Shooting in Auto Mode

By beginnerphotography | Camera Settings

Jul 17
Camera mode dial in the auto setting.

EXAMPLE: Auto Mode Dial setting.

Taking photos in Auto Mode is supposed to be easy and fun but it’s frustrating sometimes, isn’t it?

I remember the confusion of owning a brand new camera but once I learned what “that” setting was at least I felt like I was making progress.

Still, if the camera is supposed to be helping you capture great photos why doesn’t it always “get it right?”

Have you experienced frustrations with:

  • Your photos being overexposed or underexposed.
  • Pictures with a weird yellow color, especially your indoor photos.
  • How to take better pictures when shooting in low light.
  • The sky looks flat, blah, and washed out.
  • There is uneven lighting on your subject with bright areas and shadows.
  • You are using the built in flash but it doesn’t make any difference.
  • The shutter button “doesn’t work” and you are unable to take the picture.


Why things happen the way they do in Auto Mode

Let’s begin with exposure.

Your camera is working behind the scenes for you as its light meter reads and calculates the amount of light from within the scene, or subject.

Based on what’s interpreted the camera adjusts exposure to what it thinks is correct.

This means it is adjusting the aperture, shutter speed, ISO and white balance for you.

In comparison, if you were shooting in Manual Mode, you would make the adjustments.

Why does the camera get confused?

Brown bear in a tree

EXAMPLE: Underexposed bear in a tree.


There are times when it’s unable to read all of the light variables, in certain situations.

This is a perfect example of why the bear is underexposed, or too dark.

If you look closely you’ll notice a patch of light grey sky behind the bear.

Combine this with low light in the evening and the camera reading  the background area for exposure the result is a bear, the main subject, poorly exposed and lacking visible detail.

The fact I am a safe distance from the bear, so it’s father away, doesn’t help either.


A rstream in the mountains on a bright summer day.

EXAMPLE: Overexposed mountain stream.

In the example above the camera has read the landscape relatively well as you can see that the trees are green and the sky is blue.

However, because the midday sun is shining on the water, making it whiter and brighter, the water is overexposed as the camera struggles with the extremes.

Strange color tones in your photos.

  • You have a weird yellow, or blue, color tone in your pictures.
  • It usually happens when you photograph indoors.
  • A blue, cooler exposure, rather than a more appropriate warmer tone.


Flowers in a watering can flower pot, with yellow light.

EXAMPLE – white balance rendering a yellow hue.



The White Balance setting, which the camera is choosing in auto, is the most likely cause for the “off color” you will experience from time to time.

You will most likely experience this with indoor photography as the light sources can prove a challenge for the camera to automatically adjust the white balance correctly, in certain situations.

Based on the light (temperature) the camera may calculate and render quite unacceptable results, such as the example left.




One of the most common reasons for flash not appearing to make any difference is when the subject is too far away.

The flash can only “reach” so far.

Depending on your distance from the subject there will be times when it’s not possible for the light from the flash to reach your subject.

In conclusion, when shooting in auto how can you deal with these and other frustrations?

Frustrating as it is, just be aware that the camera is doing the best job it can, but it will be unable to accurately capture every single subject every single time.

As you become more aware of when your camera may be challenged “in auto” you’ll be able to better understand why some of your pictures don’t turn out quite the way you expected.








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