A Short Course Book
Using Your Digital Camera
A Guide To Great Photographs

Taking Photos in Automatic Mode

All digital cameras have an automatic mode that sets focus and exposure for you. All you have to do is frame the image and push the shutter button. You'll find that this auto mode of operation is great in the vast majority of situations because it lets you focus on the subject and not on the camera. Here's a brief guide to using auto mode on almost any camera.

  • Getting ready. Turn the camera on and set it to automatic mode—usually spelled out or indicated by a camera icon. To conserve your batteries, turn off the monitor and compose your image through the optical viewfinder if your camera has one. (Digital SLR cameras don't let you compose the image on the monitor and some point and shoots don't have optical viewfinders). If the camera has a lens cap, be sure to remove it.
  • Framing the image. The viewfinder or monitor shows you the scene you are going to capture. To zoom the lens to frame your image, press the zoom-out button or lever to widen the angle of view and the zoom-in button or lever to enlarge subjects. If using an SLR, you zoom by turning a ring on the lens. If the image in the viewfinder is fuzzy, see if the camera has a diopter adjustment you can use to sharpen it.
  • Autofocus. Cameras have one or more focus zones or areas, each of which is often indicated in the viewfinder with cross hairs, boxes or brackets. The part of the scene that you cover with one of these focus zones will be the sharpest part of the photo. Many cameras will focus on the center of the scene but others will focus on the closest part of the scene covered by any of the focus zones. How close you can focus depends on the camera and lens.
  • Autoexposure. The camera's exposure system measures light reflecting from the scene and uses these readings to set the best possible exposure.
  • Autoflash. If the light is too dim, the autoexposure system will fire the camera's built-in flash to illuminate the scene. If the flash is going to fire, a flash lamp usually glows when you press the shutter button halfway down.
  • Automatic white balance. Because the color in a photograph is affected by the color of the light illuminating the scene, a camera automatically adjusts white balance so white objects in a scene are white in the photo and other colors are free of a color cast.

1. Turn the camera on and set it to automatic mode. Be sure to remove the lens cap.
2. Compose the image in the viewfinder or on the monitor, making sure the subject that you want sharpest is covered by the focus area used to set focus. If unsure, center it in the viewfinder.
3. Press the shutter button halfway down so the camera can set focus and exposure. When the camera has done so, a lamp may glow or the camera may beep.
4. Press the shutter button all the way down to take the picture. When you do so, the camera may beep. The camera then saves the new image onto the camera's memory card.
5. When done, turn the camera off.
On many cameras you can tell if the camera is ready to take a photo by pressing the shutter button halfway down. When you do so, lamps in or next to the viewfinder may glow to indicate when focus is set and the flash is ready to fire.

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