Saal Photobook Professional Line Review
Having done several reviews of Saal Digital’s products and used them to print photos for clients, it was exciting to receive a voucher for £100. The only remit was that it had to be used on one of the products from their Professional Line Photobooks.
Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I said yes immediately. From previous products I knew the quality would be top tier and knowing it would be a worthwhile investment was more than happy to put my money where my mouth was. Thus I added pages to the book bringing the total to almost £170.
I think I placed the order on the 7th and it arrived on the 15th, so about eight days from ordering, printing in Germany to delivery. An amazing service especially in the current Covid situation.
Saal bill their Pro Line Photobooks as “handmade, high quality and with that special something. We have designed our Professional Line Photobooks to meet the needs of modern photographers in every respect. The luxurious acrylic glass cover in combination with a high quality cover in leatherette creates a very special product.”
It certainly sounded like a premium product and with lock down I had plenty of time to design the book. Whilst Adobe’s Photoshop and InDesign can be used, the simplest method is to downloads Saal’s proprietary software. I’m not usually a fan of companies’ own softwear but in this case not only is it simple and easy to use but very intuitive.
However, I was very pleasantly surprised with this free download. Quite comprehensive, the program helps with every aspect of creating a photobook of your own. What’s more, its interface is fairly intuitive and easy to get the hang of. Once downloaded, you select your product then it’s game on. On the left of your screen is a navigator from which you can select images. This can be from anywhere on your computer but for ease of use, I’d already resized photos and sorted them all into a single file. Images can be dragged and dropped onto the pages of your book which are centre stage, taking up most of your screen’s real estate. Images can easily be resized, turned, zoomed into or moved.
There are automatic options using pre set layouts and positioning all the selected images but I went for the totally manual approach. Text boxes can easily be added, the text itself is easily selected depending on your choice of font/colour/size. I’m not particularly computer literate but even to me the process of designing a book with the Saal software is simple.
The book arrived this morning well packed in a strong cardboard outer then encased in a padded, protective envelope. It arrived at an awkward time. We were just about to have coffee and home made flapjacks but they were put (briefly) on hold as we tore open the packaging.
Awesome is the only word to describe the book and well worth pausing our coffee break to check it out. You know how they say, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” well in this case, definitely do.
The cover is pretty special and came covered in a protective plastic cover which peeled off to reveal it in it’s full glory. With the acrylic sheet covering the image, it’s like having a mounted and glazed image as the cover. It looks very professional and adds a touch of distinction to an already stunning product. The back cover is black leatherette and fits seamlessly with the acrylic.
Exterior, ten out of ten…..so what about the inside?
This was exactly as expected since I know what a quality printing job Saal do. The pages are sharp, colours very accurate and text all perfect. The photos just look so real, the colours pop, they are so bold, the detail is really crisp.
One of the best features of Saal books is the “lay flat binding” which means you can have photos printed across the full surface of both pages with no troublesome “gutter” as in more normal printing/binding. This works really well for panoramas as there’s no image loss or detail obscured where the pages join. This is ingenious and reason enough alone to choose Saal to print your books.
In all it’s a perfect product and should last pretty much forever, Saal guaranteeing it “absolutely colourfast for at least 75 years.” The book oozes quality and can be ordered with a presentation box as an extra. The earlier books from Saal which I’ve reviewed must now be almost three years old. They’ve had a bit of a rough life being repeatedly dragged from book cases to show to clients and do get a lot of use/abuse but still look great.
Unlike many photobooks, this one has no manufacturing logo or blurb, a real bonus.
Saal should be congratulated for producing such a high end photobook which has no cons and many pros. The only downside is the cost but for a top quality portfolio of your work to show clients, or a one off album for special clients then it’s worth it. I know I was lucky to get the voucher for £100 but am only too pleased I added the £70 to it. I now have a special portfolio of my favourite Cuillin photos to look at but also a means of showing clients how a particular photo might look in print.
Not cheap, but you definitely get what you pay for. If you’ve got some good memories and want them in a print rather than pixel form then it’s well worth considering a Saal photobook.
Details of product ordered: 40 x 30 cm Photobook Professional Line
Cover: Acryllic & Leather
Spreads: photo paper glossy, 34 pages
We have reviewed a variety of Saal's books
Our latest review is of an Ali-Dibond print
Photo of framed print on client's wall
ATC members may recall that I reviewed a couple of different sizes of Saal Digital's photo books. These books have been invaluable both for showcasing as a portfolio of my work but also to point out various locations to clients.
I have also ordered large prints from Saal and know that their quality is extremely high and their colour reproduction second to none. Thus I was happy to be given a voucher to use on a Saal "Wall Decor" in return for an honest review of the product.
Saal's wall decors include a wide variety of products; Alu-Dibond, Acryllic Glass, PVC Foamboard, Alu Dibond Butlerfinish, Photo Canvas and Gallery Print.
Faced with such a wide choice I narrowed it down to the Alu-Dibond or the Acrylic Glass. I'd heard great things about the Alu-Dibond and did have worries about reflections on the Acrylic Glass so the choice, in the end, was easy.
Now to the choice of photo. I knew it had to be something special, something that I'd enjoy looking at and also something that guests and clients would enjoy.
By far the most popular climb with clients, the Inaccessible Pinnacle is very photogenic and never more so than when in it's winter plumage.
From a couple of years back, this photo was taken in winter when I had been wild camping at low level in Glen Brittle. To reach the Inaccessible Pinnacle for sunrise required a couple of hours or so of walking and scrambling with full winter gear, crampons, ice axe etc as well as camera tripod and associated kit.
Thus an early start and an ascent by head torch. Despite a promising forecast, the first day was ruined by almost total cloud cover and almost nothing to see as the In Pinn was hidden by swirling mists. The next day, high winds stopped me even reaching the In Pinn. Day 3 was a beautiful morning but not a cloud in sight so the sky was rather boring. However day 4 made it all worthwhile.
Some interesting clouds swirled around, the sun was partially filtered and lit the snow with a golden tinge. The pinnacle itself was plastered in rime ice that positively glowed in the sun light. In the far distance were Clach Glas and Bla Bheinn.
So, a huge amount of effort but in the end I got the desired photo.
I opted for the 75 by 50cm size and, as with the books, the Saal software which you have to download, was very simple and quick to use.
The Alu-Dibond print is ideal for use in many places since the UV printing makes it "especially sun, fade and water resistant" so it could be used inside or out due to it's weather resistance. I'm guessing also that it would be ideal in bathrooms or kitchens where condensation and moisture might be problematic with other forms of prints.
As per norm, the Saal service was impressively fast and I was kept informed by email of when it had been printed, dispatched and it's predicted arrival time.
I was immensely impressed by the packaging and the "wall decor" arrived encased in a cardboard package but inside was a separate thick cardboard sheet protecting the picture side and the whole sheet of aluminium was protected in plastic so 10 out of 10 for customer service, delivery and packaging.
With growing excitement, I opened the package to reveal a stunning product. I was amazed at how light the panel was given it's size. It consists of two aluminium sheets with a core of polyethylene between them and I was really surprised not only at how thin it was but also by how strong and resistant to bending it appeared.
The printing was faultless, the colours perfectly matched and the whole thing oozed quality. I opted for the Aluminium Subframe which is about one centimetre in depth and stands the panel away from the wall so it has the appearance of almost floating on air.
Like all Saal products I have seen, the Alu-Dibond is a premium product and can't be faulted.
+ Vibrant colours and incredible clarity of image.
+ The print is very sharp with colours true to life.
+ Light weight and seemingly very robust.
+ Has a very modern look.
+Does not need any framing
Here's a link to Saal Digital's Wall Decors;
At the moment there is special £15 off voucher valid until 31/07/18.
Here’s a follow up to my earlier review of Saal Digital’s Photobook.
Any feedback from ATC members who took advantage of the discount code and ordered books would be appreciated. It was interesting to hear from Kirsten Hirt that her Saal photo books from 2011 and 2012 were still looking brilliant with no fading so longevity seems assured.
Once the small book arrived, I immediately regretted that I hadn’t ordered a larger book which would have been stunning to display panoramas. Hindsight is invaluable but had I known the quality of the product then the added cost for a larger book would have been a no brainer.
Saal were obviously pleased by my review and once they heard about my regret offered me a voucher for their A3 Landscape Book which is 42 by 28 cms. With their layflat binding this allows panoramas up to 84cm wide to be included. Such a large volume would serve multiple purposes for me;
*It would showcase by best work in a large format which would be easily portable to show clients etc.
*Such large prints would also be ideal for showing clients routes high on the Cuillin Ridge.
The detail in the original small book was incredible and I could only imagine what would be visible on the A3 version. Good as computer monitors are, it’s always nice to see your work in print and this was a chance to showcase my favourite images and if they turned out well then order as large prints.
With the advent of digital photography more and more images are being taken but fewer than ever end up being printed. According to the legendary Ansel Adams, “The negative is the equivalent of the composer’s score and the print the performance.” Tablets and phones with their small screens hide a multitude of sins and even out of focus photos can look good on most social media.
Large prints are the true test since they will inevitably attract intense scrutiny and any defects will be glaringly apparent. I have had huge canvases printed but these are a very forgiving media. To say I was worried about how my favourite works might look printed so large would be an understatement.
I use a Sony A7, the base line model from a few years back mainly because it is the smallest and lightest of all the models, an important consideration when I might be rock climbing or carrying lots of gear for camping. It is only 24 megapixels compared to 40 or more of later iterations and I did worry if the files would physically contain enough info for very large prints. Some of the panoramas were stitched from multiple images but single image shots were also used. I was meticulous in my image selection and many favourites were culled when viewed at 100% in Lightroom or more usually Photoshop.
A lot of effort went into selecting a variety of images that I thought would best showcase my work. Most images were shot from tripods with a timer so as to reduce the chance of any camera shake. In windy conditions the tripod was anchored by a heavy rucksack for added stability.
Image selection and preparation was time consuming but I wanted the book to be as perfect as possible. The actual production of the book was a doddle compared to prepping the photos.
Once I had a file of images, I opened the Saal proprietary software that was still familiar from the first book. Some reviewers have described it as being clunky and utilitarian but, to be honest, it was a joy to use, being simple and easy. I was looking for a very simple layout where the photos would speak for themselves. Large photos with minimal text to describe the locations. I briefly played around with the variety of templates but then just selected a blank book and inserted the photos as I wanted then added the captions.
I spent a while selecting background colours, text size and font but soon settled on my choices and the production was easy, quick and functional. It may not have all the bells and whistles of InDesign or other publishing programmes but it did what I wanted and it was intuitive to use.
The only slight hiccup in production was entirely my own fault. The book had been put to bed and was to be ordered one evening but a glorious sunset lured me out and I just had to include the view down Glen Sligachan as a panorama which meant a mad rush to rearrange photos.
Nervously waiting for the book’s arrival, I was kept informed by Saal about it’s rapid printing and despatch and was able to track the parcel.The book duly arrived 4 days after uploading. I admit I was a bit disturbed to see the book was packed exactly the same as the cheaper one and there was a largish tear in the cardboard packaging. I guess I was expecting more deluxe packaging for a £100 book but as it was the packaging had done it’s job and the large corner protectors created enough dead space around the book that it was undamaged.
The book itself was wrapped in a foam bag and in perfect condition. Bridgette and I looked through the book and were completely awestruck by the quality of the whole thing.
Huge double page panoramas worked well with the layflat technology of the pages.
The colours and brightness were all spot on exactly as viewed on my monitor during editing.
The minutest details were visible and the book easily surpassed my greatest expectations and made the effort that went into image selection and preparation well worthwhile.
The pages have a lovely thick feel and the product is produced using photo paper so the photos look more like a collection of expensive prints than a mass produced photo book. I know the book costs a lot but when you work out the cost per print it seems reasonable because with the 36 pages I could have had 18 84cm wide panoramas if I chose.
Make no mistake, these are very high quality prints and look superb. Everyone who has seen it has been visibly impressed not just by the photos but the sheer quality of the book Undoubtedly the sheer size works in it’s favour. It looks and feels to be a quality product and works well as a luxurious portfolio to show to potential clients.
The layflat pages are amazing especially for panoramas that utilize both pages but also it’s nice that the pages don’t have to be held down to avoid the curled up look of some books with images not being displayed to their best.
*Premium Quality printing on photographic paper.
*Printing, colours, tones etc exactly matched previews on computer.
*Extremely rapid order to delivery time.
*Easy to use software.
*No visible Saal logo or text, just a very small bar code inside back cover which you can pay extra to have removed.
*Possibly the cost will put some people off but when you work out the price per print (and the quality) then it is not unreasonable and certainly good value compared to some comparable book companies.
*My only real gripe would be that a £100 book deserves better packaging and possibly a signed for method of delivery. Having said that, my book did arrive in perfect condition. I do know people who have had books arrived damaged but Saal has always replaced them rapidly.
The pluses far outweigh the negatives and, to be honest, I was really scratching around to find any bad points. If people were wowed by the first small book then I have run out of superlatives to describe the A3 version. All who have seen it have loved the quality, size, format and despite a lot of handling it still looks pristine; the thick pages are sturdy and would be hard to crease or dog ear and fingerprints and marks do not appear.
In conclusion, this is the perfect portfolio to display your works to friends, family or clients and customers. Someone once said words to the effect that a photo isn’t a photo until it is printed and this book certainly seems the culmination of the photographic process.
As regular ATC members will know, I have close links with Saal digital and have reviewed various of their products.
The latest product to be reviewed is their spiral bound Photo Booklet. Bridgette and I thought that with sales of our prints and canvases growing steadily then the Photo Booklet would be ideal to showcase our work and we could leave copies in hotels, shops, B and B's etc. This would enable potential customers to see some of our nest selling works not just the few hanging on the wall in any particular location.
As per norm, the design and production of the book was simplicity personified. We were kept constantly informed of progress by Saal and the product arrived very quickly. The booklet was well packaged and arrived safely at Sconser. The photos were all as intended, colours were spot on, the prints beautifully sharp. This was all to be expected as we have had a lot of work from Saal.
New to us were the transparent protective cover which would protect the prints from grubby fingers and the spiral binding which lets the customer turn the pages easily but also enables to the pages to lay flat.
We ordered the 21 by 30cm booklet with 20 pages which costs just over £20 and opted for a mix of full page photos and a few with a couple of panoramas on each. This worked well since the large panoramas are particularly popular and we wanted to be able to showcase a few.
A novel product with all the usual quality we have come to expect from Saal Digital. If any ATC members want to check out this product, or Saal photo Books or prints then feel free to drop in on us at Sconser where they can be seen along with many large canvases.
Saal Digital, a German company offered me a voucher towards one of their photo books on the proviso that I would write an open honest review of their product on ATC.
To be frank, I hadn’t heard of the company and the main attraction was the free voucher but I am sure the company will soon become a well known player in the book printing market in the UK.
I just threw some favourite images into a collection in Lightroom then downloaded their software. The software was very easy to use and there are various choices to be made such as book dimensions, cover, number of pages, gloss or matt and so on. There are various templates to choose from or you can just do as I did and choose a blank book and upload your photos and resize to fit the pages. Text boxes allow text to be easily added but I was content with just a simple portfolio of photos with no captions (plus I was rushed for time). I was pleasantly surprised how easy and intuitive the software was and the actual design of the book only took a short time as I juggled photos about and resized them to look their best. The time consuming part was selecting photos and preparing them for print which I did in Lightroom and Photoshop. Once I had a file of photos the book production was quick and painless.
I opted for a photobook 28x19cm, 28 pages and glossy finish which was just within the scope of the free voucher. After uploading the book to Saal late on a Friday night, I was amazed to wake on Saturday and find an email saying that my book order had been received and sent for printing. Constant email updates were sent and also links for tracking it and the parcel arrived as promised on Wednesday. To say I was amazed by the speed and quality of the service would be an understatement.
The book was delivered in a cardboard envelope and well packed inside with bubblewrap and a sealed plastic bag. The packaging was very good but I was also glad to see it wasn’t over the top so not too much waste and I could reuse virtually all the packaging.
Now to the important part, the book itself. I have used various companies for books, primarily Blurb because it is the default Lightroom option but the Saal volume is way ahead in quality. The pages are very thick and stiff and I love the fold flat design which not only does just that but enables panoramas to be printed perfectly spread over two pages without any horrible gap, line or misalignment. All the pictures were good but I feel the product really lends itself to panoramas.
Colour reproduction and overall photo quality were superb, the prints very crisp and lots of lovely details visible in the larger photos. I was amazed at the quantum leap in quality over products from previous manufacturers I have used. As I have already mentioned, the double spread images are superb and next time I’d be tempted to go for a whole book of panoramic views especially as they fit so well with landscape photography.
The binding, cover and the printing are all of premium quality and far above what I was anticipating based on previous books printed elsewhere. Every photo was spot on and looked even better in print than on a monitor.
Generally, I lightened each photo a little for printing but took care that no highlights were blown out. I have since read more on the Saal website and you can download various profiles for their printers to use in Lightroom and Photoshop so something wise to consider in the future although I have no problem whatsoever with the colour reproduction.
The finished product uses photo paper so the pages are thick being two sheets of Fujicolour Crystal Album Paper glued back to back and the quality is more like a personal photo album than a commercially produced book. It looks and feel good and should stand the test of time which is good because everyone who sees it wants to pick it up and thumb through it.
The book is a product that you can proudly show or give to clients, friends or family. The word artisan is probably overused but this feels like a personally produced, high end, artisan work. Normally for a review, I’d produce a list of pros and cons but here I’m really struggling to find any cons. One minor niggle is that you have to pay to not have the Saal barcode on the back cover and inside the back page; but even these are small and unobtrusive. Had I known how good the product was, I would happily have paid the extra for a larger book and now I am cursing that I didn’t pay the extra and opt for the 42 x 28cm landscape version.
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