Sunny 16

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Sunny 16 (Andreas Feininger called it "magic 16") is a rule-of-thumb guideline that says proper exposure on a sunny day is achieved with aperture set to f/16, combined with shutter speed set to the reciprocal of your film speed.

Exposure control by aperture setting:
Aperture should be wider in less bright light situations, i.e. half to full f-stop wider (f/13-f/11) for sunny but hazy, two f-stops (f/8) for clouds, and three f-stops wider (f/5.6) for strongly clouded sky, or even an f-stop smaller, i.e. f/22 for snow or white sands in bright sunshine. Of course small format cameras will produce diffraction unsharpness at such small aperture.

Condition Aperture for shutter speed
set reciprocal to film speed
Bright sun f16
Hazy sun f11
Cloudy f8
strongly clouded,

Exposure control by shutter speed setting:
Of course a small aperture might be fine for landscape photos. So let it be set to f/16 and control exposure by shutter speed, setting it higher for bright snow, or lower for hazy or cloudy weather.

If we use a good ISO 100 film it has a fine color grain, allowing sharpest analog photographs. Thus a camera with a good lens will be prefered to shoot that film. But a good lens usually has its finest sharpness at an aperture wider than f/16! The third sample in the following table is given for a lens with optimal sharpness at aperture f/5.6

Condition Shutter speed for f/16
with film speed ISO 100
Shutter speed for f/16
with film speed ISO 400
Shutter speed for f/5.6
with film speed ISO 100
Bright sun 1/100 sec. 1/400 sec. 1/800 sec.
Hazy sun 1/50 sec. 1/200 sec. 1/400 sec.
Cloudy 1/25 sec. 1/100 sec. 1/200 sec.
strongly clouded,
1/12.5 sec. 1/50 sec. 1/100 sec.

For f/16 in bright sun use the closest match to the film speed's reciprocal value as shutter speed. For example 1/125 instead of 1/100 if speed scale doesn't offer 1/100, or 1/300 instead of 1/400 if the speed scale ends at 1/300.

Weather Symbols

Sunny 16 is sometimes formalised onto a camera as weather symbols. The exposure controls are marked with sunny/cloudy (etc) symbols, mainly for aperture setting on cameras with single-speed-shutter.

Glossary Terms