What Is Sunny 16 Rule and How to Use It

What Is Sunny 16 Rule and How to Use ItKeen photographers can benefit from understanding the sunny 16 rule when shooting during the day. This article is going to explain what the sunny 16 rule is, how the sunny 16 rule works, and how to use the sunny 16 rule to ensure you achieve the right exposure.

What is Sunny 16 Rule

So what is the sunny 16 rule? It refers to the process of understanding light during daylight hours without the photographer needing to use a light meter. When you master the sunny 16 rule, you will achieve an almost perfect exposure as it allows you to work out the best shutter speed and aperture settings on your camera under different lighting conditions.

The sunny 16 rule focuses on the three main elements of exposure; ISO, shutter speed and aperture, and although it was created with film photography in mind, for situations when a light meter wasn’t available, the rule can also be used in digital photography. ISO relates to how sensitive your camera or film is to light, shutter speed indicates how long your shutter stays open, and aperture is how wide your lens opens. These 3 elements are known as the exposure triangle.

To understand the sunny 16 rule in photography, you need to know how these 3 exposure elements work together, and once you have mastered the sunny 16 rule, you can start to build a beautiful collection of photos with the correct exposure. You may want to simply print your images to display in a frame, or there is a world of creative opportunities available when you upload your images to Crello. This online graphic design tool has thousands of free templates to help you create unique designs using your own images. To get to this stage, you need to know how to put the sunny 16 rule into practice.

How Does the Sunny 16 Rule Work

The sunny 16 rule is a chart of information that ranges from F16 on a sunny day to F4 on overcast or rainy days. The basic approach to this rule is to match your film or camera ISO to your shutter speed. The most commonly used types of camera film range from 100 to 800 ISO, and once you have chosen your film, you try to match your film ISO to the nearest shutter speed value. With a digital camera, the most common settings will range from 200 to 1600 ISO.

Shutter speeds can be roughly calculated by dividing “1” by the ISO.  So if you are using a 400 ISO film or setting, you would select the closest speed to 1/400th of a second.  Different camera models will have different speeds available, so the rule of thumb is to choose the closest setting to your ISO.

Next, you have to decide on the correct aperture value for the conditions you are shooting in to give you the right exposure. This is where the sunny 16 chart comes into play. In really sunny conditions where there’s a clear blue sky, and there is harsh shadow, the rule states that you should choose F16.  If the weather is only partly sunny with some clouds, you would reduce the aperture to F11 or down to F8 on days where there are more clouds than sunshine and no shadow.

If it’s a dull day with no spots of sunshine, then the rule states that you should choose F5.6 and when the sky is full of dark rain clouds, or it’s raining, then F4 would be the most suitable aperture. You can either learn the rule from the sunny 16 chart or keep a handy printout of the rule if you are just starting to learn about exposure without the use of a light meter.

How to Use Sunny 16 Rule

How to Use Sunny 16 Rule

The best way to learn how to use the sunny 16 rule is to experiment with your camera settings.  Having the right exposure is subjective in some ways, but on the whole, we’re talking about the sunny 16 rule being used to take a photo where your subject is lit by the sun. The sun is behind you as the photographer shining on the scene you are shooting.

When you are starting out using this manual rule of exposure, it is recommended that you review each photo and experiment with the different settings. For example, take a photo on a clear sunny day at F16, 200 ISO and shutter speed 1/200th of a second. Once you review the resulting photo, you can then decide whether you need to let more or less light in, depending on the quality of the exposure and the overall look you are trying to achieve.

Once you master sunny 16, you can play around with your settings to actually break the sunny 16 rule and interpret the light differently. Create sunny long photos by playing with shadow and long exposure techniques where you try out lower values. Shutter speed is key when shooting something in motion, and your settings can be altered whether you want to freeze or blur your moving subject.

Now that you have learned to use the sunny 16 rule, you can enjoy taking stunning photos at the correct exposure or more artistic photos using your knowledge of ISO, aperture and shutter speed.

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