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Posted by on Dec 27, 2015

The Sunny 16 Rule of Photography

The Sunny 16 Rule of Photography

With new cameras taking to the air like the DJI X5 and Yuneec CGO4, the question about “what camera settings are best” keeps coming up. While there are no “best settings”, there are some basic rules to help get your exposure dialed in quickly. One of these that you should know is the Sunny 16 Rule.

Although you may think that no two situations are alike, the fact is, there are a few constants that you can rely on to give you a good starting point. The sun is one of these things you can count on to be consistent. Of course there are things that affect the sun’s output like the time of day, haze, fog, and clouds, but on a bright sunny day the light output is very consistent and knowing the camera settings for this condition will give you a guideline to make adjustments. This is where the “sunny 16” rule comes into play.

To put it simply, on a bright sunny day, set your camera on f/16 and set the shutter speed to the reciprocal of the ISO speed. So if you are set to ISO 200, 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. For example, 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. A good chart of recommended settings is in the following table:

Aperture

Condition

Shadow Detail

f/16 Sunny Crisp
f/11 Slight Overcast Soft edges
f/8 Overcast Barely visible
f/5.6 Heavy Overcast No shadows
f/4 Sunset Long shadows

By utilizing the sunny 16 rule you will help ensure that you get the right settings dialed in quickly and easily. It’s always nice to have some frame of reference when getting started. When all else fails and you don’t know what settings to start with, remember the sunny 16 rule and adjust as needed.

  • Bruce Dempsey

    thanks for the 16 rule How do nd filters figure in? I bought the screw on ones for my p3a