Flash and the Sunny 16 Rule

The concept of using flash in broad daylight confuses a lot of budding photographers. Why use flash when you already have abundant natural light? The answer is simple. While you can’t control natural light directly, you can control artificial lighting. In this video, photographer Zach Gray shares some tips on how to use flash to overpower the sun using the Sunny 16 rule:

Shooting in harsh sunlight is challenging even for an experienced photographer. For the shoot featured in the video, the location had direct and harsh sunlight, and Gray had to use an off-camera flash powered one stop brighter than the ambient light.

What is the Sunny 16 Rule?

According to the Sunny 16 rule, on a bright sunny day, if you set your aperture to f/16, your shutter speed can be the reciprocal of your ISO for good exposure. For example, your settings might be f/16, ISO 100, and 1/100 second.

Overpowering the Sun with Flash

Using this concept, Gray set his flash to be one stop brighter than the ambient light. Then, for shooting purposes, he set his aperture at a wider setting while using a 3-stop ND filter to cut down on all the light from the flash.

Here are some images from the shoot:

flash portrait in daylight

sunny 16 with flash

Using this simple technique, you can quickly calculate the flash power needed to overpower the sun and get gorgeous portraits even in broad daylight.

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