The Sunny 16 rule

If you choose to shoot in manual mode, or if you have an old camera that does not have any automatic or semi-automatic modes, there is a simple rule that can help you.

The Sunny 16 rule

In photography, there are 3 exposure parameters :

- Aperture
- Speed
- Sensitivity (ISO)

The rule says that the speed has to be one over the ISO ( 1 / ISO ).

Example : if you have a ISO 100 film, then set your speed to 1/100s. Some old cameras do not have 1/100s, so choose either 1/60s or 1/125s. I would choose 1/60s if I have a negative film, and 1/125s if I have a slide film, as we do not want to overexpose a slide and not underexpose a negative...

So here, we have both ISO and Speed that are set. What's left ? The aperture !

The rule says Sunny 16... So, if it's sunny, set your aperture to f16. If there are clouds, set it to f11. If there are more clouds, f8. Overcast f5.6.

That's it !

Now, you can go out and have fun without any light meter, try it out, it works !

You want more ?

Of course, the sunny 16 rule only works outside. If you want more lighting conditions, you might want to look at this chart (right-click to save) :

To be able to recognize light, and never need a light meter again, I trained myself for about one year. I printed that chart and taped it to the back of a camera I used in manual mode.

Doing this during a full year helped me to quantify light wherever I am.

Thanks for being there!

Eric Constantineau, small photographer in this big World


Cell: (514)965-3686

Longueuil, Québec, Canada