The Sunny 16 Rule: Get a Good Exposure With This Rule of Thumb

eHow Tech Blog

Sun affects your photographs

Want to explore your camera’s manual exposure mode, but don’t know what settings to start with? While no two situations are alike, a few constants reliably provide a good starting point for photographers. The sun is one: While time of day, haze, fog and clouds impact the sunlight, a bright, sunny day has consistent light that you can depend on for the same exposure settings every time. Knowing the camera settings for this condition gives a guideline to start. That’s what photographers call The “Sunny 16.”

Simply put, on a bright sunny day, set your camera on f/16 and set the shutter speed to the reciprocal of the ISO speed. If you are set to ISO 200, for example, then set your shutter speed to 1/200th. If you want a faster shutter speed, then increase the shutter speed and set the ISO to match — if you want to shoot at 1/400th of a second, set the ISO to 400.

f/16 ISO 200 – Shutter 1/200th

f/16 ISO 200 – Shutter 1/200th

f/16 ISO 400 – Shutter 1/400th

f/16 ISO 400 – Shutter 1/400th

To compensate for overcast conditions, simply adjust the f-stop to a more open setting, like f/11, and keep adjusting as needed. This chart can guide you to some reliable settings:


Using the sunny 16 rule ensures you get the right settings dialed in quickly and easily. It’s always useful to have a frame of reference when starting. When all else fails and you don’t know what settings to start with, remember the sunny 16 rule and adjust as needed.

Photo credits: Kerry Garrison

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