I have to admit I was a little sceptical when Saal-Digital offered me a free photobook in exchange for an honest review published right here in my blog and or on social media. I mean they clearly don’t understand that I’m an amateur posing as someone who knows what he’s doing in the digital photography world.
I then remembered they hadn’t approached me at all, it was an add on either facebook or twitter that had grabbed my tight northern attention with the possibility of a freebee to finally show off my portfolio with. With nothing but ego to lose I applied with the required info including links to this site and various social media profiles half expecting them to say thanks for your time but we aren’t convinced.
SURPRISE No 1, They replied very quickly with a thank you very much for my interest and here is a discount voucher. I used it towards a 28 x 19 cm colour photobook. I could of course upgrade to bigger and better or more pages at my own expense but that clearly wasn’t going to happen this close to Christmas and with me being so tight (I can peel an orange in my pocket without letting the smell out).
SURPRISE No 2, A link in the email directed me to a download of the required software which was very easy to use. If you aren’t computer literate then this may not be so easy, but I’m not aware of any other professional photo labs that can offer fully customisable high quality products without the need for something similar. It did come with plenty of layout templates and various other self-explanatory options for ease of use so if you’re after a quick order then the options are there. However, if you’re a professional in the market then you will most likely be familiar with similar software and will no doubt find it very intuitive as did I. It is fully customisable with a huge array of cover designs/finishes. Numerous fonts are available for text and there is even a selection of presentation boxes which would no doubt suit those in the portrait/wedding photography business. My favourite feature of the software is the ability to save the design as a project so you can return to finish it later or review it after a period of time prior to submitting it; also perfect if you expect to create a number of similar designs for various customers ultimately speeding up your workflow. The software programme takes you directly through to the final checkout with the minimum of fuss.
SURPRISE No 3, The very next day I received an email telling me my product had been dispatched, WOW! Now that was quick! I have used professional labs in the past before and never have I had a product shipped so quickly.
SURPRISE No 4, The book is great quality, I’m not actually sure what I was expecting and I honestly haven’t got any to compare it to, but it’s a book like any other high quality hardback with great materials containing great photographic prints. I have to admit I’m not sure Saal-Digital were expecting me as a landscape photographer to order a gift for my four-year-old boy in the form of a photobook keepsake but I did anyway. The only way I can describe the quality of the prints is by mentioning the similarity to those of the many books I’ve purchased that are produced for leading photographers like Joe Cornish and Charlie Waite; whom I’m sure don’t compromise and fully understand the importance of displaying their work in the best possible manner. The images are a tiny bit on the dark side, but this is my fault for not preparing and soft proofing them prior to submitting. Any photographer who prints will understand the intricacies (and headaches) involved with printing.
SURPRISE No 5, When the time came for me to write this review, I naturally took a closer look at the Saal-Digital website and was very pleased to see they have a very diverse range of products including Calendars, Wall Decals, Posters, Cards, Photo-Booklets and the one that appeals to me the most, Fine Art Prints. There are gift vouchers, offer codes and all the support you would expect from a professional company. There is even a ‘professional zone’ for the professional photographers out there and ICC profiles for those that require them; info on colour management, soft proofing in Lightroom, and much more. They even have a reseller programme with bonuses increasing according to turnover (expect another application from me soon Saal)
IN SUMMARY I have only had this one photobook to provide feedback from but if this is anything to go by then I’d be more than happy to purchase any of their products. I love the intuitive software and the ability to customise in full. In reality you could produce your very own book however you wish (I’m not sure this would class you as ‘published’ but it would certainly look impressive on the coffee table). The service is great and certainly fast with what looks like a mass of support and information when needed. The bottom line is I’m not sure if there is better quality out there and I’m sure there are others of similar quality but I’m very impressed with the final product to say the least. I can confidently say I will probably purchase another with a view to presenting my portfolio to prospective cafés/restaurants in the hope that they may want some Fine Art Prints displayed on their walls.
The only thing I’m not surprised with is my apparent inability to part with cash for a great product which ultimately leaves me thinking ‘Why didn’t I do this before?’.