A Useful Tip: The Sunny 16 Rule


When we have no light meter, when we have one but forgotten at home, when we do not know how to use it and when we did not download the app, or do not have smartphone: The Sunny 16 Rule is our salvation!

Credits: susielomovitz

This is a really handy trick when you shoot with your camera manually. A little unintuitive, but with practice, and a good memory you can save that moment when you realize that you have no hand photometer, since the rule Sunny 16 is used to estimate the correct exposure in natural daylight conditions without a light meter.

The basic rule is, “on a sunny day set the aperture to f/16 and shutter speed to the reciprocal of the ISO (sensitivity to light).”

For example if your camera has an ISO of 100 then for a sunny day set your aperture to f/16 and the shutter speed to 1/125 (the value closest to 1/100). If the camera was at ISO 400 then the shutter speed should be 1/500 (the value closest to 1/400). (www.aprendefotografiadigital.com).

Okay, now that we are all clear about the theory of the Sunny 16 rule, we still do not know how we can use it to its full potential.

Imagine that we want to make a portrait outdoors, with daylight at noon, on a day with clear sky. If we pay attention to the table, with ISO 100, shoot at 1/125 f/16, but these values ​​provide us with a large depth of field. What do we do if we want to limit that depth? Reciprocity. We open four stops of the aperture diaphragm for example, to f/4.0 and increase the shutter speed four stops as well, up to 1/2000. Thus, the depth of field is limited. (http://www.xatakafoto.com).

How does this work? Yes! I’ll tell you a couple of situations where this trick has been very helpful.

1. I was in Tarifa with my Lubi piggyback furgos taking pictures of some very cool things when this character appeared on his motorbike. Horaciorv told me bluntly: “You have to give me a portrait!”, so I stopped and asked for a photo . Although the boy was super friendly and did not object, these situations always make me a little nervous and I hate affecting my models, so there was no time for the photometer, and I had to take the picture and capture the spontaneity and sympathy: Sunny 16!

Credits: susielomovitz

Viewing Biker good cheer, I decided to do a couple more portraits.

Credits: susielomovitz

2. This time it was serious, I tell you. I was so happy for NYC , pa’rriba, pa’bajo, photo here, photo there, little store there… I had planned to take a walk around late in the afternoon on the Brooklyn Bridge and when I finally arrived and went to get my meter… it was gone! Where was he? What nerve, what rage, a gift which I loved (and how expensive it was), and I had lost it!. Do I turn and go to the places you’ve been to to look for him? But it was my last day in NYC and had half an hour of light! Serenity. I could not go without these pictures: Sunny 16!

Credits: susielomovitz

When I was finished, I went to all the places I had been and after asking four stores I found my meter tester in Levi’s! What happiness!

To use this rule you must practice, since the eye sometimes have difficulties to estimate the light. But it gradually tapers. In the photos of Tarifa the weather was evidently very sunny and it was easy. Follow the table as it is. But the light of NY was very soft, so I had to do the equivalent. Now I am very happy with the pictures I took and have regained my meter!.

And if you ask:

  • Susie, why do not you download the iPhone application?
  • Mmmmm … I do not know ….

On the internet you will find lots of information and practical examples of this photographic rule. Sources for this article www.aprendefotografiadigital.com y www.xatakafoto.com.

written by susielomovitz on 2013-02-25 in #gear #tipster


  1. susielomovitz
    susielomovitz ·

    Hey! Gracias por la traducción, thanks for tranlation :D.

  2. anttmaki
    anttmaki ·

    Many thanks for telling us about the rule, and many thanks to the translator aswell! ;)

  3. lostinprint
    lostinprint ·

    I'm not affiliated with this at all but believe this project is very relative to this article: www.kickstarter.com/projects/jamesflynn/luxi-incident-light…

    Turns your phone into a light meter on the cheap. Thanks for sharing your article!

  4. susielomovitz
  5. mafiosa
    mafiosa ·

    Thanks for the tip. I did not know about the reciprocal rule, but I will certainly apply it next time.

  6. jacekplacek
    jacekplacek ·

    That was really useful and important reminder!

  7. jawknee
    jawknee ·

    This actually makes sense, thanks :). I also find that if I get my subject out of the sun, I can easily get away with 1/500 at 5.6

  8. xgitte
    xgitte ·

    very useful!

  9. beblo
    beblo ·

    There is an exposure guide printed on the film box. I prefer to use this as a reference than light meters.

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