A few months ago I stumbled upon a new provider of printed photobooks: Saal-Digital. Originally German, there were promoting their services to the dutch market. I wanted to print a book with my best pictures for a long time, so as offered for professional photographers I applied for a reduction ticket to test their services for myself, the only condition being doing a honest review afterwards. Here it goes :-)!
When wanting to print a book there are plenty of choices, however the quality of the end product is often a question mark. Some are excellent and some not, and the quality is not always depending on the price. The website of Saal-Digital promised top quality and has all the standard choices in term of sizes and finishing options, while being in the standard ranges of prices (not the cheapest, nor the most expensive) and I was reading good reviews online so I had high expectations.
My biggest problem a that point was to select my pictures to put in the book. After almost 4 years of pole-dance photography I had a huge library of great pictures and I wanted to keep the book under 30 pictures. Eventually I chose 34 pictures and this is what cost me the longest in the process but was a needed and excellent thing to do. I had selected a solid work of pictures representing all the different style and project I developed.
The second challenge was organising the pictures in the right order and deciding of the layout. I decided to work with their software to create my photobook as most people don’t own Lightroom. It was really easy to use and it offers plenty of different template. However I didn’t have the chance to test all the possibilities as I just wanted a pretty plain template with only one picture per page and no text. I only made use of the possibility to add frame around some pictures and change the colour of the background. It took me a few days to get it just as I liked it, then writing an introduction text. I knew the first and last page where glued on the cover so I took this into account in my design. For numerous pictures I used the possibility of putting the picture on the full two pages, wondering how flat the “flat” promise was.
The only thing I missed was the possibility to select my own font, especially for the cover, as I wanted to put my logo on it. Putting a text image with a transparent background could have been another option, alas as I selected the leather-looking cover this was not possible. I also didn’t find the option to personalise the side of the book (the side you see when the book is a bookshelf), but maybe I just didn’t find it?
Eventually I could order my book. Within days it was home. I have to say the whole making and getting process works really smooth. I received the book home in a solid package, the book itself being in a plastic bag which protected him well. My first impression was very positive. It is really amazing to see your pictures printed in a book. My only concern were a few mistakes I did in the layout of the text (way too big), but I can live with this.
So what about the quality of the book and the print? It lives up to the expectations, it really is a great quality. The colours and contrast are exactly as I wanted and are very rich on paper. I like that the pages are thick (it’s two photo paper glued on each other) as it enforced the overall quality impression. As for the book itself, I found the cover really gives a quality feeling and I am proud of showing it off to friends and colleagues.
Although I am very satisfied with the overall quality I am very critical and I see some possibilities of improvement:
Flat pictures: I was only a bit disappointed by the “flat” promise, it is much much flatter than any standard book, but there is always one page coming a bit up unless it is in the center. But I guess there is not much to do about that (it is already pretty flat) and what I was excepting (totally flat) isn’t possible.
Mat print: Secondly I ordered “mat” paper, and although I can’t say it is glossy, I don’t find it really mat. As my fiancé told me it is more “egg shell”, meaning you do have some reflection like you would have on an egg shell… I was excepting mat like paper book mat but I guess it is because it is a real photo-paper and not plain paper. It’s beautiful and feels like high quality print but when lighting right from above you see some reflection which I don’t like.
Book itself: Something I read on other review, and alas noticed it in my book as well, the page are “waving” (see picture). I think it comes from the fact pages are glue to each other or maybe it didn’t dry long enough? You only noticed it if you look closely at it though.
All in all making this book was a great exercise and I am definitely happy with the results. The most annoying problems are my own mistakes. The quality of the print is excelling and just like I expected and I am proud of owning my very own printed portfolio. Thank you Saal-Digital for the opportunity to print this book and review your services, I’ll probably use your services again and show the product to my clients if they ask for a printed book.