How to edit landscape photos for print

A few careful adjustments can help you get the most out of any landscape image you're looking to print. Here's what you need to know.
A before and after image of a marshy landscape, unedited on the left and in black and white on the right.

Landscape photography is ideal for creative printing. Whether you want to capture the vibrant colours of a sunset on glossy paper or you're looking to make black and white fine-art prints, doing it yourself means you can be in control of the process every step of the way.

Going large with your prints allows you to see all the detail you've captured in your landscapes, and an A3+ photo printer such as the Canon PIXMA iP8750 makes it easy and rewarding to do this at home. With its FINE head technology, which delivers a resolution of up to 9600dpi, and an advanced 6-colour ink system (including a grey ink) for exceptional colour and black and white photos, the Canon PIXMA iP8750 can produce a wide range of wall art.

Shooting in RAW will allow you to make the most of your printer's capabilities, giving you the flexibility to tweak your landscape images after you've taken them – without reducing their quality. Using RAW processing software such as Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP) or Adobe® Lightroom®, you can adjust the exposure, colours and sharpness of your photos to suit your chosen print medium.

White Balance

A screenshot of Canon Digital Photo Professional showing a before and after shot of a cityscape at night, unedited on the left and with a blue colour cast applied to the right.

Using the Tungsten White balance preset on Canon DPP, or setting a low colour temperature manually, will add a cool blue colour cast to images taken in natural light.

One of the most important tools for achieving accurate colours in landscape prints is the white balance control. This allows you to remove any colour casts caused by different types of lighting or intentionally add a colour cast in order to alter the mood of a scene. You can set the white balance in the camera, but shooting in RAW allows you to keep your options open and make decisions about this setting when you process your images.

In RAW software, you can pick from a range of white balance presets, such as Daylight, Cloudy and Shade. Alternatively, you can use the Colour Temperature sliders to fine-tune the white balance, or select the Eyedropper tool and click on any white or grey area in the image.

Picture Style

A screenshot of Canon Digital Photo Professional showing two versions of a landscape image of a field, unedited on the left and with the Nostalgia Picture Style applied on the right.

You can download additional Picture Styles to use in DPP or on your EOS camera – including Autumn Hues, Twilight and Nostalgia – from here.

Another advantage of shooting RAW is that you can experiment with different Picture Style settings when you process your files in DPP.

The Landscape Picture Style will be your go-to, as it's designed to accentuate the vivid blue skies and vibrant green foliage of a classic landscape image. However, some landscapes will better suit an alternative Picture Style such as Monochrome, Fine Detail or even Portrait.

It's possible to further adjust the contrast, sharpness and other parameters to suit the scene. You can even create your own presets using Canon's Picture Style Editor software.

Levels and Curves

A Canon Digital Photo Professional screenshot showing two versions of a landscape image of a waterlogged field, the unedited version on the left with a red coloured overlay showing pure white highlights and a version on the right with the contrast adjusted.

To avoid exposure errors, activate the Highlight and Shadow Clipping Warning in DPP. This will add a coloured overlay to the image, showing you which areas will be pure black (indicated in blue) and which will be pure white (shown in red).

Landscape photos often benefit from contrast adjustments to tease out more detail in dark and bright areas. The Levels and Curves tools give you control over how the shadows, mid-tones and highlights appear in your printed image.

These tools vary between RAW software. In DPP, use the Gamma Adjustment panel to change the levels. Here, there are three vertical lines which you can use to alter the black point, mid-tones and white point of your image. In Adobe® Lightroom®, you can achieve similar results using the Black, Shadow, Highlight and White sliders.

Manipulating the tone curve allows you to boost or reduce brightness at specific points throughout the whole dynamic range, for even more granular control. Generally, an S-shaped tone curve will increase contrast for a punchier print. To produce this, click in the centre of the diagonal line to set the midpoint, then pull down on the left side of the graph to darken the shadows. The right side will automatically be pushed higher, brightening the highlights.

Keep an eye on the histogram when making adjustments. If the left or right edges are clipped off, you'll lose detail in those areas in the final print.

Dodge and burn

A screenshot of Adobe® Lightroom® showing a coastal landscape with a selection mask indicating where dodge is being applied.

You can activate a selection mask when using Adobe® Lightroom's® Adjustment Brush, which enables you to see clearly where you're applying dodge, burn and other adjustments.

Along with making edits that affect the entire image, you can create more dynamic prints by adjusting specific areas.

The technique of 'dodging and burning' is easy to apply to digital images using editing software as illustrated above. These terms refer respectively to brightening and darkening specific areas of an image in order to accentuate them.

In DPP, you can use the Adjust Specific Areas tab in the Tool Palette to fine-tune the brightness, contrast, hue and saturation of specific sections of your landscape.

Exposure blending

A screenshot of Adobe® Lightroom® with two images of a watery landscape. A digital graduated filter is being applied to the version on the right.

In Adobe® Lightroom®, you can apply a digital graduated filter to darken a bright sky. Alternatively, you can blend two exposures in a photo editor such as Adobe® Photoshop®.

Sometimes the dynamic range of a scene can be too great for your camera to capture details in both the sky and the landscape.

You can also create two different versions of an image from a single RAW file: one with the sky correctly exposed and the other with the landscape correctly exposed. The image with the correct sky can then be layered on top of the image with the correct foreground in Adobe® Photoshop® or your preferred photo editor.


A screenshot of Adobe® Lightroom® with an image of coastal cliffs. The Output Sharpening tool is being used to select the paper type.

If you export an image from Adobe® Lightroom®, you can select the paper type and the amount of sharpness under Output Sharpening.

The final editing stage is to sharpen your landscape for print. You'll need to apply a higher level of sharpening for photographic prints compared with images that you share online – this is due to viewing distance and dot overlapping when printing, which can mean the sharpness suffers. Small prints often require more sharpening than large prints because they can look softer when scaled down. The print medium also makes a difference, with glossy prints typically requiring less sharpening than matte paper and fine-art media.

Make test prints

A screenshot of Adobe® Lightroom® depicting multiple variations of an image of a transmission tower in a rapeseed field, each with different colour and contrast settings.

Use your software's soft-proofing feature to better predict how the colours and contrast will look in print, then create a hard proof featuring variations of your image to check which you prefer.

Photo prints will always look slightly different to the image you see on your monitor, so it's a good idea to produce small test prints to ensure your edits are spot on. Ideally, check these in the location that your final print will be displayed, as the lighting and wall colour will affect your perception of the image.

As your confidence in home printing grows, so will your ambition. Stepping up to a more advanced printer such as the 8-colour Canon PIXMA PRO-200 will give you even more creative options, such as printing panoramic landscape photos. The Canon PIXMA PRO-200 is also compatible with Canon Professional Print & Layout software, which is able to simulate the look of different papers and inks on-screen.

Written by Marcus Hawkins

* Adobe® and Lightroom® are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Adobe in the United States and/or other countries.

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