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The Sunny 16 Rule

By @ijyoyo | September 08 2020 | Photoshoot

Have you heard of the sunny 16 rule? The term comes from the film days however it can still be used today! The term is a mnemonic for a lighting setting alignment. Learn about the sunny 16 rule, how to use it, and when to use it!

What is the Sunny 16 rule?

History: The Sunny 16 rule was used for film cameras back in the 1900’s however today it works with digital cameras and mirrorless cameras. These are the settings expected during direct sunlight for a generally perfect exposure.

Exposure was crucial back in the film days. If you didn’t get correct exposures you would be left with over-exposed and under exposed images. This could be changed with light meters.

However the sunny 16 rule allows you to take photos without light meters. Learning sunny 16 can help you create images.

How To use Sunny 16 Rule

The Sunny 16 rule works like this- during a perfectly clear sky the settings for the perfect (generally) exposure is to set the Aperture to F/16, the ISO to some number 100, and change the Shutter Speed to a fraction of that value, 1/100th. Examples include F/16 ISO 100 1/100th or F/16 ISO 300 1/300th.

The Sunny 16 rule is a general idea. Other lighting conditions such as cloudy, partly cloudy, Overcast may change the results.

Exposure stops

Learning Exposure stops helps while doing the sunny 16 rule! Think of your exposure like a bucket.

A bucket? What do you mean? Well as you change settings, more light will be entering your camera.

When you change your aperture from F/22 to F/16 you are opening up your exposure by 2 stops of light. Same as changing from F/16 to F/14 +2 Stops of light.

The same applies with your shutter speed. 1/100 to 1/250 is a +2 stop exposure. Same as 1/250 to 1/500 +2 stop of light.

Lets try starting at F/16 ISO 100 1/100 on a 50mm
Say you want an Aperture of F/12, your setting would be similar to F/14 ISO 200 1/250.


When to use the Sunny 16 Rule

The Sunny 16 rule is used in outdoor environments and lighting conditions. It can be used for portraits, landscapes.

You may need to use the Sunny 16 if you do not have a light meter on a film camera or a digital camera.

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