How would you like to be able to pick up the phone, dial a number, and - within a short time - be the proud owner of some exciting new photographs? Photos that you took. Well, you can, by joining Dial-a-Photo.

Each month, the members get together in a room containing a telephone and a directory. One member is elected to make the call.

"Hello, National Judo Association? This is Leon Petrovsky of Dial-a-Photo, and we'd like to come out to photograph your students in action - free of charge, of course."

There is a moment of amusement, then another of genuine bewilderment; and, finally, permission is granted.

The fun comes in when a group of photobugs shows up Thursday evening, and each member has to select the best lens, camera angle (without falling prey to a bone-crushing hip throw), film, film speed, aperture and shutter speed to catch the action.

Are you beginning to get the picture? There's a whole, exotic world of action out there. Why leave it to the professionals to explore? Amateur photographers can shoot the very same subject the pros shoot, and learn while they do it. That's the beauty of Dial-a-Photo.

Who belongs to this magnificent organization? Have you heard of master photographers Ansel Adams, Minor White, Andreas Feininger? Well, they may join later. Right now, I'm the only member, to the best of my knowledge. But I'm dedicated.

I was in a real photo funk the other day, couldn't think of a single thing to photograph. Except, perhaps . . .

I picked up the phone, exercised my rights as a member-in-goodstanding of Dial-a-Photo, and called the nearest school of gymnastics. The people running the school were eager for me to come out. They thought the kids would get a kick out of performing before a real "live" photographer. And I was excited about shooting gymnasts in action.

I packed my gear and mustered up my best pioneering spirit, At the school, I introduced myself. Would you like us to do anything special, they asked. No just continue what you're doing and I'll just, you know, watch a while until I get the feel of things.

Well, I watched for over an hour before shooting a single frame. And I knew I was in trouble. The light was bad, the action was fast, and I hadn't the slightest sense of antiicipation for the moves those kids were making.

To make a long story short, I shot four rolls of film - well over a hundred frames. Each frame was worse than the last.

To make a sad story happy, I reviewed the results of my shooting that night, learned a lesson about studying the subject before setting out to shoot, and I returned to the school the next day. The results were fantastic. The kids by then had come to relax around me, and I'd come to learn what to expect at the beginning of a routine - and how to shoot it.

Of course, Dial-a-Photo's usefulness goes far beyond a gymnasium. Anywhere teachers are working with kids is fair game. A simple thoughtful telephone call or two can get you in on a high-school football workout, a wrestling exhibition; judo, kung-fu, or karate practice; a roller- or ice-skating session; a band rehearsal or cheerleader workout; a boxing match, a chess tournament and more. We'll talk about how to shoot these and other events another time.