HOW TO TUESDAY'S #1 - The Sunny 16 Rule! / by Zack Smith

Welcome to the 1st edition of Zack Smith Photography's - "How to Tuesday's" where we will talk about the most common, and random, techniques and helpful insights on photography's more interesting and fun topics. Any topics or questions YOU have about portrait photography, commercial photography, editing workflow, and much more will be answered here. Just COMMENT below, or email me at and we'll answer your Q's right here!

#1 - The Sunny 16 Rule

As legend has it, photographers in the field relied on their built in meter to read light from each scene they composed so that they could decide where to place the exposure. It's true! Nowadays we don't rely that much on our meter as we used to because we can see the results of any exposure by just clicking the shutter, and pressing review on our digital SLR's and mirrorless cameras. If we are overexposed, we can stop down. If we are underexposed, we can open up. If things look just right, then it's time to start shooting!

So, back to that legend...

If the photographer (the one relying on his meter to read light) ever ran out of batteries deep out in the swamps of Louisiana photographing the elusive Loup Garou, he wouldn't be able to meter and read the scene...thus possibly MISSING the shot! That's where the Sunny 16 Rule comes in. The rule says:

To properly expose for the HIGHLIGHTS of a SUBJECT directly lit by the SUN your exposure is:

f16 @ 1/ISO

(your aperture is f16 and your shutter speed is 1/ISO)


Well, what that means is if you set your Aperture at f16, and your Shutter Speed at 1/ISO (ex. if you are using 400 iso, then your shutter speed is 1/400) - take a test shot - WHAM - the area on the Loup Garou that is illuminated by the sun will be PERFECTLY exposed! If you need more light...then OPEN UP! Opening up your Aperture one stop to f11, or your shutter speed (do only one of these!) to 1/200 will give you more light all over but make sure the one you change is OK with your AESTHETIC....(more on that soon!)

If it's cloudy - then go f8, or even f5.6 @ 1/ISO - you can always REVIEW and see what your image looks like. Make sure not to open up more than your depth of field will want to get ALL of the Loup Garou in focus!

Actor Nick Slie as the Loup Garou...seen in the Swamps of Pierre Part!!! ©zack smith photography

Actor Nick Slie as the Loup Garou...seen in the Swamps of Pierre Part!!! ©zack smith photography

The Sunny 16 rule is a GREAT way to get a starting exposure in any day lit scene!

FOLLOW this BLOG and stay in touch for next week's "HOW TO TUESDAY's"

#2 - LET THE SUBJECT SET THE SETTINGS!!! - how to navigate the many settings on your camera to get the perfect composition and exposure!