With digital cameras, if you feel the light it washing out your pictures, like Buck said, don't use flash. You can increase the f-stop to decrease the light, that will also increase the depth of field in your pictures which will alleviate some of your focusing problems. If that isn't working so well, use white balance, where you tell the camera what you believe is pure white in your composition. Better get everything as good as possible, saves you trouble in Photoshop. If you plan to edit the picture in photoshop, try to take the pictures with as little compression as possible or hopefully in raw format, such as tiff files. Some companies have their own raw format such as Canon, but I am not familiar with your camera
Also, if your camera has auto-bracketing(where it takes 3 pictures, where it varies the aperature according to your settings), that will help you hone down on the proper settings on the picture.
On Photoshop, you can't just use auto-levels and auto-contrast, horrible functions, quick but messy. You need to use threshold and curves and levels independently. Its hard to explain, but if you want PM or email me and I can help you with it.
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