There are times you have no idea what settings to use. Set your camera on an auto setting and let it do the thinking for you. If making manual adjustments isn’t working for you, here are eight common Automatic modes and when to use them:

1. Auto mode (usually depicted with green) can be used for just about anything. Imagine you are out with a group and just want to snap away. The camera will flash when necessary and will focus on those faces, especially if it has face recognition (as many of new compact cameras do). Auto mode is a great starter selection to use until you understand all of the camera’s settings.

2. Auto White Balance is usually pretty reliable unless you are shooting in gym or an area lit with a mixture of light sources.

3. Portrait mode (usually depicted by a face) will blur the background and allow your subject to stand out.

4. Close-up mode (usually depicted by a flower) is great for simple macros.
5. Landscape mode** (usually depicted by a mountain) will give a wider view of a scenic place.

6. Sports mode (usually depicted by a running athlete) is supposed to freeze the action when shooting sports. This is more effective in daylight than in low light. Be aware of shutter lag on most point-and-shoot cameras that might cause you to miss a big sports moment.

7. Night Shot mode (usually depicted with stars or moon) is for those times you are outside in very low light. The camera will fire a focusing beam so the camera can find the subject, then fire the flash and will use a slow synch to allow some of the background to be visible in the photo.
—Melissa Macatee
Contributing Blogger