Tipster of the Week: Computing Exposure is Never Boring


Here is an elaboration on the “Sunny 16 Rule”, explained as plus or minus f/stops from the ISO film speed at f/16.

A Basic Daylight Exposure Guide for When You Don’t Have a Light Meter by 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 plus7 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. Have this memorised for tomorrow. There will be a quiz. :)

This works!

written by herbert-4 on 2009-06-21 #gear #tutorials #tipster #tipster-of-the-week #basic-daylight-exposure #sunny-16-rule #bde #without-a-light-meter #exposure-guide


  1. vicuna
    vicuna ·

    Great tipster! It's true that the "sunny 16" rule is one to have in mind and easy to adapt to every situation!! Thanks for sharing your photographic knowledge Herbert (as you always do :))

  2. herbert-4
    herbert-4 ·

    #7 is a typo... should be "BDE plus 3 f/stops". Sorry.

  3. sibu_sen
    sibu_sen ·

    Thank you!!!

  4. adi_totp
    adi_totp ·

    woooowwww... thanks for sharing!

  5. stouf
    stouf ·

    Ho yeah... Perfect exposures ! Great tip !

  6. migueld
    migueld ·

    so helpful, thanks!

  7. mandashitley
    mandashitley ·

    Thanks for this

  8. mattydk
    mattydk ·

    thanks for sharing the knowledge Herb!

  9. panelomo
    panelomo ·

    that photo on top is freakin cute! haha!

  10. scapegoat
    scapegoat ·

    @herbert-4: corrected! :)

  11. eyecon
    eyecon ·

    A good idea to print it out and tape it on the cam....

  12. ethermoon
    ethermoon ·

    herbert, thank you! in my idea, you're one happy guy as seen from the photo above! :)

  13. herbert-4
    herbert-4 ·

    @ scapegoat: Thank you for the fixing the typo!!

  14. he_is_me
    he_is_me ·

    Nice to get back to basics... or in my case discover them in a clear, easy to understand description!

  15. treehugger419
    treehugger419 ·

    Thanks a bunch!

  16. pulex
    pulex ·

    just found this and im happy cause i got my Voigtländer Vito b with me for shooting my first roll today...perfect...hope i remember...! thx herbert

  17. mcrstar
    mcrstar ·

    Thanks! It's helpful

  18. patriciapetunia
    patriciapetunia ·

    okay this looks so helpful but i don't understand it. can somebody please explain?

  19. phantomphoenixphotos
    phantomphoenixphotos ·

    Great tipster! Very, very useful!

  20. abecd
    abecd ·

    hmm... by saying plus 2 f/stops, what i must do? i don't really understand it...

  21. hervinsyah
    hervinsyah ·

    AWESOME, thanks for the link, sir @herbert-4 but I'm very poor with math, number, logic. will learn slowly =)

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