A Photobook from Saal Digital


A beautiful, high quality, impressive offering

PRODUCT REVIEW
Saal Digital is a German photography lab, based in Siegen. They offer standard photo prints, alongside other services, such as posters, calendars, and wall art. They provide their products to consumers as well as professionals.

I was recently asked if I would test one of their many offerings, a photobook. I thought this seemed like a great opportunity to have an album of photos from our recent walk for World Curlew Day, and as the walk was fresh in my mind, I would be able to easily assess the quality of the finished product.

The Process

Firstly, you have to download their production software. Initially, I was a little disappointed that they push this method of creating your photobook, as they do offer an online service. I've had a quick look at the online service, and although it has the same layout and functionality, the software responds slightly quicker. It's also a better choice if you have a restricted usage internet connection.

Once you have downloaded and installed, their software, you select and create your product, pay, and then submit it to the company. The time from submission to delivery varies depending what you order, but my photobook arrived very quickly.

The Software

I, like all good creatives, use a Mac (sorry-not-sorry!) One of the best things about this is the ability to just drag a downloaded application into the 'apps' folder and viola, it is installed. With Saal Digital you have to install the software, as you would do with a Windows-based computer. This is disappointing, as it takes longer and you have to be present while it happens. It is necessary though, as at the moment they use Adobe Air as their application platform. This makes sense from a technical perspective, as it allows for cross-platform installation without a lot of extra coding. Personally, though, I'd still like to see a native Mac app.

When you open the application, you're presented with the various products for you to choose from:


Here, it is as simple as clicking 'Select' next to what you'd like to create, and then following the prompts onscreen to choose your options:


I chose the 15x21cm photobook, with matte paper and a padded cover. If you hover over the options, a little box pops up with an explanation of that option - I found this to be a nice touch:


Following on from this screen, you get another choice to make:


I went with the AutoLayout feature, and instantly regretted it! Sadly, the software isn't intelligent enough to correctly position your photos. When I wanted a full page spread, the software decided to only fill up three-quarters of the page. Fortunately, it takes just a click to deactivate this function, and the software is so simple to use you won't really need it. After that screen, you get another few screens with various options until, eventually, you get to the creation screen. It seems a little long-winded, but it's designed so that anyone can create a beautiful item very easily.


The screenshot above is the creation section. It really as easy as dragging your photos onto the page where you would like them to appear. You can move them around, zoom in and out, and resize them. You can add pages, remove pages, and make minor edits (such as increasing the brightness) to your photos. You can overlay text and images onto your main image, as I have done with the cover page which you can see in the first photo of this post. It even warns you when a photo might be in the 'bleed' area (and therefore might not print as you'd like it to):



Once you've finished, you click 'Add to shopping basket', pay, and then await the arrival of your photobook.

Delivery

If you ever needed an example of German efficiency, this is it! I ordered the photobook early in the evening on the 28th April, and it was delivered to me before 12 pm on Thursday 3rd May. That is well below Saal Digital's estimates. They use DHL for all their deliveries, so you are provided with tracking info. The photobook was well packaged, with an easy open cardboard envelope, similar to the ones you'll be used to from companies like Amazon. Inside the envelope is a foam type envelope which holds the photobook. I was a little disappointed by this choice as, although it protects the book, there are more eco-friendly, recyclable alternatives available.

The Photobook


The photobook is very impressive indeed. It is a hardcover item, so should remain free of the annoying creases you get with paperbacks. The padding added to the experience and makes it feel like a premium product, without the additional premium price. (Ok, so the padding is £5 extra, but that's a small amount compared to some other labs.) When held, it feels soft yet weighty, and sturdy enough to withstand regular viewings.

It has LayFlat binding which, as the name suggests, allows you to lay the book flat so that you can see double page photos in full. This is a nice touch, as it makes full-page spreads much nicer:


The thing that struck me the most, however, was the colour reproduction. It is simply outstanding. As we'd only been on our walk less than two weeks before we received the photobook, we remembered exactly what the content of our photos looked like in real life. The colours in the photos are true-to-life, and this makes them seem even more special. Additionally, Saal Digital use Fuji Crystal Archive Album paper for their photobooks. This paper has an incredibly long lifespan, dependant of course on the conditions of storage. On their website, Saal Digital says the photobook will remain colourfast for at least 75 years. This means that, under normal storage and usage, there should be no fading of the colours.


There is also great contrast between the colours. For example, in the photobook, I have a few photos with several shades of green. Each one is easily distinguishable from the others, and all are faithfully reproduced. Other photos are views over heather moorland, which contain a lot of shades of brown. The detail in the colouring is incredibly accurate here, too.

On two photos, I used the simple editing tools to increase the brightness and saturation slightly. When I compare the original photos with the edited versions in the book, the book comes out on top. It's difficult to tell on screen if the changes are making much of a difference, but they certainly stand out in the finished product. In areas of sky, where there is a gradient of blue, the transition from one colour to another is flawless.


Summary

Overall, I'm really impressed with this offering from Saal Digital. The creation process is straightforward, delivery is fast, and the finished product is beautiful. The colour reproduction is excellent, and the detail is outstanding. They have so many options to choose from that it's simple to create a photobook which is unique to you. I cannot highly recommend them enough!

For more lifestyle product reviews, head over to this section of The Wax Picture!

No comments

Powered by Blogger.