Updated: Apr 2
I have recently had the unique opportunity to try out a newer item from a leading manufacturer of photo products. Saal Digital's line of Professional Photo Books are advertised as being handmade premium books made with high-quality materials, no manufacturer logos, and the ability to have an acrylic cover. These photobooks are marketed directly to photographers looking to put together a professional looking portfolio book or to summarize the best work of an event that you might have shot. They have a lot of available options for the design of the book but let us first look at what my experience was, and what I ended up with.
The photobook makes for a great household decoration and conversation starter with guests!
Once Saal had supplied me with a review unit, I set out to experience their user experience to the fullest. This started off with downloading their self-developed software to my desktop, which they dub simply as "Saal Design Software USA." The download was quick and easy to get going on my computer and once I had it loaded up it opened me up to a simple graphical menu of which you can either continue working on an existing project, or start a new one with one of their many offerings.
Saal Digital's home screen offerings in their software application.
As I was to work with one of their professional line photobooks, I went selected this option, then chose the Photobook Professional Line. From here I had the choice of several different book sizes from square, to portrait, to the large 16x12 book geared for landscapes. As I am a landscape photographer, naturally I chose this option to showcase some of my portfolio shots. I was then presented with some of the first design options. There were choices for the cover, the surface material, the paper type, and whether you would like it to come in a fancy gift box. I chose to go with an Acrylic photo cover with black leather as opposed to just a leather cover. I really do think this option allows you to make the photo book genuinely unique to your story. I then went with glossy photo paper and opted out of receiving a gift box, as I would not personally use this and want to have the photobook on display.
A series of photos from the feature selection process in Saal Digital's software
Once I had these initial details sorted out the next step in the process was to pick from three different options to start with the design of the photobook. You can completely design the book yourself using the software tools, use an auto-layout feature which allows you to just drop photos onto a page, or the "One Minute Photobook." I went the route of the one-minute photobook to get immersed in what SAAL had to offer with their software. Selecting this prompted me to select a template from an impressive list, but as I was not building this book for anything in-particular I selected a simple template. It then prompted me for a list of photos, which I already had handy. It is algorithm then went to work building the book and filling the pages for me automatically.
The results were quite impressive for the most part, it even identified my flower photos and put them all together on the same page with a caption that I needed to go and write in. For the most part the software did a particularly good job of pairing and arranging the photos that I gave it. In total I used 29 photos, some from my portfolio, and others from other activities I have worked on in the past. There were a couple pages that I did not like the default choices for, but it was easy to change the photos on the page, and page layout suggestions were always available on the right of the screen. Additionally, I did change the default photo for the acrylic cover and added in my signature logo on top of the photo to finish it off.
The software algorithm did an excellent job of pairing my photos automatically.
A nice feature of the software is that you can also save your work as a project and come back to it later. This is particularly useful for those that are putting together a special something for a client or want to come back and order the same book more than once.
The checkout process was integrated with their website, through their software and for me there was no issues with this. Upon completion of the order, I received the generic confirmation email with a link that allowed for checking in on the progress of my order. Additionally, they sent out one more email with shipping information as soon as they completed the production of the photobook.
I am happy to announce that their service is also fairly quick. I received my photobook at my door exactly 10 days after I placed my order, including weekends. This is rather impressive considering the product appears to have come from Germany based off the shipping tracking number information.
The photobook came well packaged and protected from damage.
Now let us take a detailed look at what came in the mail. I took a few photos of the photobook on a white background to try and reproduce the colors as accurately as possible for your viewing. I am incredibly happy with the results for of the quality of both the photobook, and the prints inside the book. Saal Digital makes use of ICC profiles with their printers, and even makes available those profiles for screen proofing your work to make sure what you get in the mail will match the work you do on your computer. With that being said, it’s still not a bad idea to keep your screen color calibrated, especially if you are going to be showing your work.
Acrylic cover of the photobook is excellent, just have to watch out for fingerprints.
The photobook is a "lay flat" book and for the most part it does this well. If you are making your own book, I would recommend keeping any full-page or cross-page photos that you have off the first couple and last couple pages. As you can see from the photos in the gallery below, the first couple pages and last couple do not lay completely flat.
One other thing that is not a big deal but that you should probably be aware of, especially if you are doing a landscape photobook such as the one I did, is that there is a small seam on the first page. This was incredible difficult to get on camera, but the leather bindings create a barely noticeable seam under the image on the back of the acrylic front. It is small enough that it might not bother you, or you might not even notice it if you are not splitting an image between the first and second pages. There is no seam on the last page in the book.
A series of photos that attempt to showcase the quality and features of the photobook.
Despite those couple things to be aware of when making your own photobook, I have been very satisfied overall. I would give the Professional Line Photobooks from Saal Digital a 4.8 out of 5, only missing some points from me due to that slight seam on the first page. The experience from start to finish, from the design software, the website integration, and the manufacturing and shipping times I have been very encouraged to do work with Saal again in the future. If the quality that goes into their photobooks holds for the rest of their product line up of printing options, then this company is an excellent choice for both professional photographers, and hobbyists alike.
A couple home integration shots. Didn't even realize how much I like side shots from the left until I went to write this blog post!
Review product partially sponsored by Saal Digital. Check them out if you need prints made!