Sunny Day? No Light Meter, No Problem! Using the "Sunny 16 Rule!"

Posted by John Tischler on Nov 23rd 2023

The roots of photography are in simple rules that could be executed without a lot of technology. Consider the 1950s era news photographer. They didn't have sixty seconds to check the lighting and make adjustments. By then, THE shot was gone. In the words of the immortal crime photographer Ascher Fellig (AKA Weegee), when asked how to get great shots, he reportedly said: "f/8 and be there!"

So, i
magine that you are headed out to the woods or the beach one sunny day with your manual film camera and you either: 1) Left your light meter at home; 2) Forgot that the battery in your camera died; 3) Have no cell service, so you can't download a light meter app. Time to follow a simple rule - it's called: "sunny 16."

The "sunny 16" rule is like a photographer's back-pocket cheat code for capturing great outdoor shots on a sunny day. It's dead simple – basically, if you're basking in bright sunlight, set your camera's aperture to f/16 (there will be a ring on your lens with f-stop settings), and match the shutter speed to the reciprocal of your film speed (or ISO setting these days). The film speed setting will either be on another ring on your lens, or it will be a dial on the top of your camera.

For example, if you are rocking ISO 100 film, just set your shutter speed dial to 1/100 seconds. If you are using ISO 200, go with 1/200 second. Easy, right? The rule helps you nail that well-exposed shot without messing around with more complicated settings. 

And you will look like a BOSS to your friends.

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