When you're disappointed in a shot that looks washed out or less bright then you imagined, simply adjust the contrast. You can do this in any photo editing program that comes already installed in your computer (Microsoft Picture Manager in Office, or Paint). Can't find one? Try downloading GIMP for free. Also if you post your photos on Flickr, they have a program (Picnik) that allows you to edit pictures you've already uploaded and it's great.
So here's what I mean. I'm using some pictures my friend Jackie took on a trip to Costa Rica (i.e. beautiful scenes, average camera).
In this example, changing the contrast also changed the color of the sky which you may like or you may not. If you don't, that can be fixed in color correction but that is a different post for a different Tuesday!
This next one (a "Resplendent Quetzal") is tricky because it was shot through a telescope and could probably use other kinds of adjustments but here it is with just the contrast: