Turning images into artworks with print

Fine art and fashion pro Menna Hossam is renowned for her enchanting, literature-inspired photographs. Here, she explains how learning to print to realise a longtime ambition has been akin to a fairytale.
A print of a woman with blue hair emerging from a Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000.

Fine art and fashion photographer Menna Hossam was concerned that there would be too many hurdles to overcome in her journey to making fine art prints, but she found the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 delivered results that she loved, straight out of the box. The image shown here, taken from her Enchanted series, is inspired by the Moon Children, a group who are renowned for having strong spiritual connections and a deep bond with the moon.

Literature fuels the imagination of Canon Ambassador Menna Hossam. Her inspiration is drawn from diverse subject matter, ranging from Greek mythology and Shakespeare to Disney, but a common thread is the fairytale quality of her imagery, for which she has earned international acclaim.

Menna, who is based in Cairo, Egypt, discovered photography as a student in 2008 and turned professional soon after, but she has only recently started printing her images rather than always viewing them on screen. She found learning to print with a Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer to be a revelation, and urges other photographers to take the plunge and make limited-edition photography prints.

Here, Menna discusses her voyage of discovery, and the power of print.

A woman in a purple dress plays a white harp, captured by Menna Hossam on a Canon EOS R5 camera.

Steeped in rich colour, Lavender Dreams is an image that has its roots in lush fields of lavender. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 28-70mm F2L USM lens at 48mm, 1/500 sec, f/2.5 and ISO320. © Menna Hossam

Photographer Menna Hossam holds a print of a woman in lavender playing a harp, printed on a Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000, which is positioned on the desk in front of her.

Such was the ease of use and output quality of the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000, Menna found herself overcome with emotion when she first began to print her imagery. "I actually cried," she says.

The difference between viewing and printing

The magical Enchanted series of images was the catalyst for Menna embarking on her printing journey. It was a huge project that took her to far-flung locations around the world, creating ethereal images – each with its own back story – based on her creative heroes. She initially set out to print her own pages to make an 80-page photobook but, as the project grew, she decided to have larger 200-page books published, and to use the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 to make limited-edition photography prints, to accompany the first few copies.

"Perhaps like many digital photographers, I've never felt a desire to print my own images," says Menna. "I felt it would be a complicated process with a steep learning curve and a lot of technical hurdles to overcome. But more recently, I started to dream of creating my own photobook and began looking into the possibility of printing. What I found very quickly is that you can get great results straight away, and that creating your own fine art prints is actually quite easy."

Although Menna has been shooting professionally for many years, creating her very first print turned out to be an emotional experience. "I was overwhelmed by the quality of the colour and the crispness of the detail," she says. "It was completely different to looking at the same image on screen. The print was so beautiful. It really is like magic."

Menna Hossam holds a print of a woman in purple who holds a giant key, being ejected from a Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000, while a laptop sits next to the printer.

When time is of the essence, the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 is fast for a large-format pigment-based printer, outputting a full A2 colour photo print in around three and a half minutes. Menna found the built-in colour display screen was useful for keeping tabs on printer status and ink cartridge levels.

A woman wearing a lavish purple dress covered in pink flowers and holding an enormous key stands in front of lush foliage. Taken by Menna Hossam on a Canon EOS R5.

Menna says that her inspiration for this image, fittingly entitled Enchanted Garden, mostly came from her love of nature and lands of fantasy. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 28-70mm F2L USM lens at 32mm, 1/320 sec, f/4 and ISO250. © Menna Hossam

Keeping it simple

Menna originally felt a little daunted after taking delivery of her imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, which Canon had loaned to her. Running on 12 LUCIA PRO pigment-based inks, and capable of creating large-format A2 prints and panoramic output up to 1.2 metres in length, the printer is ideally suited to professional photographers who want to sell their work and create limited-edition runs. However, Menna found that any worries about complexity were short-lived.

"The installation procedure is very quick and simple and everything just 'works'," she explains. "I was a bit worried about changing the ink cartridges when they ran out but that turned out to be easy as well. It's just a matter of pulling out the old cartridge and plugging in the new one, and everything's clearly labelled and colour-coded. It couldn't be simpler."

Another important factor for photographers making and selling limited-edition photography prints is longevity. Customers may well expect the prints they buy to last a lifetime and beyond. Images created with the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 have an archival life of 100 years or more.

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

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A woman stands next to a tree and reaches her hand out to a brown bear, photographed by Menna Hossam on a Canon EOS R5.

According to Menna, there are two different inspirations behind this image titled Artio: the titular Celtic goddess of bears and Little Red Riding Hood. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 28-70mm F2L USM lens at 50mm, 1/400 sec, f/5 and ISO1250. © Menna Hossam

Taking control of the process

For Menna, the main attraction in learning to print is that it gives her full control over the entire process. "If you send digital images to a lab for printing, you're never quite sure what you're going to get back," she says. "Printing them yourself puts you in the driving seat.

"One thing I learned straight away was that I needed to calibrate my monitor. When I used to only view my images on screen, everything looked okay. But when I started printing them, I found I had to pay more attention in order to ensure the colours, brightness and contrast were reproduced faithfully."

Even with monitor calibration and the correct use of printing profiles for different types of media, Menna says that the print will never look exactly like the on-screen image, partly because they're based on reflected light and transmitted light respectively. But she sees that as a good thing. "The depth of blacks in the printed images and the detail in dark shadows is far superior," she elaborates. "The prints have much more of the character that I want to convey."

A print of a woman wearing a crown and an elaborate ball gown that is lifted up at the sides emerging from a Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000. Taken by Menna Hossam on a Canon EOS R5.

Menna feels that Canon Premium Fine Art Smooth and Rough papers are most suited to her style of images, giving incredible depth and detail in the shadows. However, the pigment-based Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer also delivers excellent quality on glossy and lustre paper. This is due to the inclusion of a Chroma Optimiser cartridge that minimises bronzing, ensuring uniform levels of reflectivity for different colours and densities of ink across the surface of the print.

A woman wearing a crown looks directly at the camera while a hawk sits on her left arm, captured by Menna Hossam on a Canon EOS R.

This photograph, entitled Valkyrie, is inspired by the warrior maidens of Norse mythology. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R and a Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens at 1/125 sec, f/8 and ISO1600. © Menna Hossam

Creating the right look and feel

A photo print is a physical entity by default, and it pays to take time to get the look and feel that you want. As well as glossy and matte photo papers, Canon offers a range of fine art media. The Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 is also directly compatible with leading independent brands, such as Canson® and Hahnemühle. With a vast range to choose from, sample packs can help narrow down the choices and ensure you get the desired results.

"It's important to research different types of media when you want to create fine art prints," says Menna. "My work is all about colour, so I need to be able to bring this out in the print. I want to convey the look and feel of a fairytale. I want the viewer to see what I'm seeing, to feel the colours as though they are diving right into my world.

"I've found that Canon Premium Fine Art Smooth and Rough papers give me really deep blacks and gorgeous colours with different options of texture. When I use these papers, it feels as though I'm going beyond creating photographic prints. It's more like holding a painting in my hand."

For photographers who want to make borderless prints, the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 has a high-precision paper transport system that enables full-bleed, borderless printing on matte and fine art media in addition to glossy and lustre photo papers.

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A print of a woman wearing a crown and an elaborate pearl necklace emerging from a Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000.

The Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 features a high-precision paper transport system that includes automatic de-skewing correction and a vacuum bed to ensure the paper remains completely flat as it passes through the printer. This gives the possibility of full-bleed, borderless printing on matte and fine art media instead of just glossy and lustre papers.

Fine-tuning the results

Printing photographs is arguably about creative expression, and because the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 and Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300 printers come with the free Canon Professional Print & Layout (PLL) software, photographers have even more control, especially if they're learning to print.

As well as including design tools for creating prints with multiple images on the same page, the software has full soft proofing and hard proofing facilities. With soft proofing, you can select the specific printer profile for the paper that you're using and get a highly accurate preview on screen of how the final print will look. Hard proofing takes things a step further, allowing you to create test prints and fine-tune the results for the final print.

For Menna, a key feature of Professional Print & Layout is the ability to create 'pattern prints'. This enables her to create a variety of small versions of the print on a page, each with subtly different treatment of colour, tone and contrast. When it comes to accuracy, Menna can recall the settings and make sure that all the limited-edition photography prints in a series look the same.

A young woman with red hair and a fox on her back stands in a field with trees visible in the distance, photographed by Menna Hossam on a Canon EOS R5.

Le Renard et L'enfant is directly inspired by the French movie of the same name, telling the story of a 10-year-old girl and a mountain fox who form a magical bond while travelling through the wilderness. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 28-70mm F2L USM lens at 28mm, 1/4000 sec, f/2.8 and ISO100. © Menna Hossam

A woman in a white dress and crown caresses white flowers with her left hand, inspired by The Chronicles of Narnia, and captured by Menna Hossam on a Canon EOS R5.

For this Ice Queen shot, Menna took inspiration from Jadis the White Witch, the main antagonist of The Chronicles of Narnia series. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 28-70mm F2L USM lens at 28mm, 1/500 sec, f/3.2 and ISO320. © Menna Hossam

The importance of printing

Menna urges all photographers to take the plunge into printing their photos, and she relates this to her Enchanted photobook project. "Limited edition prints will be a good incentive for people to start buying the book," she explains. "It adds a real sense of value and worth. A limited-edition photography print is more personal – it's something I've made myself. It's also nice that I get to choose my absolute favourite photos to print.

"When I created my very first print with the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000, it was an overwhelming experience. The image looked fine on screen but printing it took the photo to another level."

Menna also recommends experimenting with different types of fine art paper as it can take time to find one that suits your needs. "It's taken me a long time to get into printing but now I want to hang my prints everywhere, and I've never been the kind of person who's wanted to do that before!" she says.

Matthew Richards

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