Sunny 16 Rule

By Pam Henrichsen

Time to brush up on one of the simplest photo applications. This is very old school and most digital photographers may not even use this concept. However, it is simple and it does work.  The Sunny 16 Rule is a way to meter during the daylight without using your camera meter.

The rule is… if you have a bright sunny day set your aperture to f/16, next set your ISO and shutter speed to the same value – for example if your ISO is 100 your shutter speed will be 1/100; if the ISO is 200 your shutter speed will be 1/200 and so on.

Sunny 16 is a very useful tool for numerous reasons. It is a good way to check and see if your camera has accurate exposure. Try using this method to determine if your camera tends to over expose or under expose your images. Most cameras have a tendency to slightly under expose.

Additionally, unlike the camera metering system, Sunny 16 is based on incident light not reflective light. What does this mean? It means that it is based on the brightness of the light only, not how the light is being reflected off the subject and into the camera. So the Sunny 16 Rule can help you check your camera’s metering to make sure it is not being thrown off.

That’s all there is to it. Pretty simple. It’s a great tool to have in your bag of photographic tricks. Give it a try…or try it again.

Pam Henrichsen is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.