Saal Digital are based in Germany but they are pushing their marketing in the UK and have been offering an incentive of a discount on their photobooks in return for an honest review. I had been looking at the offer for a while but never quite had the time or real motivation to make use of it…until my recent trip to Iceland. That was a trigger to apply for the program and the discount. The process and feedback from Saal was very prompt and efficient…much more so than I was able to manage through the process at my end. They were very patient and accommodating when I had ‘timed out’ on the initial period before producing the book. Customer service were very prompt in responding.
I have produced several photo books with other manufacturers so it was a good opportunity to see how their quality matches up.
The software is available in both Mac and PC as you would expect. The process of downloading and installing was very straightforward and without problem.
The software is very easy to use with a somewhat ‘standard’ layout on the screen which makes it quick to get up and running. The images are accessed on the left hand pane, the pages across the bottom, layouts & background options in the right pane and the current spread in the middle of the screen. There are a number of page layout options which are all self explanatory but they are also very easy to change around, to increase/decrease the size of the image box, or to add/remove. Once changed they can be saved as a new layout for future use too which is a nice touch.
It was not an issue for this book but there did not appear to be a layout that included a box for text on the spine although I’m sure there is a way to do it. It may be that you just have to place a new text box in the correct marked area on the cover layout, and it is easy to rotate the text box to fit.
As the pages are ‘lay flat’ I took the opportunity to include 2 or 3 panoramas that spread across two pages. There is an option for a ‘full bleed’ across the whole of the paper but I opted to keep the white border around mine in line with the other pages.
The preview and upload process went very smoothly so there was nothing to do then other than sit back and wait for the book to be delivered.
The Product Options
There are a number of options available to you for your book. They are:
The quality of the book is absolutely excellent. The colours and the print quality are spot on, exactly as I saw them on my screen, and on ‘proper photo’ paper too. The lay flat pages are great for the panoramas I did across the two page spread with nothing lost in the gutter - they look wonderful.
One thing to bear in mind, especially if you have come from more of a ‘book’ layout like Blurb is that there is no opening page/end sheet - the first image is literally stuck to the inside of the front cover, and similarly the last image is on the inside of the back cover. It does make the first page a full double spread though, which is nice. I prefer to think of this type of book more of an ‘album’, and the Blurb type layout more a ‘book’.
The text on the front cover is printed perfectly although I opted not to include text in the layouts from personal choice for this one. I have no doubt that if I had they would be perfect too.
The whole ‘fit and finish’ of the book is beyond question and overall it is a truly impressive product.
A 26 page book (28x19) is £29.95, which is good value compared to the Cewe/Bob Books alternative which would be £38.99. A similar hardback size from Blurb starts at £21.89, but that is on their standard paper and digital printing rather than true photographic paper/process. An upgrade to their ‘proline pearl’ paper which is much more like photo paper is £32.15. That said, Blurb do have very frequent offers, and if you time it right they might be 30-50%.
Blurb’s integration within Lightroom does make it very easy to produce, and the softcover option reduces the price even more for good quality everyday books. For high end quality though, when only the best will do, Saal is now my first choice. Enough said…