Author: Bruce A Tracy
Nope, sorry, this is not the teenage girl named Sunny turning sweet sixteen. This is actually a photography related term. Sunny sixteen is a reference to getting good exposure in bright sunlight.
The way this works is pretty simple. In bright sunlight with well defined shadows, the correct exposure is closest to the reciprocal of the film speed. What does this mean? Well, it means that if your film speed is ISO 200, then the shutter speed should be 1/200 if the aperture is set to f/16. Hence the name, sunny sixteen. For you digital shooters, just set your ISO to 200. It works in exactly the same way as for film.
What if I want to use a more creative aperture like say f/4 so I can blur the background you ask? Simple, for every stop you open the aperture, you will increase your shutter speed by a full stop. So in this case you would set your shutter speed to 1/3200. If you want greater depth-of-field and stop down your aperture to f/22, then you would need to decrease your shutter speed by one full stop to 1/100.
What if my camera doesn’t allow a shutter speed of 1/200? If this is the case, then set the shutter speed to the nearest shutter speed available which may be 1/250. One advantage of digital cameras is that on most, setting the shutter speed in 1/3 increments makes it pretty easy to get the correct setting because 1/200 is on a 1/3 stop setting.
For convenience, here are some common settings for sunny sixteen (all are based on ISO 200):
f/32 – 1/50
f/22 – 1/100
f/16 – 1/200
f/11 – 1/400
f/8 – 1/800
f/5.6 – 1/1600
f/4 – 1/3200
f/2.8 – 1/6400
If you are setting your aperture to 1/3 or 1/2 stop increments, then you will need to adjust your shutter speed in accordance.
Note: the sunny sixteen settings work well for shooting pictures of a full moon as well. If it is not a full moon, you will need to open up the aperture without changing the shutter speed to get the correct exposure. Kind of weird, but it works. When shooting the moon you don’t want a slower shutter speed because the moon is moving and it will blur on slower shutter speeds. When it is not a full moon, you need to let in more light, so you open up the aperture. Simple – right? Good, glad you got it.
About the Author
Bruce A Tracy is a professional photographer residing in Loveland Colorado. He specializes primarily in events, portraits, pets, and scenic photography. Bruce is a graduate of the New York Institute of Photography in Professional Photography. Go to www.bruceatracy.com to see his portfolio or purchase prints.