Bring your archive to life with a professional photobook

Thorsten Milse's Living Planet hdbook, with red macaws in flight on the front cover.
Thorsten Milse chose a photo of red-and-green macaws in flight for the front cover of Living Planet, the 100-page, A3 format professional photobook that he created with the Canon hdbook service. © Thorsten Milse

Publishing a retrospective of your best work is a significant undertaking and there are many important decisions to make – the quality and design of your book, as well as the theme and structure, all need to be considered carefully.

The German wildlife photographer and Canon Ambassador Thorsten Milse can testify to this – he has published 12 books during his career, six of which were made with Canon's book publishing platform, hdbook.

Thorsten has spent the past three decades documenting our changing planet. His retrospective of his work since the 1990s, Living Planet, draws from assignments in Africa, Asia and Antarctica. A beautiful book incorporating a collection of soaring landscapes and elegant, sometimes humorous, animal portraits, it's a wake-up call for conservation and a reminder of the wealth of species we're at risk of losing.

Here, Thorsten explains the benefits of creating a professional photobook, and talks us through his experience of using hdbook to show his sharp and vivid images in their best light.

A double-page spread from Living Planet, showing an aerial landscape and a chameleon.
Thorsten gave his book structure by grouping his wildlife images into seven chapters, each representing one of the world's ecosystems. © Thorsten Milse
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1. Structure your portfolio

The structure of your book gives the reader an understanding of your intentions and your overall message. Thorsten decided to separate Living Planet into seven chapters, each representing one of the world's ecosystems. "You have to look at your photographs and think about what works best," he explains. "I had already published 12 books, six with hdbook, and I had a lot of photographs from the past 25 years, so this book became a 'best of'."

2. Enjoy a full colour range

One of the best features of hdbook, Thorsten explains, is that you can work with your photos in TIFF format at a high resolution. "As a professional, working with high-end, high-resolution cameras such as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, I export my images as 55cm files at 300dpi." The hdbook software, which you can download to your PC or Mac from one of the hdbook retailers’ websites, uses both sRGB and Adobe RGB colour space.

"When your images are printed on a state-of-the-art printer they retain the quality you see in the camera – really sharp, really crisp and full of saturation – far more so than with normal CMYK printing."

Canon hdbooks are printed using Canon's revolutionary Inkjet technology, with the FINE (Full-Photolithography Inkjet Nozzle Engineering) print head using micro nozzles to spray microscopically small ink droplets. This produces a 2,400dpi resolution that ensures phenomenal print accuracy and smooth gradation of colours. Canon's 7 dye-based ink system employs CMYK as well as photo cyan, photo magenta and grey inks, producing 1,000,000 colour variants.

Wildlife photographer Thorsten Milse standing behind a camera on a tripod, looking at the animal that is sat on the camera's lens.
Thorsten Milse is an internationally renowned nature and wildlife photographer who has spent the past three decades travelling the world documenting our changing planet.
A lioness yawning, jaws open wide. Photographed by Jonathan and Angela Scott on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II.

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3. Showcase your creativity

Even those who don't have Thorsten's extensive experience of publishing photography books will find hdbook software intuitive to use, he says. "After choosing your format, you can add, say, 500 images to the left side of the screen, then you can easily create your own layout, choosing from double pages, split cover or full cover. There are plenty of templates and a choice of page styles, backgrounds and fonts, so you can create something that is completely individual," he says. "Simply drag and drop an image into the layout to see instantly whether it works or not."

Thorsten included a title page at the start of each chapter, sampling a colour from the main image for his title background. Where he felt shots needed a background, he opted for a contrasting colour. "A black or dark-grey background can make colourful shots stand out more," he says. "But if you have a black-and-white image, a white background can be more effective. Try different options to see what works best with your images. It's better to be consistent, though, and to use the same background colour for the whole book."

4. Let your pictures lead the way

To give his colour-rich images maximum impact, Thorsten opted for the largest A3 landscape format in the biggest size possible – 100 pages – printed on premium Glossy paper. Many of Thorsten's pictures feature as double-page spreads, but hdbook's FlatSpread binding meant he didn't have to compromise when it came to choosing images. "When you're working with a large format 100-page book such as Living Planet, having a tiger's head in the middle of the spread would normally be a problem, but FlatSpread binding means you can spread photos across two pages without losing any of the image between the join," he explains.

Before sending the book to be printed, you can create a watermarked sample proof. Thorsten recommends that all photographers do this. "You can see how it looks, and it's also your last chance to check the quality of your photos or rectify any layout mistakes," he says.

A double-page spread from Living Planet, showing a leopard photo over both pages.
hdbook's FlatSpread binding feature means you can print large images across spreads without having to worry about losing any of the image in the gutter. © Thorsten Milse

5. Showcase your best work

Thorsten admits that Living Planet was not the cheapest book to produce, but its high-end feel makes it an ideal product to show to prospective clients, agents or publishers. "As a professional photographer, it's much better to present your work in a book with a story, words and titles," says Thorsten. "Leafing through a book is a totally different experience to looking at prints or PDF files on a screen."

The quality of Thorsten's hdbooks, with their sharp, vibrant images, have made them a business asset. "If you take your book to somewhere like Visa pour l'Image international festival of photojournalism in Perpignan, France, there will be representatives from National Geographic and Getty. If, for example, you turn up with an hdbook about lions in Africa, they can see not only your photos at their best possible quality, but also your design skills, your ideas and your creativity."

Written by Rachel Segal Hamilton

Thorsten Milse's kitbag

The key kit pros use to take their photographs

Thorsten Milse's kitbag, containing Canon camera bodies including an EOS R, plus a range of Canon lenses and accessories.




Canon 600EX RT

A powerful flash gun for use both on and off the camera. Built-in radio triggering offers remote lighting control over distances up to 30m.

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