The Sunny 16 Rule

Sunny 16 ruleTake a lot of photos in bright outside light? Then you may want to give the Sunny 16 rule of thumb a try. The main requirement for using this technique is that your camera can be adjusted manually.

The Sunny 16 rule applies to taking photos wherever you live, at any time of the year.

When used correctly, the Sunny 16 rule improves exposure and helps prevent highlights from clipping. This rule, based on ambient light rather than light reflected from the subject, suggests that:

On a sunny day, you should set your aperture to f16 and your shutter speed to the reciprocal of your ISO value.

This means that, for an ISO value of 100, your shutter speed should be near 1/100 seconds (most of the time cameras will offer a value of 1/125 seconds). An ISO value of 200 calls for a shutter speed around 1/200 seconds.

Changing the aperture value follows the same guidelines. For instance, ISO 100 with an aperture of f8 and a shutter speed near 1/200 seconds respects the Sunny 16 rule.

Suggested f-stops for Sunny 16 lighting conditions
Lighting Suggested f-stop
Sunny day – distinct shadows f-16
Mildly overcast or hazy – soft shadows f-11
Overcast/very cloudy – shadows are barely visible f-8
Heavily overcast – no shadows f-5.6

Just remember, if you change the f-stop adjust the shutter speed accordingly. So if you open the lens by one full f-number, the shutter speed needs to be cut in half, and visa versa.

Sunny 16 suggested settings
Sunny Hazy Overcast Cloudy
F-stop f-16 f-11 f-8 f-5.6
ISO 100 1/100 – 1/125th sec 1/100 – 1/125th sec 1/100 – 1/125th sec 1/100 – 1/125th sec
ISO 200 1/250th sec 1/250th sec 1/250th sec 1/250th sec
ISO 400 1/500th sec 1/500th sec 1/500th sec 1/500th sec
ISO 800 1/1000th sec 1/1000th sec 1/1000th sec 1/1000th sec

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