By Julie Adair King

In Auto mode, the digital camera selects exposure, color, and autofocus settings based on the scene that it detects in front of the lens. Here’s how to take advantage of this mode:

  1. Set the shooting mode to Auto.
  2. Frame your subject in the viewfinder or monitor.
  3. Press and hold the shutter button halfway down.
    The camera’s autofocus and autoexposure meters begin to do their thing. In dim light, the flash may turn on or pop up if the camera thinks additional light is needed.
    For still subjects, most cameras lock focus when you depress the shutter button halfway. But if your camera senses motion, it may continually adjust focus from the time you depress the shutter button halfway until you take the picture. Your role in this scenario is to move the camera as necessary to keep the subject in the frame, keeping the shutter button pressed halfway as you do.
    When focus is established, the camera will likely beep at you and display a focus-confirmation light in the viewfinder, as shown on the left, or display a green focus frame on the monitor, as shown on the right. (These signals may not be provided when the camera is tracking a moving subject, however.
    focus-achieved
    Wait until you see the “focus achieved” indicator to press the shutter button all the way down.
  4. Press the shutter button the rest of the way and then release it to record the image.

While the camera sends the image data to the camera memory card, another light on your camera may illuminate. Don’t turn off the camera or remove the memory card while the lamp is lit, or else you may damage both camera and card.

A few final tips to remember when using Auto mode:

  • Solving focus problems: If the camera has trouble focusing on your subject or the entire image is out of focus, try these remedies:
    • Move farther from your subject. One of the most common causes of focusing issues is positioning the camera so close to the subject that you exceed the near-focusing limit of the lens. If you’re shooting close-ups, take a step or two back and try again.

    • Check your camera manual for framing guidelines. Some cameras require you to position the subject within the specific areas of the frame when using autofocusing. Look for an illustration in the “basics” section of your camera manual for help with this framing issue. You also may see markings in the viewfinder that indicate focus points. (The tiny squares clustered in the middle of the viewfinder are the focus points in this case.)

    • Remember that most cameras focus on the closest object in Auto mode. If that object is not your subject, you can use focus lock to establish focus where you want it to be. First, frame the scene so that your subject is the nearest object to the lens. Press and hold the shutter button halfway to lock focus, and then reframe to your desired composition.

    • If you’re shooting a moving subject, try switching to Sports mode. A blurry moving subject indicates a too-slow shutter speed. You can’t change the shutter speed in Auto mode, but Sports mode automatically uses a fast shutter speed.

    • If the entire image is blurry, find a way to steady the camera. All-over blur indicates camera shake during the exposure. If you don’t have a tripod handy, look for a solid surface on which you can place the camera to take the shot. Also, press the shutter button gently — jabbing the button forcefully can create enough camera movement to blur the image. Or, for totally hands-free shooting, you can use a remote control, if one is available for your camera, or set the shutter release to self-timer mode.

  • Using self-timer mode: Most cameras enable you to switch from the regular shutter-release mode to self-timer mode, which delays the shutter release until a few seconds after you press the shutter button all the way. You can take advantage of this mode for hands-free shooting, as just described, or when you want to include yourself in the shot.

The name of the option that controls the shutter-release mode varies; it may be named something like Drive mode, Release mode, or Shooting mode, for example. The universal symbol for this mode looks like the one you see in the margin here.

  • Fixing exposure problems: Unfortunately, Auto mode doesn’t give you many options if your subject turns out too dark or too bright. One possible solution is to add or disable flash, but many cameras don’t give you flash control in Auto mode. A more surefire answer is to move your subject into brighter or dimmer light, if possible.
  • Switching to playback mode: When the recording process is finished, most cameras display the picture briefly. If you want a longer look at the image, you need to put the camera into playback mode. Look for a button marked with a triangle, as shown in the margin here, which is the standard label used for the switch that puts the camera into playback mode. To return to shooting, press that button again.