I have an issue with my photography and that its digital. I mean, all of it. Hopefully Saal Digital can help me out here!
I remember the good old days of pouring through plasticky photo albums of family holidays by the beach wearing questionably small pairs of bright red Speedos and that magic has been lost a little bit in the digital age. I have 4Tb of storage on my NAS used up in photography storage and while there’s an app on my phone and my TV that allows instant playback of all of them nicely categorised by GPS location and Dates; it just isn’t the same as having the physical photo in your hand to share.
I set about finding out what’s available on the market for a modern photo-album and my google search lead me to Saal Digital. I reached out to them about getting a sample and they responded with a generous offer of a £25 voucher to spend on any of their products in return for an unbiased review. What’s not to like about that deal?!
If I’m really honest, I’ve had the photo-book about a week now and should have done this sooner!
Saal’s website is good and pretty well laid out. All the obvious stuff is where you’d expect to find it. Creating an account and locating products is a breeze.
There are a number of ways of getting your images from whatever dusty device in the corner they’re stored on to Saal for printing, chief among which is their very own proprietary software that comes bundled as a Windows installable package. Right there on the home page in the top-right is the big “software download” button and one prod of that and you’re away.
Just underneath the software download button is the link to access the “Professional Zone” for other more advanced options for getting a more customised upload environment that would fit in better with the workflow that professionals would be more used to.
I also quickly learned that Saal offer plugins for the Adobe Suite of Creative Software (Photoshop and InDesign) for “professional” uploading of the photos that you would like printing for total control over their position in a handy template for showing you where the cut and bleed lines will fall so that nothing gets unexpectedly lopped-off.
I’m not in any sense a professional, but I do know my way around Adobe Software pretty well and who doesn’t like the additional control? This is the route that I chose… it’s also where I’m sad to say that things went a bit south for me.
Following their links and choosing the Adobe family of products (Creative Cloud “CC”) correctly takes you to Adobe’s “My Add-on” website that Syncs with the app installed on the client (my) computer. I’ve used this system many times before and
it largely works flawlessly. I have around 16 add-ons installed this way. Unfortunately in this case, the Add-on show’s up as expected, but is never synced over.
“Nevermind”, I think to myself. There’s a manual install option for downloading the package and installing it yourself via the depreciated “Extension Manager” app.
Ok, nevermind again, there’s another option Their own software package that I had also downloaded. This installed with exactly zero fuss and while its a touch on the slow side to open, works perfectly.
I was nicely surprised actually. There’s plenty of basic image manipulation tools like crop or image rotation to get your photos positioned on the pages in the best way for you. There’s a whole bunch of templates that you can just drag and drop your images into and leave the grunt of design to some presets. A nice touch! I didn’t opt for using a template though, I had selected an A5 (15×21) sized photo-book and wanted the full-page double-spread lie-flat abilities that were promised.
In appearance and operation, the app’s functionality is largely similar to the website’s, just… offline.
As you can see, the software shows you where the cut lines and bleed are overlaid on your image. In this case, that’s the front and back cover. The timeline at the bottom shows the images in the following pages. Selecting one puts it up in the main window for tweaking/cropping/changing.
As you progress through the app there’s a whole load of options and added extras to choose from. Hovering your mouse over them brings a little pop-up window with a bigger picture and more information regarding the option. Something that the website doesn’t do.
The app very much works on the step by step nature of “next” and “previous” buttons you’ll typically find in the bottom right and left corners respectively. Another nice touch, you can feel the progression of your order being assembled. The final step is to upload what you’ve created to them for production. In my case this was an 8Mb upload for 13 images total. A little curious as to what the software has done with my lovingly edited images at that upload size. The parent images are 5000x4000px images @300DPI and have a file size averaging around 13Mb per image. Clearly some scaling has happened there at the time of creating the upload.
Finally making the payment in the form of the voucher that Saal had sent me via email and then a wait for delivery.
Delivery took 4 days to arrive which I’d say is perfectly acceptable; especially when factoring in the actual production and logistics times. If you were ordering this photobook for a client, being able to produce a tangible end product for them in 4 days is pretty good-going if you can get them from camera to software quick enough during your own workflow!
The photo-book arrived well packaged and protected by Saal and delivered by DHL.
The book’s quality is very nice, the hardback inserts in the cover are of the proper thickness and offer exactly zero flex/sag.
When the book is opened the image does indeed lie wonderfully flat and there is no gutter in the middle to speak of; an edge to edge image.
All in all I’m really pleased with how the full double page images are presented. This is a bit of a moment for me too as I’ve never actually seen any of my work on paper.
My only minor gripe was that while the colour reproduction and image quality is very good, the reproduction of the text-based watermark was just a little bit too soft. I think this perhaps has something to do with the compression that happens during upload… or maybe choosing glossy paper would improve the sharpness a little.