Q. With spring upon us, my wife and I want to buy a new camera. We're not photographers and really don't want to be. We just want a simple camera for our weekend trips and social life. What do you recommend?

A. What you need is one of the new automatic cameras. The state of the art makes these "point-and-push" cameras topnotch. You have to decide how much money you want to spend, and, after that, go do some looking.

Most reputable camera stores will show you Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Olympus. Prices start at about $125, and, depending on how fancy the camera gets, can go up to about $300.

Be sure that you take a long look at the disk cameras. They are less expensive and do a fantastic job. The quality of enlargements isn't as good, but how often do you need one? FLASH CHANCES

Q. Last week at the theater I took some flash shots of the stage from my seat in the balcony. They didn't come out. Can you tell me why?

A. Don't be surprised at this. The flash attachment for most consumer cameras is simply not designed for this kind of picture. It's not strong enough. If you have a 35mm camera, try some of the super-fast color films, either ASA 1000 or ASA 1600. The lights from the house spotlights will probably be enough. Whatever you do, make sure you have permission from the theater to take pictures of any kind -- flash or available light. Theaters often prohibit picture-taking. PET SHOTS

Q. We have two cats and a dog. Despite lots of effort, we haven't been able to come up with any really good pictures of them. How can we? A. First of all, don't pretend that your pets are human. They aren't and shouldn't be photographed as if they were.

Take pictures of your pets with all of their feet on the ground or lying down. Don't try to stand them up, or even hold them. They're designed to use four feet. Then, be sure to get the camera down to about pet's-eye- level. If you stand up and shoot down, you generally get shots of tops of heads. Get on the floor or grass and meet your pet on his own terms.

If they're frisky and like to move, use a flash. A second person can also help by keeping the pet in place and preventing it from nuzzling the camera. FILM CHOICES

Q. I'm confused by all of those packages of film at the drug store. They're marked 100, 200, 400, 1000 and even 1600. What's the best for me to buy?

A. Those numbers tell you how "fast" the film is. The higher the number, the faster the film. Another way to think of it is to substitute the word "strong" for "fast." Thus, the higher the number, the less light you need to take the picture.

If you're going to take pictures of things that are moving, use a higher numbered film; if you're taking people pictures or shots of flowers, buildings or things that don't move, use a lower number. If you're not sure what you're going to shoot, go for the ASA 400. It's a good compromise. WHEN LIGHTS ARE LOW

Q. Over the years I have tried to take pictures of sunsets and city skylines at dusk. I haven't had much luck. Do you have any hints that might help.

A. I discussed this with other photographers and found one main point of agreement: bracket! To bracket is to change exposure.

Start with a setting that reflects the exposure of the brightest area of your subject. Then make a series of exposures, changing your f stop for each one. You'll probably need a slow exposure, perhaps less than 1/30 of a second, so a tripod is essential.

Shoot lots of frames, then pick the one you like best. When you have used your widest aperture, go to a slower speed.

If this sounds complicated, try it anyway. The cond time will be easier. FILM LIFE

Q. How long can you leave film in your camera? I shot part of a roll at Christmas and have just re-discovered it. The camera is in a case and in my dresser drawer. Will the rest of the film be OK for graduation?

A. Should be! Most film left in cameras and kept away from excessive heat or moisture will last many months, providing you started with fresh film. The best way to store film for long periods is to keep it in the refrigerator or freezer. Just be sure it's thawed out for 24 hours before you use it. Remember, it's film alone you store this way. Not film in a camera.