Q.

In the automatic mode, my Minolta 7000 AF washes out light colors. This happens on such pictures as a roof on a house, a dusty road or a white truck. Even my wife, who has very light skin, seems to photograph incorrectly, i.e., washed out. I have had some of the worst results imaginable.

Maybe I expect too much from my camera. I have invested more than $1,000 for my photographic material and really get mad when 80 percent of my pictures are poor.

Is this common for a Minolta?

A.

An 80 percent failure (or even dissatisfaction) rate is not common for any modern camera. I spoke with a Minolta representative about this, and we agreed on several points:

First, you have to make sure you are metering correctly. Be sure that your primary metering area is the primary subject. Be sure that you don't allow your meter to record the brightest spot rather than the most important subject.

This is most likely to happen in very bright situations such as at the beach or at a sports scene in brilliant sunshine.

Be sure that you check your camera manual and see that you are indeed metering correctly.

Next, are you using one kind of film? Are you shooting print film or slides? If you are shooting all slides, try a roll of print film and see if the results are the same. If you are shooting print film, try a roll of slides.

If you have several lenses, try shooting with only one for a couple of rolls, then use your next lens and see if it functions the same way. A review of this sort is never a waste of time. Rereading the camera manual and retesting equipment keeps us from sliding into bad habits.

If all else fails, you should take the camera back to where you purchased it. Reputable camera stores will be glad to help, give good advice, and can also remind you of the company warranties you hold.

Make certain you try these tests. Sure, it's possible that you're having meter or other mechanical problems, but you should go to the experts after eliminating whatever problems you can.

Minolta's corporate headquarters is in Ramsey, New Jersey, and they have customer service people who can try to help. Just remember, they're going to need all of this information before they can help.

Q.

My sister, in her 40s, has shown for the first time an interest in photography.

I think her interest was sparked by some beautiful black-and-white pictures she recently obtained from a Smithsonian photographer. They were pictures made some years ago of our late father. She has also shown interest in the color photography I have been involved with for the past several years.

Can you recommend some books for her, or a course of study and encouragement?

A.

Get her started taking pictures! There is nothing so rewarding as seeing your own successful work.

I suggest she start with an automatic compact camera such as the Pentax Ultra Sport, the Nikon One-Touch, the Olympus Infinity Jr. or the Fuji DL200.

Be sure that you introduce her to the one-hour processing organizations. Beginners often want to see their results as quickly as possible. Once she has learned to pace her production, she can continue with these labs or find others that she likes.

But at the beginning, there is nothing like a successful set of prints to bolster a novice's confidence.

Perhaps most important, before any camera is purchased, talk things over with your sister. Surprising someone with their first camera is not a good idea. See what kind of photography she might be interested in. Disc cameras, though not good for prints you'd want to enlarge beyond 5x7, can make great landscape pictures. Compacts are better for people pictures. Between the two of you, determine a photographic direction, then get shooting.

Thanks to the Bowie-Crofton Camera Club for inviting me to judge their October unlimited photo competition. What a great set of pictures! I kept looking at prints I wished were mine.

Congratulations to all winners and a special "well done" to William Branick, who won first place in both black-and-white and color in the novice division, and to Warren Kahle for his wonderful shot called "Masts," which won in the advanced slide class.

Send your photography questions to Carl Kramer, c/o Weekend, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington DC 20071.