Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by stuart_pratt, Sep 23, 2021.

  1. I think we're focussing on two different perspectives. The method isn't meant to replace a meter at all. It was developed before meteres were widely used by hobbiests and weren't always included in consumer cameras. What it is useful and I believe still relevant about Sunny 16 is for teaching photographers to learn about light and exposure if they don't already. But you can still take awesome pictures and most certainly more accurately exposed pictures with modern cameras by just put them on Program and shoot away. Doesn't mean its not both a useful tool to use sometimes and is very useful to getting a sense of different kinds of light and how it effects exposure. I think its probably a good idea for someone who is beginning and hasn't had a lot experience to learn it, and use it intensively for a week or two. You can learn a lot, even if you think you already know it.
    AJG and inoneeye like this.
  2. When I was shooting b&w film in meterless cameras, I generally achieved good results using the Sunny-16 rule, albeit with slight modifications. At USA latitudes, I found that an extra half-stop was needed for mid-day exposures, and an extra full stop for early morning or late afternoon.

    On "cloudy bright" days when shadows were still visible, open up another full stop. If shadows aren't visible, open two stops.

    Under heavy overcast, open three or four stops. The same when shooting in a shaded area on a sunny day.

    These rules-of-thumb work pretty well -- but only if beforehand the photographer has tested their film and developing combination to determine the true film speed, which is usually slower than the box speed.
  3. A) It's not a 'method', and
    B) Fairly widespread amateur use of lightmeters began in the late 1950s, whereas the Sunny-16 'rule' has only gained widespread fame (or infamy) since the Internet.
    Its inclusion as a bit of (usually discarded) paper with rolls of film continued long after TTL metering was common in nearly every camera except those that offered little control over aperture or shutter speed anyway.

    Being able to stick a wet finger in the air and guesstimate an exposure isn't a desired skill. It's a delusion. The human eye is very poor at judging absolute brightness values, let alone translating a light level to a suitable exposure.

    Judging the quality of light, rather than its quantity, is an entirely different matter.
  4. Sunny 16 exists exactly because the eye is a poor judge of light levels. It describes easier to identify situations and suggests associated light levels.
    All very imprecise still. But better than judgement by eye.
  5. Better until the eye is dedicately trained and experienced. It becomes a skill.
    Ricochetrider likes this.
  6. You can't train the eye, because it has a built-in 'exposure compensation' that does not come with a viewfinder display.
    You can train your brain to 'get an eye' for typical situations. It will still be way off in most. It will never become a skill.
    That's why meters and how to use those properly takes such prominent place in photography.
  7. typical situations like the use of sunny 16? Sure and much more.

    Never? I feel fortunate to have a very different experience unimpeded by that way of thinking. With practice, lots of trial and error and focused intent it does become a skill for some. It taught me all the characteristics of light not limited to quantity. The brain can inform a lot when trained. It can overcome countless perceived limitations. Intuition follows nicely.
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2021
  8. "With practice, lots of trial and error and focused intent it does become a skill for some" Ion

    Why? the focal lengths are clearly marked on most lenses for zone focusing.

  9. ^ Dedicate[d]ly :rolleyes:
    Ludmilla likes this.
  10. " Fairly widespread amateur use of lightmeters began in the late 1950s, whereas the Sunny-16 'rule' has only gained widespread fame (or infamy) since the Internet."

    Unless you started taking photographs before that. As to the rest of it? Total tripe, but keep it up. The finger in the air bit is a total false equivalency, but hey it's an argument. Some people probably think its best to paint with numbers.
  11. Thank you! Says it pretty well.
  12. I remember fondly using the Kodak "cheat sheet" for exposure settings in the 1950s. As someone mentioned, you'd "stick" your finger in the air and then pick the settings, so to speak. Kodak also had the same sheets for 8mm movie film that I started shooting in 1958 with my wind-up, three lens turret camera. I still have it. And it seems to work. I think that was Kodachrome movie film I used back then, but I don't remember for sure

    I bought my Nikon F Photomic T in 1965 in Japan. I believe it was one of the first 35mm SLR cameras with a meter, at least a pro camera. Before that, the Nikon F didn't have meters so you needed a separate meter or had to use the film box "cheat sheets".
  13. Probably the first successful photoelectric selenium cell exposure meters was introduced by the British born American electrical engineer Edward Weston (not related to the photographer as far as I know) in 1932. Continually refined Weston exposure meters were popular with professional photographers, such as Ansel Adams, for decades until they ceased production in 2010. There is an interesting history of Weston meters at Weston Meter
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2021
  14. SCL


    I've been following this thread since its inception filled with all the back and forth BS. I've been secluded due to the pandemic and several surgeries for some time, so haven't done much photography recently. Last week we finally got some good sunny days with few clouds, and I decided to do some landscape shots in color, although I'm usually a B&W person. I also decided to use S16 guidelines and then using the same framing and focal length lens on my Sony A7RII and see if my recently surgically improved eyes still did a good job with S16 estimates. Much to my delight S16 guidelines we re spot on for the 20 or so shots I took. I was delighted, as I had almost been seduced by the critics of S16, that it didn't work, that human eyes were poor judges of light intensity, that it only applied to certain latitudes and longitudes, and a hoard of other objections to its use. I agree it is not for everybody, but for some of us, it still works fine.
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  15. And although I use the meter I wouldn't use a meter with more than 1/3 stop off. If that is the case I would estimate the exposure instead.
  16. I used a :"sunny 16" chart with reasonable effectiveness early on. The one I had included "sunny", bright overcast, more cloudy (with/without shadows) etc etc. It also broke it down by ISO, IIRC from ISO 100 to 800? It got me going and even if the negatives may have been a bit thin, the scans were presentable enough.

    There are more than a couple exposure guides that give rough exposures for certain lighting situations- the Black Cat Exposure Guide is one of these Black Cat Extended Range Exposure Guide which I own (but never used) and there was also a small pocket-sized Kodak "book" guide which I also own but never used. Kodak Master Photoguide AR-21 1968 Pocket Guide 32p 3.75x4.75" | eBay

    All well and good but as stated these are merely guides and don't in any way replace the science and technique of metering in photography.

    Here is one of my pix from the one day I ever used my "sunny 16" chart. As you can see, it wasn't very sunny out. I believe this was shot on Kodak Tmax (100 iso?) and I referred to the section for "bright overcast with shadows"- or whatever the verbiage was that loosely matched the general conditions of the moment - the day on which the light was variably sunny/cloudy/bright/less bright with and without shadows. IOW all over the place and all my pix from 2 or 3 rolls of 120 film came out reasonably well- with only the chart as my exposure reference. BTW I had this printed at 16 inches by 16 inches- just to see what it looked like. Came out great.


    Below is another- shot on Ilford something-or-other, XP2 maybe? ISO 400 maybe?
    Not perfect, but passable at the very least? You tell me.

    I was thrilled to f***ing pieces, I can tell you that with absolute certainty.


    This was my 2nd outing with my then new-to-me Hasselblad 500cm. Intent on learning for sure, tho I had ZERO idea what I was doing. I was armed with only that "sunny 16" chart & a couple rolls of old film I pulled out of a bin at my local camera store, and vague memories of a few things a couple of my photographer friends had told me over the years.

    Point being that it can be and has been done. Nothing that is a total, utter failure would ever permeate the culture in the way that "sunny 16" has. That said, Sunny 16 is perhaps only slightly more "technical" a "resource" as "f/8 and be there".
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2021
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  17. AJG


    What we sometimes forget is that there weren't any useful meters until the 1930's, and even those selenium cell meters were limited in sensitivity. So photographers with adjustable cameras had to rely on the guide that came with film and their experience to get decent exposures, and those with simple box cameras didn't get them out unless the sun was shining. B&W film latitude, developing ortho and earlier films by inspection and printing manipulation made this possible. I use sunny 16 as a reality check if I get a meter reading that doesn't make sense, but I certainly wouldn't rely on it for anything important.
    Ricochetrider likes this.
  18. Sunny 16 works in the middle of the day. But when you're shooting during magic hour, the light is changing too quickly and there are just no estimates I can do from those Sunny 16 sheets.
  19. The first 35mm camera I got to use was my Dads Agfa rangefinder. No meter, you had to figure it out. Sunny 16 got the job done pretty well on the Kodachrome and Ektachrome he used. I still have that camera and S16 still does just fine as well as on my Nikkormats and F2’s whose meters have faded. While all these digitalis are capable in many auto modes I’ll go back in time now and then just for the practice and fun.

    Rick H.
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  20. But there were non-electric meters around well before that. Notably the Watkins 'Bee' meter, patented in 1890, but quite widely copied. There were also visual extinction meters that continued their popularity long after photo-electric meters were introduced, due to being cheaper and more pocketable.

    So the history of using 'mechanical' aids to estimate exposure long predates the invention of Sunny-16. Which only works because the previous disparate and multiple film speed rating systems (Scheiner, Weston, Watkins, H&D, Ilford, plus multiple others) were unified into ASA/DIN/BS in the early 1960s. Otherwise the reciprocal of film speed couldn't possibly be used as a baseline shutter speed.

    Therefore the history of the Sunny-16 'rule' is a lot shorter than you might think, and post-dates that of using mechanical exposure aids. So Sunny-16 really doesn't have a great and glorious history dating back to the dawn of time. And by using it you're not keeping your exposure-guessing method in period with your old pre-1960 Voigtlander, Zeiss, Rollei or whatever. Far from it.

    In fact if you were rich enough to own a Hasselblad back when it was first introduced, you could almost certainly afford, and use, a Weston Master II that was being made around the same time.
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