You don’t really say what you are doing or what the outcome is. Do you have a washout of light or just not enough? Are you shooting digital or film? What kind of camera — a camera with the ability to alter the aperture/shutter speed or not?
Using the program is fine, but first thing about to consider is where the light is coming from and the quality of that light. If you light a piece adequately, the camera’s program can actually be a blessing.
Because much of what we do is three-dimensional, it is usually a good idea to have the light source coming from the side. Side light actually accentuates the textures and three-dimensionality of the piece. Another light from above can flesh out the image a bit more. Usually I work with three lights, but it depends on the piece. For small pieces, I’ve gotten great results with one or two lights. Yes, I generally avoid using the camera’s flash and use simple clamp-on lights or natural sunlight.
Light can be tricky. There’s the problem with the shine that bounces back onto the image and turns your beautiful piece gorgeously composed of great colors and a striking design into what looks like a UFO has landed smack dab in the middle.
There was an earlier thread on photographing glass. The key idea in that was that the lighting has to cover the object AND be diffused enough to not cause the glare of light bouncing back. One solution is to create a “tent” around the object of white linen (a bedsheet) that will help diffuse the light. Another is to use one of those plastic bins — frosty white or something not entirely opaque — that can go around the piece and diffuse the light so there are no “hot” spots on the image. (There are companies selling diffusion hoods and lighting set ups, but for a fraction of what they cost, you can make your own.)
Check out the thread– there’s probably lots of good info there. The nice thing about living in the digital age of photography is that you can do a lot of tests. Once you’ve figured out what works, take notes including the distance of the lights, their angle, the color and size of the piece, and where the camera was positioned. If you have a second digital camera, take a photo of the set up from a couple of different angles as a reminder.
Keep in mind, too, that different colors will absorb light, while others reflect it. Black and darker colors absorb light while white and the lighter ones will reflect it. So the lighting setup for the black bowl isn’t going to necessarily work for the white one. You may not notice too much of a difference if the programming on your camera adjusts for the color variations. That’s when the programming becomes a blessing.
I hope this helps.