Creating a Photo Book with Saal Digital

I have recently been given the opportunity to try Saal Digital’s Professional Line Photo Books. Saal Digital are a professional printing company based in Germany. They specialise in photo books, fine art prints, greeting cards, calendars, wall decor and photo gifts. The professional line photo book is Saal’s premium photo book. The book is marketed as hand made and having a certain WOW factor. Saal provided me with a £100 voucher so I could make the photo book and see for myself how good Saal photo books really are. Read on to find out how I designed the book and help you decide if you should make one too!

Designing My Photo Book

My fist step in the process of making my book was to download the Saal photo book software and install it onto my computer. The design software is available for both Mac and PC so it is just a case of selecting the one to suits your computers operating system. The installation process is straight forward and within a few minutes I was ready to start creating my book.

There are a range of design options to choose from however I decided to create a 30cm x 21cm Professional Line photo book with acrylic cover and black leather rear cover. For a premium feel I chose to upgrade the paper type to “high end print matte”. I also added 44 pages to my book to maximise the £100 voucher value.

I upgraded the paper type to high end print matte paper. This choice of paper is perfect for my woodland images as it helps them to resemble a painterly look. The paper is also quite thick ensuring no print bleed between pages.

Preparing Images

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Ive encountered problems in the past where printed images bear little resemblance to how they were processed on my computer. Saal has an in depth guide on their website dedicated to colour management. There are also guides on how to use ICC Profiles and soft proofing images before printing. One thing to note is professional colour management on a high end level is not possible without a calibrated monitor. There are several calibration devices worth considering including the Datacolor SpyderX Pro which is designed for serious Photographers and Designers.

A calibrated monitor coupled with soft proofing is the best way to ensure the brightness, colour, contrast and tone are printed to resemble the way images have been processed. Saal Digital have ICC profiles available on their website for a range of media and paper types.

Post Processing

Saal’s design software does include a built in image enhancement function. The tool automatically adjusts an images brightness and contrast etc. Saal do not recommended the enhancement tool for anyone who has already post processed their images or for any images that are part of a collage. As I had already post processed my images in Lightroom to achieve the look and feel that I wanted I did not use this function. I did install the ICC profiles for the paper I had chosen and tweaked my images further using soft proofing tools before exporting the images from my Lightroom catalog. (Soft proofing allows you to simulate on your screen how an image will print on the given paper type)

Bring out your creativity by designing image layouts and page designs manually. Saal’s design software also has several ready made templates to choose from which are easily customised.

Exporting Images

Before you export your images from your post processing software my advise is to check for dust spots. There is nothing worse than spending a fair chunk of money on a print to find a huge dust spot! Remember dust spots are not always immediately noticeable on a small screen so make sure you zoom in to at least 100% as you review an image. Its also very important to ensure you export your photographs full size and at maximum Quality!

Double page spreads are a perfect way to showcase panoramic images.

Saal’s Design Software

As far as the book layout goes Saal’s design software is intuitive and fairly quick and easy to learn. At first I found things to be a bit hit and miss. However as with most things, the more you do it the easier it becomes.

There are several pre made page layouts to choose from and also an option to use Saal’s auto layout function. The auto layout function allows you to select a pre defined page template and drag images into the books layout. The auto layout function is turned on and off on a per page bases. This allows you the option to be creative and make something unique. I found the best option for me was to use a combination of automatic and manual page layouts.

I chose to write an introductory paragraph on the 2nd page of my book. This allows the reader to gain an understanding of my photo book’s subject and also why I have chosen the collection of images.

I decided not to print any images on the inside covers of my Saal photo book. I also only printed text on page 2 as I wanted to write an introduction to the book. Saal’s design software lets you do pretty much anything you can think of in terms of creating a good design and provides flexibility to really create something unique. One thing to note is If you do leave empty pages you will get a warning before ordering the book stating you have spaces unfilled.

The lay flat binding ensures images can cross the books gutter without impacting on the viewing experience.

Placing the order

Having checked my completed design for spelling mistakes and conducting a final check for dust spots it was time to place the order. The book can be ordered from within the design software which is a nice touch. The checkout process is very easy to follow and my order complete within a matter of minutes. The longest part of placing the order is uploading the images to Saal’s systems. The upload time is dependant on your internet connection speed and the size of the images being used. The whole process is automated and seamless meaning there is little to no chance of getting it wrong. Almost immediately after the upload completed I received an email from Saal confirming my order along with an estimated delivery date.

Printing and Shipping

Remarkably my handmade book was printed within 48 hours of placing my order! Thats a lot quicker than I had expected and Saal were well on target to meet their estimated delivery date. As the book was printed in Germany I expected the package to be held up in customs. After all I had read loads of horror stories about delays from Europe following Brexit. Luckily there were no delays and the tracking number provided reported the book to be at the couriers final delivery depot within the UK. I began to get excited and even thought the book may arrive early. No such luck! My book remained in the final delivery depot for 5 days before finally being despatched for delivery to my door. Having said that the Saal photo book did arrive on the delivery date I was provided, so I can’t complain.

Just as you would expect with a premium product, protective packaging ensured a damage free delivery with the book being well packed and wrapped.

The professional line acrylic cover is thicker than I expected and is a great feature for a unique front cover. Most people comment how the acrylic cover and leather back really give the book an elegant and premium look

The WOW Factor!

Full of excitement I removed my book from within the packaging to reveal the stunning beauty of the acrylic cover. I had never seen a book with an acrylic cover before so I was a little unsure of what to expect. I love how the cover is different and gives the book a special feel.

“The top-quality Photo Book with a certain wow factor”

Saal photo Book Quality

Saal’s professional line phonebook is very impressive. The premium price tag is equally matched by the handcrafted premium quality of the books materials and workmanship. The print quality is near perfect with only a couple of minor imperfections that most readers would not even notice. It’s nothing to worry about and definitely not something I feel I need to complain about. I am probably just being a little bit picky. I feel the upgraded paper choice has helped to achieve the elegant and painterly way images are displayed.

The black leather cover compliments the acrylic cover to give a stylish and elegant finish.

The books pages have a similar thickness to card. As you turn the pages it is easy to think you are turning more than one page at a time. however soon realise it’s just the thickness of the premium pages and you are in fact only turning a single page. Due to the thickness of the paper I don’t expect them to rip however as they are thick I am unsure if they will begin to curl over time.

Ive not had the book long enough to comment on its durability. My book looks to be made of premium and good quality materials. I believe my book will last a number of years as long as it is not ill handled or mistreated. The only doubt I have with the acrylic cover is how easily it may scratch over time.

Photo books are a perfect way to showcase a portfolio of work. The tangible nature of holding your own book and flicking through the pages is a special feeling that is hard to describe. Only those who decide to make a book will understand.

Final Thoughts

Saal’s professional line photo book by far exceeded my expectations. The high end premium quality photo book is perfect to display images from a special occasion or to present images as part of a professional portfolio. The professional line book however does come with a premium price tag.

My book is Saal Digitals 30cm x 21cm professional line photo book with 44 pages of the upgraded high end matte paper, acrylic front cover and black leather rear cover. The full price of the book is £99.34 plus £7.99 for postage.

As with most people I am always looking for a deal. Saal do regularly have attractive offers so if you are considering creating a Saal photo book be sure to check out Saal’s website for current deals. It’s also worth joining their mailing list to have offers sent directly to your email inbox.

I have no hesitation in recommending Saal Digital and expect I will use them myself again in the future.

The images featured within this review are available to order as prints in various sizes. Check out my print shop or contact me to discuss your requirements.

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