The programed modes are definately better then just using the Auto mode. I'm talking about changing between the little flower mode, the little guy jogging mode, the portrait mode and more. Have you seen all those little pictures on the camera that let you do different things. If not, you really should reference your manual. They're probably in there some where. If you've seen them but haven't used them...give them a try. You'll be happy you did!
This picture I shot in the macro mode (the flower icon). My camera does better in this mode if I'm not zoomed all the way in.
Anyway, I practiced with each of these modes and became comfortable with each of them. The flower is great for macro shots (very close up), like a picture of a bug or the center of a flower. The little running man is for action shots, like a kid running, etc. They all have a purpose. Just practice, practice, practice until all of the programs make sense to you.
Now that I've mastered those, I've decided to take a class. I'm so happy I did. I've learned so much in just two classes. All those modes that I'm now comfortable with, have limitations...lot's of limitations. There is so much more I can do with the camera set on the Manual mode. Shooting manual had always scared me, but now I can't live without it. I have much better creative control. I can get the results I've always tried for but didn't know how to acheive. I must say, I did have to learn the camera's basics first in order to grasps the new concepts, so play with your camera now and I'll try to show you what I've learned up to this point on shooting manually. It's a lot more fun and you'll get much better results.