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Sunny 16 works

SkipperlangeSkipperlange Member
edited May 2014 in home
For whatever reason, I never tried the Sunny 16 rule. That is the Photography 101 rule of thumb when shooting in bright sun that says use f16 and the same shutter speed and ISO. So if your ISO is 200 then your shutter speed is 200. If you want to use a different f stop then do the math to compensate with shutter speed and or ISO (I can't so I'll leave it at f16). Anyway, I'm here to report that it works! I used it the other afternoon in dead sun. I shot at Sunny 16 with occasional bracketing but not a lot of bracketing. I did use flash to fill any shadows on faces but I'm not sure of two things: 1) was flash needed to fill since I'd used this handy Sunny 16 rule? And 2) did the flash have any effect given that the sun was so strong. I kept it at TTL and didn't really compensate up or down. Used Sto-Fen cap, I always do unless bouncing. The photos are great. All people shots, not formal portraits but a casual event. It was not an assignment so I was just having fun and experimenting. The only other time I used Sunny 16 was about a month ago, high noon, dead sun, also an event, street fair. What I could see in the screen told me the pix were too dark. So I adjusted f stop down a couple of notches. Mistake. The shots that appeared dark were not. I should have stayed on f16. Those taken after I opened up the aperture a bit were too light. You can't rely on the LCD screen unless the lighting is ideal for that and you know how to read it, both the image and the histogram.


  • HoganHogan Member
    I have found that 'sunny f16' is slightly off. I've tried it under the 'sunny f16' lighting conditions and found it to be a third of a stop out - this agreed with my sekonic L758 meter (200 ISO - 1/200th @ f18). I wonder if this has to do with the rule being made during the days when film ISO didn't actually match the shutter speeds available i.e. ISO 100 - Shutter speed 1/125th (a third stop difference) or ISO 200 - shutter speed 1/250th, which would tie in with the f18 measurement and the subsequent correct exposure (i.e. grey card photographed measuredat 50% lightroom, 127,127,128 in photoshop).
  • Interesting theory about the rule being made in the days of film. I shot a few at f18, I'm going to have a look.
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    The 'sunny 16' rule definitely works, but you have to take into account that a lot of DSLR's may not give precise accurate shots when taken, nothing to do with the rule, but the camera itself can be off in calibration.

    Skip, you can never rely on the LCD when you are out in the sun, you actually need to be in deep shade (or even indoors) to see the LCD's 'density' (exposure) as when outdoors as you discovered you think the image is too dark, don't forget, you are compressing a massive large file that would measure 12x18 inches in normal terms into a 3-inch LCD, therefore the blacks are compressed making a darker appearing image.

    ISO 100, 250th, f11 is the ratio of ISO 100, 125th, f16 where the 'rule' derived from.

    As it makes sense to automatically go into Sync Flash Speed, if using flash (Nikon 250th/Canon 200th in most cases) you need Nikon f11 or Canon f13

    Even then, I still will get blown highlights in a wedding dress, but those are automatically my settings unless I have a lot of sky, sun, sand, sea, wedding dress I will shoot at f13 sometimes.
  • dmwarddmward Member
    Remember, the Sunny 16 rule grew from the data sheets supplied with film when shutters were full stop detents and the aperture ring on the camera was 1/2 stop clicks.

    Also, there was another suggestion for glare, snow etc. as well as bright shade and shade. Maybe even one more depending on the film manufacturer. Its a really handy reference.
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    1/3rd stop off .. is well within the margins of what RAW files can handle, especially shooting at low ISO settings.

    There will be slight discrepancies between different camera makes & models - not all meters are calibrated the same, and not all sensors give the exact same output.
  • HoganHogan Member
    Trev said "the ratio of ISO 100, 125th, f16 where the 'rule' derived from". That's exactly what I meant when I said the rule (with digital) is slightly 'off'. To use ISO 100, 100th @f16 (as recommended by recent advocates of the 'sunny f16 rule', i.e. the same shutter speed as ISO) is not the same as the original (and very precise) settings. It is in fact 1/3 of a stop difference, and as I said, that difference was exactly what I found during my testing/calibration process.

    Agreed, 1/3 of a stop is well within useful tolerances for RAW files, I just wanted to understand why there was a difference between my calibrated meter, the processed RAW files and the settings for the rule as it is nowadays interpreted.
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    I use the Sunny 16 Rule as a get-me-there-quickly rough guide;

    but I would trust the histogram (if your subject / scene has white areas),

    I would trust my handled meter (if it is calibrated to my camera's sensor), but still double-check my histogram and LCD preview,
  • ZenonZenon Member
    edited May 2014
    Here is a chart of various Exposure Values. EV of 15 - direct sunlight places 1/125 @ f16.

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