Alrighty then! Now that I’ve gone full manuél and ditched even light meter usage, I thought I’d share my method of choosing exposure settings.

Sometimes I think like what the hell I’ve gotten into. How hard must I make photography for myself? The thing is though, I really just want to learn the skill without having to rely on technology. I’m compelled by the idea of just knowing my exposures by experience and the theory behind them.

I’ve looked online for a concrete exposure chart, but I have not found one simple enough. So, I decided to make one for myself. Something like the sunny 16 rule, but covering all the typical lighting conditions I tend to encounter.  My chart has only 10 different settings where to choose from (or to use as a starting point at least).

New to sunny 16 rule? No problem — check out this excellent and very comprehensive article at called How to Master the Sunny 16 Rule.

I tend to think in iso 800, so the settings are based on that. At the moment I use a f2.8 lens. Bear in mind this is my personal memo and the settings are primarily made for myself and the gear I normally use.

Sunny day (the standard sunny 16 rule)
  • Bright day with no clouds: f16 + 1/1000 (objects cast shadows with sharp edges) (EV 18)
  • Slight overcast: f11 + 1/1000 (shadows with soft edges) (EV 17)
  • Overcast: f8 + 1/1000 (diffused, soft light with barely visible shadow edges) (EV 16)
  • Heavy overcast: f5,6 + 1/1000 (no cast shadows beyond this point) (EV 15)
Not quite sunny, not quite dark
  • Dank, grey and bleak day with totally average and boring light: f5.6 + 1/500 (average light = middle of the way aperture and shutter speed) (EV 14)
Shit weather
  • Quite cloudy and rainy: f4 + 1/250 (EV 12)
  • Really cloudy and rainy, almost dark (incoming thunder storm etc.): f4 + 1/125 (EV 11)
  • Well lit indoors, something like an Apple store: f2.8 + 1/125 or 1/60 (EV 10/9)
  • Typical indoors lighting in a flat, office, coffee shop etc: f2.8 + 1/30 (EV 8)
Evening, low light
  • All you got: f2.8 + 1/15 (basically your largest aperture and the longest shutter speed you can manage to hand hold) (EV 7)

So basically there are only 10 settings in total, that will get you far. Pretty simple, huh? I’ve shot all my manual exposures using this chart and the success rate is about 99%. I get only slight under or over exposures some times. But especially with black and white film, that has a great latitude, it makes no difference. Black and white films are so forgiving.

This chart is a work in progress, mind you, and totally not perfect. I’d be very pleased though, if you would care try out these settings and make corrections if you encounter something to improve. As you can see from the EV (exposure value) numbers, my chart doesn’t cover lighting conditions correlating EV 13. But other than that, it slides nicely down from 18 to 7. Initially I didn’t even realise that but when I wrote this down, I decided to check them using an online EV calculator. To my surprise, all the values were intuitively covered, except for that gap in EV 13. Now that I think about it, it doesn’t come as surprise, since I always seem to have the most trouble of estimating the light in very boring and average light, when it’s not quite sunny or not quite dark.

EDIT: Few general corrections made.

Updated post about manual settings can be found here.


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