on f/16 and set the shutter speed to the reciprocal of the ISO speed. So if you are set to ISO 200, then set your shutter speed to 1/200th. If you want a faster shutter speed then increase the shutter speed and set the ISO to match. For example, if you want to shoot at 1/400th of a second, set the ISO to 400.

f/16 ISO 200 – Shutter 1/200th

f/16 ISO 400 – Shutter 1/400th

To compensate for overcast conditions, simply adjust the f-stop to a more open setting like f/11, and keep adjusting as needed. A good chart of recommended settings is in the following table:

Aperture

Condition

Shadow Detail

f/16

Sunny Crisp

f/11

Slight Overcast Soft edges

f/8

Overcast Barely visible

f/5.6

Heavy Overcast No shadows

f/4

Sunset Long shadows

By utilizing the sunny 16 rule you will help ensure that you get the right settings dialed in quickly and easily. It’s always nice to have some frame of reference when getting started. When all else fails and you don’t know what settings to start with, remember the sunny 16 rule and adjust as needed.

Equipment Used
Camera Canon 50D
Processing Lightroom 3

KerryG

Kerry Garrison lives in Castle Rock, Colorado with his wife and two dogs. With 10 years of experience shooting products and 5 years of experience in the wedding industry, Kerry brings a good deal of technical know-how and can explain topics in easy-to-understand terms.

You may also like...

24 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    The first sentence of the second paragraph contains an error that will result in slight underexposure. It states "on a bright sunny day, set your camera on f/18 and set the shutter speed to the reciprocal of the ISO…" The later table correctly refers to f/16.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The first sentence of the second paragraph contains an error that will result in slight underexposure. It states "on a bright sunny day, set your camera on
    f/18
    and set the shutter speed to the reciprocal of the ISO…" The later table correctly refers to f/16.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Interesting note on this one – I was first taught to use this rule as a way to calculate photographing the moon after dark. It ensures the moon retains detail and is not overexposed, which we all know is easy to do. I primarily use an ISO/shutter of 100 and it works perfectly. Great post, Kerry.

  4. Cody Redmon says:

    Interesting note on this one – I was first taught to use this rule as a way to calculate photographing the moon after dark. It ensures the moon retains detail and is not overexposed, which we all know is easy to do. I primarily use an ISO/shutter of 100 and it works perfectly. Great post, Kerry.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Very good idea, practical for a quickly starting point

  6. Dr Pet's says:

    Very good idea, practical for a quickly starting point

  7. Anonymous says:

    Excellent article, will have to remember that one,Chris

  8. Chris Ridley says:

    Excellent article, will have to remember that one,
    Chris

  9. Chris Ridley says:

    Excellent article, will have to remember that one,
    Chris

  10. thabshi says:

    ok..if we set f/16, any iso,and shutterspeed as its reciprocal say 1/100 for 100 iso..in manual mode,it may show changes in ev rite?? may +ve or -ve with respect to the lite… o shall i adjust the aperture to get ev as 0..or has to take photo as it is..???

    • kgarrison says:

      This is just a good rule of thumb to get you to a good exposure fast. Given the right conditions it should be right one. However, depending on what you are trying to do stylistically, it might not be perfect. The goal is to help you get to a perfect exposure in as little time as possible.

  11. LENSCREEP says:

    Interesting… never thought to link iso with shutter speed.

  12. Gregory Peel says:

    I like the old kodak term for slightly overcast- Cloudy bright. Yep!

  13. Aleks says:

    I think that everyone should read and experiment with the basics functions of the camera. Great article!

  1. January 28, 2009

    […] The Sunny 16 Rule in Photography […]

  2. February 5, 2009

    […] in, while a larger aperture (smaller f-stop number) will allow more light it. If we refer to the Sunny 16 rule, we know that on a bright sunny day, if we are using ISO 200 and a shutter speed of 1/200th then we […]

  3. February 22, 2009

    […] Today’s Tutorial: The Sunny 16 Rule in Photography By strongphotography Categories: Uncategorized http://cameradojo.com/2008/09/18/the-sunny-16-rule-in-photography/ […]

  4. February 23, 2009

    […] Entry for 2/23 By strongphotography Categories: Uncategorized 1. What is the Sunny 16 rule and how will it affect the pictures that you […]

  5. August 4, 2010

    […] The Sunny 16 Rule in Photography […]

  6. June 30, 2011

    […] Sunny 16 Rule in […]

  7. July 16, 2012

    […] The Sunny 16 Rule in Photography Filed Under: Photography Tips […]

  8. August 7, 2012

    […] silky look to the water. To get that look we need to use an exposure of 1/2 a second. If We use the Sunny 16 Rule, the right exposure would be ISO 100, 1/100th shutter, and f/16. But if we wanted 1/2 second […]

  9. October 31, 2012

    […] in, while a larger aperture (smaller f-stop number) will allow more light it. If we refer to the Sunny 16 rule, we know that on a bright sunny day, if we are using ISO 200 and a shutter speed of 1/200th then we […]

Leave a Reply