Saal Digital, Professional Line Photobook - An Honest Review.
THIS IS NOT A PAID PROMOTION – Feel quite professional having to pop that at the start of my review, a rather ironic interpretation of the word professional I must admit. They did however give me a coupon to purchase the product and leave my honest opinion. That is what I will do.
Saal are an all things print photography manufacturer. Their offerings are remarkably diverse, really if you are looking to get some quick prints made, purely on the ease of the process I would recommend Saal Digital right off the bat.
Now for my order, I purchased:
30 x 21 Photobook of their Professional Line. Photo paper -glossy with a linen off-white cover.
I am only going to be talking about the professional line here, my order was of that line. They offer a good range of options varying dimensions, different photo papers and a good selection of finishes for the cover, you can even have a photo print on the front. I wanted something nice and understated for I felt it fit the blank canvas ink. branding
Off to a good start here, I was really impressed with just how comprehensive the options are when it comes to ordering online. The process was a tad confusing, but I think that is the nature of the process, we are supposed to be experts, the confusion was caused by my limited knowledge of print requirements. (This is my first photobook)
When it comes to designing the book, you have two options as I see it really; the first is to use the Saal Digital design software and the second to put it together yourself in InDesign or the software of your choice.
I tried both options; Saal’s software is quite snappy, it was intuitive and had all the tools I would expect. I did however find the choice of fonts to be limiting, I could not seem to get my logo typeface to work in there which was a bit of a killer for me. They do have a nifty ‘auto layout’ option, it is great if you are looking to save time and want a more hands-off approach.
For me however creative control is a must. That is why I was delighted to see that they have InDesign templates. I downloaded those and got to work designing in there. I hit a bit of a hurdle here, however. See, I don’t know a lot about print but I do know that there needs to be some area, the bleed, left in order for the printer to chop off the spare paper at the end. Unfortunately for me when I exported to a PDF for print, having followed the template, I was disappointed to see that the ‘print preview’ of my book was going to have more of my work chopped off than I had expected. It didn’t seem clear to me so maybe some better guides here would be helpful. In an attempt to solve the issue I added printer marks hoping that this would help the printer know where to cut, as you can see this was a bad idea.
I did actually have a few emails back and forth with Saal Digital while ordering this book and I have to say that the team were fantastic, constantly trying to follow up and ensure that the issues were resolved. They were very quick to respond and constantly made me feel like a valued customer. That is why I ought to apologise to them for how long it has taken me to post this blog, taking the time however has really allowed me to consider the book carefully.
This for any professional photographer is the key thing, for casuals not so much. But no, as a photographer the product I am delivering to the client is of the utmost importance. I have to say, I was not pleased. I want to love my photobook so bad. But I just can’t say I do.
Not to pull it apart completely, aesthetically it sits nice on my desk, I am proud to have it and I am proud to show off my work. Saying this, the quality of the book just isn’t all that. No way if I was a wedding photographer could I send this to a high paying client. I used this to display my travel and landscape photography work but I don’t think I would be happy showing my big commercial clients.
One of the things I noticed when I opened the book for the first time is that it looks as though the cover and first page is glued together with PVA! I probably should have left the first and last page blank, that was my mistake. I can’t help but feel that the book would look so much nicer if the first page was free-floating with the linen wrapped around the carboard used in the cover. The worst part is when you realise why, it isn’t bound together, that is how the book is held together. Look at the picture below, ideally it should have been bound as this just won’t last the years a client would want it to, to love and cherish their memories in the future.
As for the images themselves, maybe it is because I did not pick the right export settings, but I doubt it, 300dpi should be sharp. I know the quality is in my photos but it just doesn’t seem to come through. The file size at export was around 150MB, the quality is there. But my images, I crafted for hours trying to tell my story eaking out the details, they just lose it. When I look in at the finer details, the edges have fallen apart, in fact every edge in my book is soft, from the text to the borders of the photographs. It is kit lens, Samyang at f1, tossing a telephoto in the air, soft, soft, soft! (sorry to then non-photographers who have no idea what that sentence means, basically, the photos have come out very, very soft!)
Now into the blacks, CRUSHED! We are talking #instacool pull up the bottom of that curves line, crushed. I think boosting the exposure would have pulled that bit more detail out of my shadows but it isn’t good enough.
I have to say, my criticisms are those you would expect of print, but these are more severe than I had hoped. The saturation isn’t there either. I am willing to let that one go though as it isn’t detrimental, it is part of printing on paper.
Well, I paid nothing. But if I had paid roughly £100, which is what this book would have cost. I don’t quite know what I would think. I got 42 pages for that, that’s a lot of pages. I would have spent twice that on my portfolio, maybe more. In which case I have to admit that the book is of decent value.
Personally, this book isn’t for me. The name of the book is ‘Professional Line’ as a professional photographer what I received simply isn’t up to scratch. From the seam down the middle, to the print quality, it just does not live up to the name. I won’t be ordering another in the near future for a client demo, nor would I recommend you send one out to newlyweds.
It isn’t all bad news however, If I was a university student and needed to demonstrate my work, I think it is a great option, affordable and hassle-free. More likely however I am imagining this would be a good value option for anyone who simply wants to print their photos, the tools are easy to use, the opportunity to customise your book is there and it’s not confusing. No this is not a total write off, it is just not the right product for a professional photographer.
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