Shooting landscapes with print in mind

Photographer and tutor Andy Farrer reveals his process for creating beautiful fine art landscape prints with his Canon EOS R5 and Canon imagePROGRAF printers.
A person wearing white gloves and glasses examines a print of a wintry landscape with the Northern Lights in the sky above.

"When you've whittled down 300 to 400 images from a day of shooting to just one that you want to commit to paper, it will make you look at it more carefully because you don't want to spend money and waste paper on something that's not quite right," says landscape photographer and print expert Andy Farrer. "You look around the edge detail of the picture, make sure that there aren't sensor spots and so on. There's a whole other level of scrutiny to a printed image, and that can only be a good thing." © Andy Farrer

When he's not leading Capture to Print photography workshops from his studio in Dorset, England, landscape photographer and print guru Andy Farrer can be found exploring quiet woodlands and beaches, enjoying the process of creating his own landscape images for fine art prints.

"Landscape images belong in print," says Andy, whose wintry picture of the Jurassic Coast – titled Bat's Head in the Snow – won top prize at the 2015 Landscape Photographer of the Year Awards. "Print evokes emotion and speaks on a deep level. It engages another sense, it's more tactile.

"I want to immerse and transport someone to that place where they can feel at peace and get away from their busy lives. You hold and treasure a good print. You don't just swipe it away like you do with a screen where images are consumed much more quickly."

Print runs through Andy's veins. His father oversaw a printing press and stationer's business which included a darkroom, and Andy took his childhood fascination with the print process into his photography studies at school, where he would find any excuse to take pictures so he had something new to print. "I was always print-led, whereas a lot of people that come into our studio have been shooting for years but have never printed a single thing."

Andy finds joy in helping other landscape photographers realise the potential of print, walking them through the intricate harmony between light and land, camera and editor, paper and ink. Decades of experience have sharpened Andy's professional knowhow, and he now shoots landscapes with his Canon EOS R5 to print on Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-4000 and PRO-1000 printers.

Here, he offers a fascinating glimpse at how those print intricacies play out, the benefits of a mirrorless camera, and carving a new path in a crowded photography genre. Canon Europe Product Marketing Lead, Suhaib Hussain, also shares which printers he recommends for printing landscapes and why.

A large tree in autumn, covered in orange leaves.

To ensure his work stands out from the crowd, Andy revisits the same woodland locations until he gets the best conditions, such as mist or a hard frost. He likes to single out an interesting tree – perhaps one that is a different species to the others – and explore the various angles of it. "When I started selling prints they were all of local landmarks like the Dorset cliffs, selling to a local base of people who had an affinity with the places that they saw. Now it is harder to find locations that are not well photographed," he says. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM lens at 100mm, 0.4 sec, f/7.1 and ISO100. © Andy Farrer

Lessons from print

"Landscape photography and print is a circular process rather than linear. When you start printing, you become aware of the things that don't necessarily translate to print very well, which informs your edit process and what you capture," says Andy.

It's just one of several key lessons he's learnt over the years.

"Part of maturing as a printer has been to narrow the range of images I sell, and hone in on themes with a broader appeal," he continues. "My woodland images could appeal to anyone, not just those who have walked the Dorset coastal path."

Andy's long-standing passion for print has seen him treading his own path as a photographer. Instead of jostling for a spot among the groups of tourists and tripods on the hill overlooking Corfe Castle (a popular English tourist location), for example, you're more likely to find him standing alone in unkempt woodland. "I use photography as escapism, finding peace and solitude away from the crowds. I'm trying to do something for me," he explains.

A technician wearing white gloves cleans the sensor of a Canon camera.

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Creative and technical details are all the more obvious when making large prints for extended viewing, so Andy adjusts his process accordingly. "For landscapes, I'll be out shooting the same thing again and again until I get exceptional conditions. For woodlands, it would be mist or a hard frost. We don't get many hoar frosts [a feathery frost named for its hair-like appearance] in the south of the UK, so whenever it is really cold I'm keen to get out."

The Canon EOS R5 in the field

Since upgrading from his Canon EOS 5D Mark III (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV), Andy has customised his Canon EOS R5 for shooting landscapes – and the occasional photo of his dog. In addition to the EOS R5's 45MP resolution and In-body Image Stabilisation, he makes particular use of two more of the camera's key assets: focus peaking and live histogram.

"At the capture end, I need to know if my picture is sharp and that I haven't blown any detail [highlight clipping]," he explains. "If detail is soft, it will look even softer in print and the more you scrutinise it. Focus directly translates to print sharpness and so focus peaking is really helpful.

"A big advantage with my EOS R5 is that focus, exposure and histogram are displayed clearly through live view, or in the EVF, which is supremely helpful in bright light," Andy continues. "From a capture point of view you know that you have sharp focus with a mirrorless camera in a way that you couldn't be as sure of with traditional DSLRs."

The live histogram is based on the embedded JPEG (and not the RAW file), which reflects the in-camera picture style. For example, a high contrast Landscape Style might indicate clipping sometimes as much as 3EV before you even see it in the RAW file.

A close-up of a print of a wood in winter, showing the delicate texture of the glossy paper and ink.

"When it came to printing Cold Wood, I always had in mind using a matte paper, but I had a hunch with the dark tones being near black that a photo black ink would give me a richer black. So I printed on a gloss art fibre paper and the whole image became 3D-like," says Andy. "It's quite something. It proves a point that you can associate woodland scenes with a soft matte paper, but it often surprises people that gloss can bring these images to life too." © Andy Farrer

Print versus screen

"It's a good thing to print," enthuses Andy. "It will add maturity and restraint to your processing. Every part of the image has a purpose. When looking at a print, that is exactly how the artist intends you to see it, whereas on screen you don't know the size of the device it is being viewed on, nor what brightness or colour temperature the screen is. Also, it's very difficult to convey the texture of land on a screen like you can with print."

Understanding the differences between print and screen is key to translating what is in your mind's eye when on location accurately onto paper. "A backlit screen is very different from light reflecting off a piece of paper that isn't illuminated," says Andy. "It's quite typical for inexperienced printers to make dark prints. At our print studio, we usually get sent dark digital files because people are looking at the pictures on a bright screen. But you can't turn up the brightness of a piece of paper."

Screen calibration to a known brightness value in conjunction with the printer is key, and Andy uses 80cdm2 for processing landscape photos.

When saturation has gone overboard, there can be colour clipping where those colours cannot be reproduced by the inks. Green hues tend to be difficult to print, for example. Soft proofing indicates which areas of the image are outside the capability of a selected printer and paper.

"Super-saturation and blown-out highlights are fine on a backlit screen, but when you are printing you really don't want this loss of detail because you'll end up with a print with no ink in certain areas, which looks weird. Bare paper catches the light differently, so you really want a bit of ink everywhere," explains Andy.

Connecting scenes with the right paper

It is striking how a print-led landscape photographer like Andy can be on location and visualise the scene in print and which is the best paper to use. "When clients receive their print it's a tactile experience, so you want the paper to be part of the image. A misty woodland picture on a slightly textured matte paper has a real lovely quality to it."

He relies on three Fotospeed photo papers; Natural Soft Textured Bright White, Platinum Etching and Platinum Gloss Art Fibre. The first is a matte paper with a subtle texture, the second a matte paper with a sumptuous texture, while the third is a gloss baryta paper. The paper he chooses is greatly determined by the black point in the scene.

"In the case of a neutral misty woodland picture with low contrast and no real black point, the denser black ink of glossy paper offers no benefit, whereas the characteristics of a matte paper better resemble the low contrast," Andy says.

Even with a suitable paper selected, it isn't just a case of hitting 'Print'. "You make adjustments – matte paper gives less deep blacks and lower contrast," Andy continues. "The contrast in your master file looks different on paper so you then add a bit more contrast or work on the curves and deepen the black point a little bit. Your print version compensates for the character of the paper and on screen looks really exaggerated, but on paper it doesn't."

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A man wearing white gloves leans forward to take a large landscape print from a Canon printer.

Andy processes his images with restraint right from the start, with print firmly in mind to avoid problems. "If you have a red that is so saturated that the printer can't reproduce it on the paper, for example, you either have to change the hue or desaturate everything, or even change the paper type. You can end up spending ages fiddling with this, and your print doesn't represent the version that you show people on screen, which is a disparity that disappoints the client." © Andy Farrer

Best Canon printers for landscape photography

There are two main types of printer to consider for landscape photographs: cut sheet and wide format. Cut sheet printers such as the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 can print up to A2 size, as well as panoramas, and are practically easier for large numbers of small prints with internal borders. Wide format printers such as the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-4100 use a long roll of paper and offer greater workflow efficiency, including larger ink cartridges.

Photographers who need to print both wide format and cut sheet could use two Canon imagePROGRAF PRO printers together. "There are no discernible differences between prints on my PRO-4000 (now succeeded by the imagePROGRAF PRO-4100) and PRO-1000 printers," says Andy. "We've done the same image on the same paper and even interchanged the printer profiles, and the results are impossible to tell apart. You can process the images in the same way whether printing on either printer, so time is saved at the edit stage too. It's one less thing to go wrong."

Longevity and colour accuracy are vital components for prints that will be sold or exhibited. "Pigment inks have a much longer lifespan than dye-based inks when exposed to light and gas," says Canon Europe's Suhaib Hussain. "Also, a wider range of inks supported by the printer means a wider colour gamut is achievable in prints, crucial for landscape photographers who want to display colours as accurately as possible."

Best cut sheet printer for landscape photography: Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000

This A2 cut sheet printer boasts a 2400dpi print resolution and LUCIA PRO 12-pigment ink cartridge system and is ideal for a home setup. "The imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 can be easily integrated into a studio or workspace," says Suhaib. "It also has an extra trick up its sleeve – it can expand the print length up to 1.2m for panoramic prints."

Best wide format printer for landscape photography: Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-4100

With a 2400dpi print resolution, wide-ranging media support that includes matte, gloss, fine art, canvas and baryta papers, the ability to store numerous custom print profiles, 12 LUCIA PRO pigment ink colours and ink cartridge capacity up to 700ml, the imagePROGRAF PRO-4100 is the ultimate wide format printer for landscape photographers. "It shares all the same core benefits as the entire imagePROGRAF PRO printer series, but with the ability to print on a roll 110cm (44in) wide," says Suhaib.

Whichever printer you use and however you choose to use it, Andy has some final words of advice for creating memorable landscape photo prints. "Print more often and slow down when you're printing – consider the longevity of an image. It's about creating something to treasure."

Tim Coleman

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