Tuesday Tutorial: Sunny 16 Rule

Last week a gentlemen stopped by to visit with a Nikon FM2 and had some questions. For those of you unfamiliar with this classic camera, a Nikon FM2 is a fully manual SLR film camera that was manufactured between 1984 – 2001.  Our friend’s primary concern was how to properly calculate exposure without relying on a meter.NikonF2

This is a common dilemma even with today’s fully automatic digital cameras. It is still quite possible for a camera’s metering system to be fooled by a predominately dark or bright background, or image element, which may result in a photograph that is improperly exposed.

So, regardless if we’re shooting film or digital, what is a quick method for calculating exposure?

The Sunny 16 Rule

Still relevant today with digital as it was in the past with film, it simply states:
To achieve proper exposure when shooting in bright daylight, set your lens aperture to f/16 and your shutter speed will be the inverse of your ISO.

On a sunny day with the camera set to ISO 400, the exposure would be: 1/400sec @ f/16

Or it’s equivalent…
Keep in mind that the basic rules of the Exposure Triangle still apply. This states that if you change any single exposure element (shutter speed / aperture / ISO) then you must also compensate by adjusting another element. Therefore, you can use the Sunny 16 Rule to determine a baseline exposure and then adjust accordingly to obtain the desired shutter speed or aperture that’s needed for the shot.

ISO 400,  1/400sec @ f/16  =  ISO 400, 1/800 @ f/11  =  ISO 400, 1/1600 @ f/8

In each of the examples above, the the shutter speed was increased one full stop while the aperture was opened up a full stop to compensate. The ISO remained unchanged.

Space Needle

This is all good and fine if you live in a predominately sunny climate, but up here in the drizzly Pacific Northwest that is rarely the case.  Just the same, we can use the Sunny 16 Rule as a baseline and make the following adjustments for climate:

Partly Cloudy / High Haze  – open up +1/2 stop
Overcast – open up +1 stop
Heavy Overcast – open up +2 stops
Heavy Rain – open an umbrella, you’re on your own…

If you would like this tip and would like to learn other useful photo tricks and techniques, join us next week on the Omega Photo Tulip Photography Workshop in Skagit Valley.  For additional details call 425-455-2126, or visit our new retail location in Downtown Bellevue.

Omega Photo
210 105th Ave NE
Bellevue, WA 98004
(Located between NE 2nd & NE 4th behind Safeway)

(425) 455-2126

Mon – Fri: 10-7
Saturday: 10-6
Sunday: 12-5

Call (425) 455-2126, or “click” below, for specials, upcoming classes, and information regarding our photo processing & print services, cameras and lens sales, and our comprehensive passport photo service.

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2 thoughts on “Tuesday Tutorial: Sunny 16 Rule

  1. Thanks for reviewing this great tool that is rarely discussed anymore. I learned this rule 40 years ago and still use it on every shoot. This is still my mental check point with every picture I take even with the D800.


  2. Pingback: 7 Tips for Photographing Tonight’s Lunar Eclipse | OmegaPhotoBlog

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