Digital Camera AUTO Settings Versus Scene Modes

Digital Camera AUTO Setting and Scene Modes:
Aren’t they sort of the same things? 

No, no, and no.

New digital camera users make the very wrong assumption that scene modes like Portrait, Landscape, Macro, or Sports are similar to the AUTO setting on their cameras. 

I’ll explain.

The AUTO setting on your camera means you have turned over ALL decision-making to your camera.  Your camera will then be able to run like a willful teenager, making decisions (some good, some bad) on the following:


  1. Shutter speed
  2. Aperture width (F-stop)
  3. ISO (“film” speed)
  4. WB (white balance)
  5. Intensity of light


Most average point-and-shoot digital camera users don’t know anything about shutter-aperture relationships, F-stops, ISO settings, or white balance color temperatures.  The good news is that you don’t need to know these things so long as you are able to find your camera’s little scene mode icons.  When you select a scene mode, you are exercising more creative control over your photos, without ever knowing anything about an F-stop.


Using your camera’s scene mode options is akin to calling upon a tiny little genius hidden deep within your camera.  Your tiny camera guru, using pre-programmed formulas, will set your shutter speed, your aperture, your ISO, and white balance in accordance with the icon you have selected, resulting in a much better photograph.


For example, in a portrait shot, unless you are an experienced photographer, you won’t know to widen your aperture to obtain a shallow depth of field.  This shallow field makes for flatter, more appealing features on a human face, and it throws distracting backgrounds out of focus.  And because photography is a science, operating on scientific formulas, the camera will also adjust the camera’s shutter speed to account for the wider aperture.


The most popular scene mode icons can usually be found somewhere on your digital camera’s body, on a major dial, or on a rocker switch with arrows.  These tend to be the portrait, landscape, night and sports icons.  Further scene modes can be found deeper in your camera’s files, usually accessed by moving your camera’s main dial to, “Scene” or “SCN,” or by pressing your “Function” button.


If you don’t use your scene modes, or at least experiment with your scene modes, you are wasting your camera’s advanced technology.  Just memorize where the scene modes are situated in or on your camera.  Select the mode pertinent to your picture-taking needs.  Then let the tiny genius inside your digital camera do the rest.  Nothing could be easier.


Sometimes, the scene mode programs don’t always seem to work but that’s usually an issue with camera shake, in low light conditions.  Be sure to “jam” your camera on a bean bag, rest it on a ledge, or screw it to a tripod.

Be sure to discipline yourself right from the beginning and always remove your photos from your camera’s memory card.  Save your photos in a file management system like PicaJet for easy indexing and accessing at a later time.

And remember, to keep your camera’s memory cards in top form, you must “format” your empty cards (inside your camera) when you return them to your camera.  It’s similar to de-fragmenting your computer’s hard drive – it cleans up the bits and bytes, or in this case all the little light-sensitive pixels.


Sheree Zielke

One Response to “Digital Camera AUTO Settings Versus Scene Modes”

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