"I don't think my pictures do me justice," Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige said last night in the middle of hundreds of picture-takers. m"I think I look about 20 years younger, and I don't have a bald spot. It's the photographer's fault."

"People tell me I photograph well," said Labor Secretary Raymond Donovan, "but if I look that bad, I'm in bad shape." He's the Cabinet member who had a rough time with his confirmation hearings because of his alleged ties to organized crime. "It's just a common Irish face," he said of his.

Not that of a . . .

"Hood?" Donovan continued, entirely unruffled. "Obviously not."

The White House News Photographers Association had its annual dinner at the Sheraton Washington last night, and all sorts of famous photographic subjects came to eat, drink and carry on. The whirring and clicking noises you would normally hear at such an event were muted, since a sizable portion of photographic Washington had traded cameras for black ties. Seeing so many formally dressed photographers, a breed not extensively known for fashion, was an event in itself.

But then, this is the year's big event for Washington photographers. There are close to 1,000 people, prestigious awards, fancy guests and parties before and after dinner. The best after-party, the lore has it, its given by Nikon. One photographer has called it a cross between "Peyton Place and Sodom and Gomorrah."

There was nothing nearly so interesting at the cocktail hour, although Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger did mention he doesn't like pictures of himself, either.

"The only picture I've ever liked is my retouched graduation picture," he said, "and that's the only one."

Roddey Mims, a photographer for Time magazine, was standing nearby. "Remember the first time I made a picture of you?" he asked Weinberger. "All the lights went out, and here the busiest man in town orders up the extension cord and had the pictures taken."

"No," said Weinberger, pointing to Mims, "he ordered the extension cord."

After dinner, there were awards. Photographer of the year went to James Thresher of The Washington Post; a new Eastman Kodak award went to Andrew "Buck" May, a former four-term president of the photographers association; and a special award went to astronauts John Young and Robert Crippen for their pictures taken from the space shuttle.

"Gee," said Young, "I thought this award was for using up more film than anybody else in the United States." He called space "some king of beautiful," and added: "We'd really like to get you folks up there to take some pictures."

Then comedian Foster Brooks and singer Mel Tillis performed. And with that, the party had just begun.