Tuesday Photo Tip: Understanding & Using Auto Camera Modes


As moms your lives are busy. You are on the go and you’ve got little lives that you are responsible for while on the go! I totally get that because I’m right there in the trenches with you! And I also realize that as busy as life is, you want to savor and enjoy and remember in the midst life as it is right now in the midst of all that on-the-go busyness.

My own photo journey started out with that very goal of recording and documenting so that that I could remember, savor, and ultimately be thankful for these days that pass so fast. With that in mind I want to share with you all some camera basics. All the basic camera knowledge that will help you as a mom take better photos on the go with your kiddos.

So today is all about camera modes. Whether you have a fancy dslr camera or a simple point and shoot, you probably have some different settings or camera modes on there- and you may or may not know how to use them! Today’s goal is to help you walk through some of the different automatic modes you may see on your camera and when to use them. Next time, we’ll talk through the various manual modes.

The auto modes on your camera are designed so that the camera does all of the thinking about how much light is entering the camera and how fast the camera takes a picture. The plus side of this is that you as the operator of the camera don’t have to worry about any of the more technical aspects of lighting, shutter speed, aperture, etc. ( And if I just scared you with some big words, don’t worry, we’ll cover those!).

The downside of shooting in an auto mode is that sometimes what the camera thinks is the best doesn’t actually produce a great picture, or the picture you had envisioned.

Here are the various audio modes and the symbols you’ll see for them. Keep in mind that depending on what kind of camera you use, you may or may not have all of these different options.


Auto Modes

Green Box/ Green Camera Symbol: Auto Sensing. This means your camera is in full auto sensing mode. Your camera will determine what settings it needs and adjust accordingly.

Lightning bolt/arrow with slash: No flash. This does the same as the auto sensing mode but keeps the flash turned off.

Profile of a woman (sometimes in a hat): Portrait mode. This mode is designed to give you a soft focus on your background and to capture attractive skin tones.

Mountains: Landscape mode. In this mode the camera automatically keeps objects that are nearby and those in the distance in focus. Colors and contrast are boosted and your flash is disabled.

Flower: Closeup mode. This auto mode also creates backgrounds with a soft focus and is designed for close-up photos of smaller subjects…such as flowers.

Running man (no, not the dance): Sports mode. this mode is designed to take photos of subjects that are moving without having them appear blurry in the photo. The camera automatically increases your shutter speed in order to do this.

Person w/ star: Night Portrait. This auto setting is meant for low light pictures. The flash is automatically turned on and the shutter speed is slowed down. This setting is best used with a tripod.

CA : Creative Auto. This is the same as Auto Sensing, however it does allow you some control over flash, the amount of background blurring and the exposure (how bright or dark your photo is), as well as color.

So there you have it! Those are your basic auto modes. If you’ve been living in the green square, then challenge yourself this week to experiment with some of the other auto modes.

While many people live and spend all their time in auto we’ll be talking next time about moving beyond the automatic modes and exploring some of the manual features of your camera.

Want some more tips on taking photos that document your story regardless of what kind of camera you use? Sign up of to be a part of insider news from Jenny Starkey Photography and you’ll get a download of my Top Tips for taking Beautiful and Natural photos that tell your Story.

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