Improve your daylight shots with the Sunny 16 rule - best camera settings for a sunny day!

Bright sunlight can provide unique challenges when taking outdoor photos. Apply these camera settings and learn this rule to improve balance and get amazing photographs on a sunny day

camera settings for a sunny day

It’s a perfect Australian summer’s day - warm and sunny: Time to get the camera out and shoot some outdoor photographs! Be aware, though intense brightness from the sun can impact the quality of your shots.

By being too bright, the sun can lead to dark shadows and wash out the highlights you’re trying to capture. Applying these settings and the Sunny 16 rule will give you balance.

There are three steps to establish the Sunny 16 rule on your camera:

  1. Aperture: Where the rule’s name came from - move your aperture to f/16
  2. ISO: Adapt your ISO to a low setting, must be suitable to conditions though
  3. Shutter speed: Apply a shutter speed that is in line with your ISO value

As a practical example, once your aperture is at f/16, adjust ISO to 200 – your shutter speed should correspond at 1/200. If it's too dark, try ISO at 400 and shutter speed at 1/400, so on and so forth. Experiment until you get it right.

Be aware of shadows

Although the Sunny 16 rule applies to direct sunlight, it’s the shadows you need to watch. If you’re near a river and capturing the water and a rock formation but taking the photo from under a tree where there’s a lot of shade – the shadows will be dark and disproportionate to the light in your foreground subject. To brighten the dark sections, increase your aperture size – try f/5.6, but leave the other settings as they are.

Start off with these settings as a base point and experiment from there until you’re happy with the outcome. This is a good way to learn how to shoot in bright sunlight and implement Sunny 16 settings.

Didn’t nail the perfect sunny photo? Edit it.

Once you’ve downloaded your photos, but your camera settings weren’t 100 per cent to your liking – you can use the Colour Grading feature on Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to adjust brightness and shadows.

Colour Grading allows you to adjust shadows, midtones and highlights. Adobe Lightroom is a simple way to edit on your desktop or mobile device using colour wheel controls. Or, until you are comfortable with using the colour wheel controls from scratch, you can download Lightroom presets which speeds up the process even more.

Enjoy those sunny days

Everyone loves a day in the warm sunshine and it can produce some stunning photographs, they can be even more spectacular when you explore your full potential by using Lightroom!