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Could the Sunny 16 Rule Solve All of Your Exposure Problems?

One of the hardest obstacles when shooting outdoors is balancing a correct exposure in extreme sunlight. When there’s heavy white snow on the ground, it’s even harder. Luckily, there’s a mathematical equation, dubbed the Sunny 16 Rule, that solved the problem over 50 years ago. Check out Bryan Peterson explaining it here:

What is the Sunny 16 Rule?

It’s simple, really. The Sunny 16 Rule states:

“On a sunny day, set aperture to f/16 and shutter speed to the reciprocal of the ISO setting for a subject in direct sunlight.”

In other words, on a bright sunny day, with your camera on manual mode, set your aperture to f/16, then adjust your ISO to 200 and shutter speed to 1/200. Or, staying at f/16, set your ISO to 100 and your shutter speed to 1/100, and so on. Bryan is using a Nikon D800E, but this works with any DSLR–or film camera, for that matter.

Bright sunny days can be deadly for photographs risking under- or over-exposure.

It’s a great tip for beginner photographers who are dealing with harsh outdoor conditions. And the rule can be elaborated on for different lighting conditions. Apply the same rule with an aperture of f/8 on an overcast day, for example. Using the rule, you should achieve a perfect exposure with this setting, regardless of a light meter.

“I’m not looking through the camera. I don’t need to look through the camera. Because I know, mathematically, the calculations that were done 50 years ago about exposure—without benefit of a light meter—still apply today.”

Check out Bryan’s images below. For the first, he didn’t even glance at the light meter; he just lined up his shot and clicked.

Aperture f/16, ISO 200, Shutter Speed 1/200

Now see what his in-camera light meter recommended he shoot—a shutter speed of 1/640.

Aperture f/16, ISO 200, Shutter Speed 1/640

Cameras’ automatic settings are geared toward grayscales. They aren’t built to manage extreme blacks and whites. Just another example of how the camera isn’t always right.

[via PictureCorrect Photography Tips]

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