Continued discussion -- Sunny 16 rule

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Autonerd Senior Member • Posts: 1,831
Continued discussion -- Sunny 16 rule

To continue a discussion from a thread in Beginner's Questions ("Metering in manual mode ")...

Some people mentioned the Sunny 16 rule as a starting point, and David said something to the effect of (and correct me if I'm wrong, please, David) the Sunny 16 rule is a starting point to adjust to his preferred ap and shutter speed.

Personally, I think this is a misunderstanding of Sunny 16 as well as its usefulness for digital photography.

The Sunny 16 rule says that a good starting point on a sunny day is f/16 and a shutter speed that is the reciprocal of your ISO (i.e. 1/125 for ISO 100).

But this doesn't mean the Sunny 16 rule locks you into these settings -- it assumes you're familiar with a little camera math, i.e. that 1/125 @ f/16 = 1/250 @ f/11, etc.

What the Sunny 16 rule really says is that a bright sunny day generally has an exposure value of EV15, which corresponds to an exposure as above. And it doesn't just describe sun -- moderate clouds are EV14, heavy overcast EV13, shade EV12, snow or sand EV16.

If you understand the rule, you can even shoot as David does. Let's say it's an overcast day -- EV13, three stops down from f/16 @ 1/100 (Since we have that option with most digicams) @ ISO 100. David likes to shoot at 1/100 or better, so he knows from the rule that his largest possible aperture at ISO 100 will be f/5.6. If this doesn't give him the DOF he requires, he can open up to f/8 and set ISO200 or f/11 @ ISO 400. No meter needed.

Now, what it doesn't help us with much is ETTR. This is out of my field of experience but as I understand it, if you have a good feel for your camera, you can decide to open up one or two stops if you know that'll better align the DR of the scene with the DR of your camera, then use the so-called "exposure" slider in your RAW editor to reduce those two stops and get better DR.

Of course, a digital camera, unlike a film camera, will likely always have a working meter, because without a battery you have no digital camera. And if you have an EVF you already know if the meter is wrong (and if you have live view, you will after you take the pic).

Still, I've found that Sunny 16 works pretty well with film -- if nothing else it's less  prone to user error than even an incidence meter (and this coming from the guy who has committed user errors with an incidence meter).

I haven't tried Sunny 16 in digital but I think I'm going to give it a whirl and see what my pics look like.


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