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.
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