A Basic Daylight Exposure Guide for When You Don't Have a Light Meter

Credits: herbert-4
Credits: herbert-4

Computing exposure is easy; when in bright sunlight the f/stop is
f/16 and the shutter speed is equal to the film’s ISO speed:
ISO 100= 1/100 second at f/16. This is Basic Daylight Exposure (BDE),
also called “Sunny 16 Rule”.
Here are suggested exposures from an old yellowed mimeographed handout
from a photography class from 40+ years ago. The exposures are listed
as plus or minus BDE, and if your f/stops won’t go the distance, change
the shutter speed. So here goes:
1. Sunlight with normal subject in the sun = BDE.
2 Sunlight with dramatic or silhouette effect, shooting toward the sun
= BDE minus 2 f/stops.
3. Sunlight over snow or white sand = BDE minus 1 f/stop.
4. Sunlight with backlit subject, exposing for shadows = BDE plus
2 f/stops.
5. Overcast with hazy light and soft shadows = BDE plus 1 f/stop.
6. Overcast with cloudy bright light, no shadows = BDE plus 2 f/stops.
7. Heavy overcast or open shade = BDE plus 3 f/stops.
8. When photographing the moon for a lunar shot = BDE for full moon,
plus 1/3 f/stop for 2/3 moon, plus 1/2 f/stop for 1/2 moon,
plus 2/3 f/stop for 1/3 moon, plus 1 f/stop for 1/4 moon.
9. Night skylines at a distance = BDE plus 13 f/stops.
10. Neon or lighted signage at night = BDE plus 5 f/stops.
11. Stage shows with bright lights = BDE plus 5 f/stops.
12. Stage shows with average lights = BDE plus 7 f/stops.
13. Ice shows with flood lights = BDE plus 6 f/stops.
14. Circuses with flood lights = BDE plus 7 f/stops.
15. Bright city lights at night (i.e. Las Vegas) = BDE plus 6 f/stops.
16. Fireworks on the ground = BDE plus 6 f/stops.
17. Buildings, fountains, monuments with flood lights = BDE plus 11 f/stops.
18. Christmas lights at night (indoor or outdoor) = BDE plus 11 f/stops.
19. At church with incandescent (wolfram) lights = BDE plus 9 f/stops.
20. School auditorium stage shows = BDE plus 9 f/stops.
21. Store window lights at night = BDE plus 6 f/stops.
22. Candle light portraits or close-ups = BDE plus 10 1/2 f/stops.
23. Bright lit house interiors at night = BDE plus 9 1/2 f/stops.
24. Average lit house interiors at night = BDE plus 11 f/stops.
25. Indoor swimming pools at night with incandescent (wolfram)
lights = BDE plus 8 f/stops.
26. Brightly lit fairs and amusement parks at night = BDE plus 7 f/stops.
27. Brightly lit sporting events and concerts, indoors = BDE plus 7 f/stops.
28. brightly lit nlght sporting events and concerts, outdoors =BDE plus
6 f/stops.
Always have lots of films and bracket your exposures a bit, plus and minus.
This works.

Exposure Guide, Basic Daylight Exposure, Sunny 16 Rule, BDE,
Without a Light Meter

written by herbert-4 on 2010-11-05

One Comment

  1. ayer
    ayer ·

    very useful indeed!