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DPChallenge Forums >> Tips, Tricks, and Q&A >> Sunny 16 "Basic Daylight Exposure"
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05/13/2008 10:53:59 PM · #1
Okay, call me stupid, but I only recently heard of this "rule" of photography. I've apparently put far too much trust in camera metering and never really thought about what it was metering when and where with consistency (which explains why I don't shoot full manual often when outside the studio).

Anyway... I learned, I practiced, I tried and I tried some more... and I can now shoot full manual in changing light with much greater success.

Here's the basics:

//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunny_16_rule but just a little googling will give you MUCH more. Happy googling.
05/14/2008 09:52:51 AM · #2
Wow. So everyone else knows and uses the Sunny 16 rule and I'm literaly the last to know?
05/14/2008 09:56:14 AM · #3
I gign't know-- so you enlightened me!!!!!!
05/14/2008 10:25:11 AM · #4
Originally posted by rider:

I gign't know-- so you enlightened me!!!!!!


Well thank goodness! I'm not the only one! :D
05/14/2008 10:27:29 AM · #5
Understanding Exposure
Filled with lots of these and many more. Just in case anyone is interested.
05/14/2008 10:29:34 AM · #6
It was the first rule they taught me in photo school, only it was called the F/16 rule.
05/14/2008 10:41:39 AM · #7
Originally posted by cryan:

It was the first rule they taught me in photo school, only it was called the F/16 rule.


I figured as much for those who were school-taught.

I never attended photo school and in college I studied graphics design. I guess since I started out as a portrait shooter from day one, my mentors never thought to share that little tidbit with me. Instead I got tons of help with lighting and in-studio exposure, but very little "education" about landscape shooting and outdoor "rules".

What brought this up for me: I recently entered into a contract with a company that needs me to shoot jpg only and must have perfect exposure. The contract will include several events, all of which will be outdoors, in direct and changing sunlight.
05/14/2008 10:56:32 AM · #8
My experience has been that things seem to go about right at f11 and iso-shutter speed in full daylight, but f16 will work most of the time. Cindy, I can't believe that a photographer with your experience and great portfolio wouldn't know about the "sunny 16" thing.
I have found that 9 point metering seems to work best for me in full daylight. On good sunny days, partly cloudy or clear, no filter at all seems to do nicely and gives a lovely blue sky. A lens shade helps too. If you are short of experience with outdoor existing light shooting, you may want to do a couple of hours of intense practice shooting jpg in your back yard, and look thru the exif files to see what settings work best with your equipment. All of my portfolio images are shot jpg.

Good luck with the coming contract.
05/14/2008 11:01:35 AM · #9
Originally posted by MelonMusketeer:

My experience has been that things seem to go about right at f11 and iso-shutter speed in full daylight, but f16 will work most of the time. Cindy, I can't believe that a photographer with your experience and great portfolio wouldn't know about the "sunny 16" thing.
I have found that 9 point metering seems to work best for me in full daylight. On good sunny days, partly cloudy or clear, no filter at all seems to do nicely and gives a lovely blue sky. A lens shade helps too. If you are short of experience with outdoor existing light shooting, you may want to do a couple of hours of intense practice shooting jpg in your back yard, and look thru the exif files to see what settings work best with your equipment. All of my portfolio images are shot jpg.

Good luck with the coming contract.


Thanks, Waddy. I have been practicing. I've shot my last 2 outdoor sessions on full manual in jpg just to prove to me I can. I'd always "eyeballed" it and with a few adjustments could find the exposure I needed; just never thought about it in terms of a set rule. I also am in the habbit of shooting RAW just incase I'm off a stop or two, I can adjust. Sometimes I DO wish I'd started with formal training.
05/14/2008 11:47:03 AM · #10
30 plus years ago most pro and serious amateur photographers understood and used the "rule of f-16", as it was called then. Today with automatic cameras and instant preview it is a lost art. However it is a good thing to know and understand. It will give you a better grasp on exposure.
05/14/2008 11:52:42 AM · #11
I knew about sunny 16.
I just never see the need to shoot full manual.
05/14/2008 12:03:11 PM · #12
Originally posted by jimsapp:

30 plus years ago most pro and serious amateur photographers understood and used the "rule of f-16", as it was called then. Today with automatic cameras and instant preview it is a lost art. However it is a good thing to know and understand. It will give you a better grasp on exposure.


It's true, judging exposure based on conditions is in general a lost art. We have accurate in-camera meters and image histograms that can (and do) help us in this regard. The sunny f/16 rule is a reasonable starting point, but the histogram allows us to perfect the exposure.
With digital imaging, the "best" exposure is often not the one that is the closest approximation to the desired end result. It is often desired to expose right in order to take full advantage of the digital sensor's dynamic range and to minimize noise. This may result in shots that are "over exposed" but are nonetheless exposed as desired.
There are other situations where we do want to expose to best approximate the end result, specifically those situations where the files must be immediately transferred to an end user, such as at a sporting event. In those situations, JPEG is usually a requirement and camera settings must be optimized to produce a ready-for-display result out of the camera.
05/14/2008 12:18:10 PM · #13
Man, I wish they had one of these for flash exposure now...
05/14/2008 01:02:23 PM · #14
Originally posted by tapeworm_jimmy:

Man, I wish they had one of these for flash exposure now...



So make one.


05/14/2008 11:01:19 PM · #15
I have to know how to shoot manual because about 25 of my 30 or so lenses are older AI Nikkors, and they don't meter with my S3 Fuji. I keep preview set for the "blinkies" to show me instantly in the LCD what is blown out in the shots, and I can see that even in full bright daylight without my glasses. That helps me a lot to "get it right." It's especially useful when shooting things like light colored birds which only cover a tiny portion of the whole scene. I rarely take time to look at a histogram, unless I am shooting some kind of tough landscape shots.
My learning experience with SLR was with an old used Canon FTB QL in the 1970's, and that's why I like the older manual lenses now. A big plus is that they are a lot less expensive than the new CPU lenses for glass with the same quality and speed.
05/14/2008 11:09:23 PM · #16
I had a professor in college who had spent most of his career shooting for Life Magazine, Sports Illustrated and Playboy.

Sometimes, we played a game where he'd tell us what the exposure should be without a meter and we'd check with the meter. I don't remember him ever being more than 1/2 stop different than the meter.
05/14/2008 11:10:07 PM · #17
Originally posted by MelonMusketeer:

My learning experience with SLR was with an old used Canon FTB QL in the 1970's...


Mine too.

Message edited by author 2008-05-14 23:41:03.
05/14/2008 11:11:12 PM · #18
I just learned the sunny 16 rule in my NYIP stuff. thanks for reminding me about it!
09/10/2013 10:58:19 AM · #19
I was out on a whale watching trip in St. Andrews NB and learned the sunny F16 rule...makes me wonder where I have been hidding! I always shoot aperture mode but I shot manual yesterday.
09/10/2013 09:37:12 PM · #20
I would love someone to weigh in on this. But, I never had good luck with the Sunny 16 rule and found 10/100/100 to work better.

f/10
1/100s
ISO 100

Then, adjust the three keeping the same exposure and then adjust slightly from there.
09/10/2013 11:15:34 PM · #21
Originally posted by PGerst:

I would love someone to weigh in on this. But, I never had good luck with the Sunny 16 rule and found 10/100/100 to work better.

f/10
1/100s
ISO 100

Then, adjust the three keeping the same exposure and then adjust slightly from there.


Something must be off if your Sunny rule is off by 1 1/3 stops or maybe it's a personal preference for the end result. Film or digital?
09/10/2013 11:54:11 PM · #22
Originally posted by bspurgeon:

Originally posted by PGerst:

I would love someone to weigh in on this. But, I never had good luck with the Sunny 16 rule and found 10/100/100 to work better.

f/10
1/100s
ISO 100

Then, adjust the three keeping the same exposure and then adjust slightly from there.


Something must be off if your Sunny rule is off by 1 1/3 stops or maybe it's a personal preference for the end result. Film or digital?


Nah. Insolation differences could account for this pretty easily.

Message edited by author 2013-09-10 23:54:43.
09/11/2013 12:48:19 AM · #23
Sunny 16 was basically a slide exposure anyway. It leans towards the dark side. Sunny 11 would work better for a modern sensor.
09/11/2013 12:55:32 AM · #24
Also, remember - advertised ISO isn't really accurate.

A quick look at DXOmark's measurement of the 20D reveals that it is actually ISO 87 equivalent when set to ISO 100.

Just another bit of trivial difference that can help to account for some flux here.
09/11/2013 08:25:43 AM · #25
Originally posted by Bear_Music:

Sunny 16 was basically a slide exposure anyway. It leans towards the dark side. Sunny 11 would work better for a modern sensor.


I will give that a try. Thanks!
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