Aperture 8 – the sun is laughing

What happens if you are suddenly without a light meter and can not or do not want to take pictures with an analog camera? Immediately the rule “Aperture Eight – Sun Laughs” immediately reminds you and one ponders how this rule can be applied at all.

When Leica introduced the Leica M-A a few years ago, most people probably shook their heads. Time and aperture can be adjusted mechanically, but a light meter does not have them. The blasphemers quickly said that Leicas would only be produced for showcases. People who work with such a camera show how close they are to real photography. Because a good photo is not created by the perfect automatic, but still by observing the environment and the right feeling for the combination of time and aperture.

How good it is to know these things, I noticed on Gotland, when the batteries in my camera went limp and fortunately I had two shutter speeds, which worked purely mechanically. All at once I observed a lot of attentive time of day, the position of the sun, the sky, the shadows, and then reckoned the exposure time known to me to the sensitivity of the inserted film. The title image was created with an estimated exposure time. The old saying helped me, “Sun laughs, take aperture eight.”

Anyone who thinks that is a much too complicated witchcraft, remembers perhaps still weak to the simple compact cameras, where you could only distinguish between a sun, clouds and darkness via a slider. Nevertheless, we would like to give an overview of the dependencies in which time and aperture leads to good results. Such values ​​are particularly helpful in today’s world, when in certain situations the light meter can not determine correct values ​​and thus lead to disappointing results – be it digital or analog.

The aperture row

The aperture row is important to understand if you want to convert the recommended values ​​to a different aperture. Because with each aperture doubled or halved exposure.

1.4 – 2 – 2.8 – 4 – 5.6 – 8 – 11 – 16 – 22 – 32

For example, if I want to halve the exposure time at aperture 8, I choose Aperture 5.6. If I want to double the exposure time at aperture 8, I choose Aperture 11.

Recommended exposure times without exposure meter at ISO 100

  • Landscape in full moonlight: 120 seconds at aperture 4
  • Full moon recording: 1/125 second at aperture 11 (looney 11 rule)
  • Half moon recording: 1/125 second at aperture 8
  • Starry sky, in which the stars are given as curved stripes: 300 seconds at aperture 4 (note film extension factors)
  • Well lit street at night: 1/30 second at aperture 2.8
  • Sunset without clouds: 1/125 second at aperture 4
  • Sun frontal behind the clouds: 1/250 second at aperture 11
  • Sun front: 1/125 second at aperture 16 (sunny sixteen rule)
  • Reflecting sun on the water (moonlight effect) 1/500 second at aperture 11
  • cloudy day: Aperture 5.6 at 1/125 second
  • Morning fog and light drizzle: 1/125 seconds at aperture 4
  • Morning sun and green landscape as a section without sky: Aperture 5.6 at 1/125 second
  • Sunny noon, green grass as a cutout without sky: aperture 8 at 1/360 second
  • diffused bright light: 1/125 second at aperture 11
  • clear to cloudy with no direct sunlight: 1/125 second at aperture 11
  • cloudy throughout the day with almost no shade: 1/125 seconds at aperture 8
  • during the day with dark clouds without shadows: 1/125 seconds at aperture 5.6
  • is always supplemented ….

For relatively long exposures, the extension factor of the respective film must be taken into account, regardless of the type of exposure measurement.

Exposure times

The following exposure times can usually be set with analogue cameras. Often there are split times, but we have always shown here the doubling or halving the exposure time.

32s – 16s – 8s – 4s – 2s – 1s – 1/2s – 1/4s – 1/8s – 1/15s  1/30s –  1/60s – 1/125s – 1/250s – 1/500s – 1-1000s

For longer exposure times longer than one second you should check to what extent the inserted film requires an additional exposure time. This varies depending on the manufacturer and film. With the Kodak Portra 160, however, there were no problems with normal shutter speed up to 32 seconds.

However, exposure times between 1/60 second and 1/1000 second are common.

Example for the title picture:

It is a bright, sunny day. No clouds in the sky. The ideal image quality of an objective lies approximately at apertures between 5.6 and 8. Inlaid film has ISO 100. The sunny-sixteen rule is based on the proposal to select the ISO value of the film at aperture 16 as the exposure time. Now there is no exposure time of 1/100 second, so I choose 1/125 second.

But I would like to shoot with the aperture 8. So comes through the larger opening of the aperture after three times more light on the film. So I would be at aperture 11 at a time of 1/250 second and at aperture 8 at a time of 1/500 second.

Aperture eight – the sun is laughing

But what about this well-known saying? Is it valid at all and does it not contradict the sunny sixteen rule?

No, because this rule comes from a time when shooting with roll film and cameras without exposure meter. Sensitive films like today were out of the question, the ISO designation did not exist. If you use aperture eight in a film with a sensitivity of ISO 100, an exposure time of 1/500 is recommended. In fact, this rule refers to a much lower photosensitivity of films than is currently available only as a niche product. Namely ISO 25. So for this sensitivity range I need four times more light than for a film with ISO 100.


Especially classic black and white films such as the Kodak Tri X forgive exposure errors. The same is true of color negative films, though not on such a large scale. If the aperture is too high or too low, all image information is still on the negative. It becomes more critical with slide films, because they have to be exposed absolutely correctly. Here you should work an exposure series with the recommended value and one aperture each under- and overexposure.

The title image is taken without a light meter according to this rule.

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