SAAL-Digital Photo Book
I recently came across an advertisement on Facebook for SAAL-Digital and their products, one of which was an offer for a photo book. As I have been looking for a good supplier for photobooks, I decided to give them a try as the ones that I have used in the past, there was always something that wasn't quite right (for me) with them.
The first stage of any service that publishes books or calendars etc for you though is getting your images into the service and setting up a layout. A lot of the previous places that I used, this part was clunky and often un-intuitive, so I was curious how it would work with Saal-Digital.
Initially after going to their webpage Saal-Digital.cz and clicking on the link to download Saal Designer of which there is a Mac and Windows version, I ran into a small problem that the installer failed during installation. On carefully reading the error message, I saw that it was looking for Adobe Air, which I did not have installed, so I went over to Adobe's site, downloaded Air, then re-ran the Saal-Digital installer and this time everything worked flawlessly. My only recommendation here, would be to put a reference on the webpage or on first launch of the installer that Adobe Air is required.
On first launch you are presented with a screen where you can choose what you would like to create.
As you can see there is quite a good selection on offer, pretty much all of the options that you would expect, however for this review I am going to be talking about the Photobook specifically. But for thoroughness, once you select an option, it has various other sub-options, for example in the case of the photobook, if you click on it, you will see options for hard covers, soft covers, binders and so on, they really have covered pretty much everything that you could think of.
After picking through the types of books available, you are taken to a screen where you choose again from a variety of options, no template, template, template with pre-filled images and so on. Once you select one of these, you are taken to the editor proper.
The editor is laid out quite intuitively, on the left side you have access to your folders and photos, on the right side, various layout options and in the middle the various pages of your book are at the bottom and right in the centre is the work area that you drag your photos on to and edit.
There are a myriad of tools here and options here, too many to talk about as it would require a review by itself but I wanted to say that this was one of the first editors I have used that didn't feel clunky, it is well laid out and was easy to use right off the bat without having to read through help files or study a guide. It's not perfect, there were a couple of things that from my perspective still need tweaking. For example I wanted to try a different layout (dark pages as opposed to light pages) and it wanted rather than just to apply the change to my current template instead to create a new template. Which would mean that I would start all over again and have to re-do all of the carefully laid out images that I'd just finished. So an option just to view different styles would be nice but with your selected images.
Once you have everything ready though, you add the book to your basket, pay for it and that's pretty much it from that side of things. I received an email almost immediately afterwards that my order was received and being processed. The next day, I received another email that my order was being delivered and the day after it was delivered by courier.
The book was well packaged, it was inside a tough cardboard envelope and further wrapped in a layer of plastic and foam padding, so it was well protected.
The book itself was beautifully presented and bound, I choose a hard cover and it was really nicely done. The slight cropping you see on the right of the photo above was actually my fault trying to make an extra wide image fit into a space not intended for that width, so I was happy that it came out the way it did.
On opening the book I was again really impressed with the overall quality. The paper used for the pages was the glossy type, which really made the images pop (I'd love to try a matte version for comparison) and the paper itself is thick and of good stock. I'm not worried about it showing wear or the images wearing or the corners becoming dog-eared.
The binding used has also been well-done, there were no signs of too much glue being used or the opposite not enough so that the pages would feel loose or like they would work loose overtime. Everything just feels really well-made and well-thought out. The binding is also done in such a way that you can open the book fully and lay it flat on a table or your lap and the pages will also lay and display flat. There is no curve to them that would force you to hold them open or stress the binding, they just simply display as you would hope they would display in a photo book and the tactile feel of turning the high-quality pages and seeing your images pop from them also adds an extra dimension to it.
Speaking of pop, the images were printed exceptionally well, the colour of the images, contrast and level of detail is incredibly well represented. This of course depends on the quality of the files that you upload to the service, if you upload a good quality file, then you give the printers something good to work with, if you upload a low-quality image, well there is only so much that they can do with it :) Still even with good source material, not all printers are equal. I've had the good fortune so far to have had my work printed for exhibitions by different printers or in different photobooks and so I can personally say that sometimes the level of detail, colour representation and quality of the print is not always what you would hope for but here I am very satisfied with the output of the book that I received and have no qualms about recommending it.
So overall I can say that the service from Saal-Digital was excellent, the creation process was relatively painless, the delivery and customer service afterwards was fast and exceptional and the quality of the final product was really impressive. If you are looking for a service to use to create something for your professional work, to display your portfolio or as a gift for someone, I believe that you will be happy with Saal-Digital.