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First of all, I am using Gimp, an open source (free alternative) to photoshop
Through few easy steps, you too can make your photos pop out more
The following images show the before and after pictures of the image I edited -- (last page has the video of all steps and a finishing touch)
P.S. This trick works great on portrait images as well

Step 1: Toggle Quick Mask

At first, you have to open your image in gimp
then, at the very bottom left, you'll find a little netted square, click on it and it will lay a red mask on your image
After you lay the mask, choose the eraser tool and erase the part of the photo you want to pop out 

p.s. if you're attempting this on a portrait picture, only select the skin and increase brightness through curves (tools->color tools->curves) (you can darken the eyes and use color stamp tool to remove pimples)

Step 2: Separating Selection

When done erasing, click on the same little square and it will show you the netted image you have selected
right click and copy the netted image
right click and paste the image (this pasted image will show up as floating selection on your layers menu)
to designate this image, you'll have to click on the new layer button (bottom left of the layers menu)
this action will now enable you to treat the new image separately

Step 3: Blurring

Now that you have separated your important section, you can blur your background to enhance your image
First, select your original background image and go to Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur
Then select an appropriate amount for both horizontal and vertical blur radius (it will help more to click the link button next to them)
Make sure you don't go too overboard or your image will loose it's originality (a good way to check is by zooming in on your erased borders)
If you blur (the background) too much by accident and can't go back, you can blur your separated image (a little bit) and then sharpen the entire rendered image.

Step 4: Exporting

In the end, you will be left with a more attractive image 
You can export by going to file, save as, and select as you wish
highest resolution to save would be in tiff file or png file
 

This is a good way to get a bit more oomph into the picture and I am happy to see how it is done on the computer. This can easily save a picture that looks otherwise good but is missing the indefinable something. Being a dinosaur, I have not been playing too much with digital photography as I still have and use silver based systems extensively. <br> <br>Personally I would do the same thing when shooting the actual picture. The darkening of the background seems to be around half a stop. Using some fill-in, flash or available light does not matter, I would expose the background 1/2-1 of a stop under the main subject; the branch in this case. <br> <br>In practice with flash, expose the background with available light to the desired underexposure, then hit the main subject with a spot-on exposure from the flash. As an example, if the available light gives f2.8 with 1/60sec, I would go for f2.8 and 1/125sec and achieve a darker backgound. For the flash exposure I would hit the branch with the correct amount of flash to get the f2.8. These values will obviously produce a one stop difference in the exposure. <br> <br>Of course the same effect can be done with a cleverly positioned reflector or mirror, being careful with the light control. In other words add some reflected light to the main subject while keeping the background unlit, then expose for the main subject leaving the background alone. <br> <br>The backgound blurring happens at the same time as the aperture stays large, with 2.8 at that distance with a 50mm lens you are looking at a depth of field of maybe 10-12 inches. Also the dof is 1/3 in front and 2/3 behind the exact focus so with a slight front focus it is possible to get the background blurred. Of course with the front focus you have to be very careful to not blur the main subject. Easy to do with the dof preview on higher end cameras and a piece of cake if the camera is a sheet camera. <br> <br>To do this in the camera you would most probably have to go all the way manual and use spot or incident metering to get the exposure dead-on. Also, as a rule of thumb, the smaller the aperture, the larger the depth of field; when the aperture gets small enough you do not even need a lens to get pictures that are sharp from zero to infinity; that is why pinhole photography works. <br> <br>
thanks for the great comment, i see why they call you dr. <br>

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