Sunny-16 RUle

The Sunny-16 rule has roots going clear back to at least the 1920s if not earlier. Today, many people find the rule to be outdated. After all, nearly all cameras built from the 1960s forward had some sort of light meter built in. Standalone handheld meters also exists and there are even light meter apps that you can get for your phone.

So why are we taking the time to learn it?

Because it just works. This is handy because we have students with many different types of cameras and meter modes With the Sunny-16 rule, kids can get out and start getting properly exposed photos in minutes, rather than needing individualized lessons on their meters.

When learning about equivalent exposures and manual camera operation the Sunny-16 rule is very simple to learn and get approximately the correct exposure to start.

The rule starts simple. Your shutter speed should be 1/ISO. From there, you can go outside and just look at the weather conditions or shadows to set your aperture. Use the following table:

f/22 – snow or sand

f/16 – bright sun

f/11 – slight overcast

f/8 – overcast

f5/6 – dark overcast (no shadows on the ground)

f/4 – open shade/dusk

If you’re back-lighting, just add one stop.


Example: If I am shooting at 200 ISO on a cloudless afternoon in the middle of a grassy field, your settings would be 200 ISO, 1/200th shutter speed, and f/16.



I want to take a photo, on the beach, at sunset, with my subject backlit. I have my ISO set to 400.

ISO = 400

Shutter speed = 1/ISO or 1/400

Aperture = f/2.8 (adding a stop for the backlighting)

From here, I can change my ISO, aperture, or shutter speed to match my creative needs


Many people are curious how to take good photos of the moon. Modern cameras frequently have trouble with the moon because of how bright it can be against such a dark background.

Moony-11 is the solution to that!

Like with Sunny-16, Moony 11 is when your shutter speed is 1/ISO, then:

f/11 – full moon

f/8 – half moon

f/5.6 – quarter moon

f/4 – eighth moon

Aperture is:

Put simply, a hole that allows light to reach the recording medium. It can get larger or smaller in nearly all lenses.


Aperture controls:

First and foremost, the aperture’s main function is to control the amount of light entering the camera by increasing or decreasing the size of the hole.

Depth of Field:

Aperture is one way to control depth of field. The larger the aperture, the more shallow the depth of field will be. The smaller the aperture, the deeper the depth.

Camera Obscura

The Camera Obscura is simply a light tight box with a hole opposite of the recording medium. Occasionally, they may have a lens.

Aperture basics

In week one, we turned the entire room into a Camera Obscura, a primitive camera. The windows and doors were blackened with paper and a large hole was cut into the paper covering the window. 

This large hole was our aperture.

We used an old screen printing silk to project the image onto so that students could see how the image changed. Using pieces of paper with smaller and smaller holes, students could watch the resulting projected image become sharper yet more dark each time the hole diameter was decreased.

See the photos below for reference:


F-stops is the function of the lens’ focal length divided by the physical diameter of the aperture. For instance, a 500mm lens with a 50mm aperture diameter will be at f/10. A 200mm lens with a 50mm aperture diameter will be at f/4.

F-stops do not change between lenses. What I mean by that is if you have a 28mm lens at f/10 and a shutter speed of 1/60 and you change to a 300mm lens, your settings will not need to be changed (f/10, 1/60th). {note, this may not be exactly accurate because of light transmission properties or T-stops}.


Focal length/aperture diameter = f-stop number and are interchangeable between lenses

Depth of Field

Depth of Field (DoF) refers to how much of an image is in focus from near to far.

Depth of Field as it Relates to Apertures

A large aperture diameter (or lower f-stop number) will let in more light but the image will have a very narrow depth of field. Conversely, a small aperture diameter will create a deeper depth of field but will allow less light to reach the recording media.

For instance, if you are shooting a group of eight people, you will need a deeper depth of field to get them all in focus (a good rule of thumb for group numbers is f-stop = the number of people in the photo). If you are photographing a single person and want to isolate them from the background, a wide aperture will blur the background (bokeh) but keep the person in focus.