A little while ago, I picked up on an interesting offer – get a free photobook from a supplier just starting to establish in the UK, in exchange for posting an honest review after getting the book. Well, I do like a bargain, and after checking the conditions and the small print, signed up. The offer came from @saal.digital.uk (that might just work on Facebook), or perhaps better to call them Saal Digital. The deal was this: a voucher code worth £40 against any photobook – if I wanted something more expensive, I’d just have had to pay the difference.
Like most such services, they have their own software, which is available for Mac and Windows. It uses Adobe Air, so there’s a bit more to the install than for some things, but never mind.
When you start the software, you can choose a new project – in addition to photobooks they have a range of prints, calendars and more, but let’s stick to the books for now.
You can choose from a range of sizes, with a nice choice of covers, with various options affecting the price – the padded covers with optional gift boxes look like they might be just the thing for wedding albums, for instance.
I opted for a small, simple book – 19cm square with 26 pages, which with glossy pages came in at just below the value of my voucher, my idea being to treat this as a free sample and consider spending money if I liked the results.
Creating the book
The software tries to make the process quick and easy, and for some layouts and under some circumstances, this probably works nicely. You can select from a range of layouts, with varying numbers of images per page, sections for text, borders, and so on. I tried a couple of these but found that they didn’t quite work for me – images were cropped rather than scaled to fit the boxes, which led to some very odd results. Possibly with more time to play with the settings, I’d have had better results, but in the end I opted for a book of blank pages. It was then easy to drag and drop my selected photos on to the pages, position and scale them as I wanted and add captions. For smaller books, this is probably going to be quicker than tweaking the automated results of the fancier layouts, and is probably how I’d work with any future projects.
Once you’ve sorted out your layout, and chosen a cover image, you select any options and save the project. Placing an order is done within the software, and is a simple enough process. As I had a voucher code I didn’t have to supply payment details. I ordered my book last Saturday evening. The order was acknowledged by email almost immediately, and I was ready to wait for a week or so to get my book. I was moderately surprised to get a despatch notification on Monday morning, and the book was delivered from Germany yesterday.
Getting the book
It arrived nicely packaged – an outer cardboard container held the book which was wrapped in thin foam and a transparent plastic bag, all of which meant that it survived its journey in excellent condition.
And my first reaction on seeing the book? Well, sort of Ooooooh, with an added dash of My chosen cover shot looked better than I anticipated, in full-wrap form. Sort of like this, in fact:
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Though a photo of a photo doesn’t really do it justice.
Individual page spreads lie flat and the print quality is superb.
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The individual pages are heavy photo paper – this shouldn’t be confused with mass-production printing on normal book paper, what we have here is serious quality.
So yes, I’m impressed with the service, and even more impressed with the quality of the product. Provided you go for a manual layout, the software works well enough (and it’s no worse than others I’ve used in the past, so that’s not a criticism of Saal so much as the state of software in general).
The book I chose is one of the more expensive options – there are also soft cover versions (cheaper) and a spiral bound booklet option with a wider range of sizes and page counts – for instance an A4 sized booklet with 48 pages would cost a less painful £31.60.
As always with such things, it comes down to what you want – there are cheaper alternatives, but I’d have to rate Saal Digital highly for speed of delivery and the quality of the product.
They currently have a £15 welcome voucher offer for new customers, which might tempt more people to give them a try. Based on my experience, I’d say they’re well worth a look if you want to create a photobook.
I’ll also be considering some of their wall decor offers – it’s been a while since I got any large prints of my photos, and maybe this is a good time to try something new.