I was recently invited by 'Saal Digital' in the form of a voucher to produce a photobook for testing and review, which as it happens was very fortuitous timing due to the fact that I am in the planning stages of my first book release, a book that is very important to me no only because it will be my first, but is the culmination of a year long photography project. This was the ideal opportunity to do a test run and have a hard copy to review and see the direction it would take.
Right from the off Saal Digital aim to make book creation an easy and straight forward as possible experience, with custom software to download that guides you through the book making process. Upon opening the software you are prompted to select your preferred book size within the bounds of a small selection of landscape or portrait orientations, which should cover most needs, but perhaps could do with a few more sizes or even some further customization, especially as I felt that compromises had to be made with regards to exactly what would have been ideal for me personally.....but for most people, it will probably suit their needs.
The provided software is straight forward and intuitive enough to get you up and running with your book creation quickly and easily, perhaps a little weighted towards a certain style or type of book, which I am guessing is to aid production at the printing end of things! I did find that it was needed to 'deep dive' into settings a bit to get exactly what I wanted, it was here that I found things a little more complicated to get what I needed done, and felt it could have been a bit more intuitive at a beyond basic level. In fairness to the company, there is a 'Pro Zone' on their website giving a lot more higher level options and support / information for which they should be commended on, but at this time wanted to test the experience that most users will have and to see how far it could be pushed.
There are a few things that I would have liked to have been included, primary among those would be an option to have a coloured blank page at the front and back of the book which gives a more professional look, as it happens I had to add this as an extra page and additional cost and then have it printed as a coloured page which does not look as good to my mind. My second problem was with the book preview, it was a little deceiving with regards to text pages......thinking it looked just right on screen, with the finished item seemingly a lot larger text wise, giving an almost kids book feel, so please take care with this if having text pages.
Once all the book construction had taken place it was very a straight forward process to send the book to print, selecting your paper and other options along the way, would have maybe wanted a few more options for papers and some more information on what the finished pages would be like. The standard 'free' paper option is gloss, but I suspect that it is just a gloss laminated page rather than gloss paper, with 20 years in the print industry you spot this stuff! and personally I am not a fan, as it makes the pages feel like very thick card, and not really 'book' like, Ok for wedding style or portfolio books, but for my particular needs it was not ideal. Again I must reiterate that for most people who buy this type of book it would be perfect, it is just a little disappointing that the other limited paper options contain an additional cost.
Print quality was exceptional with no imperfections and a vibrancy that really lifted my images off of the page, all bound in a wonderfully finished lay-flat book with a nice hard bound cover. Delivery was very quick and via courier which was a pleasant surprise, especially as I was eager to see the finished product once sent to print.
It is nice to be given the opportunity to review these types of products as it means that I get to share my findings in an open, honest an non biased way with my readers, something that benefits the wider photography community who would be looking to purchase this type of item, something that is not cheap at the best of times!
Overall Saal Digital provide a good well rounded service, good quality photobooks and ideal for people who are after a pretty specific type of product. If you are after something that is falls outside of this remit then options become more limited, but worth considering to see if they are a fit for you.
Until next time