Review: Saal Digital Professional Line Photobook

Photography
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I recently designed my first ever photo book and I have to say I am surprised with the outcome. It’s great to see my photos printed on a high-quality material of a photobook. Saal-Digital ran a promotion on Instagram to get a voucher to design a photo book and give them feedback about their product. The voucher had a value of $150 USD and was good for any of their Professional Line Photobooks. All the opinions expressed in this post are my own and are not influenced by Saal-Digital or anyone else. This is my honest review of my experience designing the photo book and the final product itself.

I was pleasantly surprised when I received the email with the confirmation that I got selected for the product code. At the same time, I was a bit overwhelmed as well, as I never designed a photo book and I didn’t even have an idea in which way I wanted to go with the book. After a little bit of brainstorming, I wanted to create a photo book about my railroad pictures.

About Saal Digital

Saal Digital Logo (courtesy of Saal Digital)

Saal Digital is headquartered in Germany and has offices/local branches in many places around the world including one in the United States. Saal Digital specializes in high-quality photo products, including photo books and photo gifts. Their US-branch is based in Vienna, VA.

Selecting the Pictures

One of the most important things is to select the pictures you want to have in your photo book. This will also determine how many pages you might need or if you have to put multiple photos on one page. I ended up with quite a few pictures but not all of them made it into my book.

Designing the Photo Book

Now it was finally time to design my photo book, but how? I knew from the beginning that the main focus would be on the photos itself and I didn’t want to add much text or other decorative items. The text on each image will be just the location where the photo was taken and that’s it. That was my basic idea, now I had to put that idea onto paper, well actually into a digital file so that Saal-Digital can print the book. There are two ways to design the photo book.

ICC Profiles

You can download the required ICC profiles directly from Saal-Digital’s website which can be used in may photo editing programs like Adobe Photoshop and InDesign.

Saal Design Software

However, the easiest and most convenient way for most people will be to use their free software. You can download it as well from their website and is available for Windows and macOS.

Overall the software is very easy and intuitive to use for the most part. I would suggest you create a test project and just play with the different design options and get a feel for the software. 

Saal offers a lot of tutorial videos on how to use the software and design photo books and all the other products they offer, like cards, wall decors, and posters. It’s worth checking out the tutorials to get a better idea. I did and it helped me out tremendously.

When starting the design software, you will see an overview of the products.

Once you select a product you get to see the different types/sizes offered for this product.

There are so many ways you can design your photo book with this software. It offers automatic and semi-automatic modes to create your book or you go all manual and have full control over the design as I did. After watching a few of the tutorial videos, using the software was easy peasy. You can save your project at any time and continue designing whenever you are ready for it again. To open your saved progress, click on Projects at the very top of the design software the next time you start it.

Ways of designing your photo book

Professional Line Photobook

The Professional Line Photobook, which I was testing,  comes in different sizes: 8×8, 12×8, 8×12, 12×12, and 16×12. Besides the size, you have multiple design options.

I especially love the 5mm thick acrylic glass cover which can show one of your photos or you replace it with a leather-linen combination and save some money. Unfortunately neither the back or spine of the book can be used to put photos or text. A great feature is the lay-flat binding. This means that if you print one photo over two pages, the book will be flat and you won’t see the gutter. 

Professional Line Photobook

With the professional line photo books, you can have a maximum of 130 pages except for the 16×12 which gives you a maximum of 100 pages. You also won’t find any kind of branding anywhere on the photobook – no barcode or something like a manufacturer logo.

Select the amount of pages

Finalizing the Photo Book Design and Ordering

Once, I was happy enough with my designed photo book to be printed, I went to the next steps of actually placing the order. During this process, the software checked for eventual issues that could happen during the print based on the layout of the photo book. I got a bunch of error messages. These messages were all related to the text I placed at one of the corners of each image. I had the option to ignore the errors and send the project for print either way or have the software correct the issues. When I let the software fix the issue, nothing changed which I could see. I contacted the support via email to get some more information. The response time was pretty quick and my issue was in relation to the text box. The box itself had to be bigger than I had it for my font size. This is to ensure that all kinds of formatting would fit. However, why show me this message, if I don’t use any special formatting of the text. Either way, it was an easy solution. I just had the software apply the fixes and I double-checked every page of the book before sending it out.

Some errors were shown on the right side.

Ordering the Photo Book

Now it was time to actually get my design out to Saal Digital so they can print it. The first step was paying for the photo book. With my design and the 46 pages of my book, the price for the Professional Line Photobook was $152,49. Thanks to the awesome offer of Saal to try out their photobook, I only had to pay $2,49 after applying my voucher during the checkout process. The whole check out process is like at every other shopping website you probably use. The only negative aspect during the checkout process was for me that they only accept Paypal as a payment provider. Of course, Paypal is very convenient and you can use your bank account or credit card to pay for the photo book. It was just a minor issue, which added an extra step to verify the purchase through Paypal’s website. By the way, express shipping was for free even without my coupon.

Checkout Process

From there on everything went smoothly. It took a few minutes to upload all my images to their servers and I received another message that my order was successfully transmitted. That’s it. My order was submitted and now it was time to wait.

Uploading the images and submitting the order.

After my order was successfully submitted, I also received a confirmation email with my order number. You can check the progress of your order at any time at their online order management tool. All you need is your email and the order number.

The finished Product

Only a few days later a package showed up and it was my awaited photo book. The book was packed in a cardboard box just a little bit bigger than the book itself. Therefore not a lot of waste material which is great for the environment. Once I opened the cardboard package, the book was in another pouch for additional protection. I opened everything carefully and there it was – my first ever photo book.

Unpacking the Photo Book

Already by touching the cover, I felt the quality of the book. I was super happy with the acrylic glass front cover. This gives the book just the extra touch to make it feel and look special. Be aware there is another small protective film over the acrylic glass cover. Make sure to peel it off as well. All the edges of the cover were smooth and no cutting issues. 

Saal Digital Professional Line Photobook

The lay-flat design of the book makes it pure joy when you print a picture over two pages. It’s an almost seamless picture and you need to look closely to see where the pages meet. I printed quite a few photos of mine over two pages. It just gives them the extra pop and is different from just the regular photo sizes you are used to. But that all is up to you and you can design the book completely the way you want it. The glossy photo paper gives every page a great look and feel. The pages are thick which gives it a high-quality feel when you touch them. 

Lay-Flat Design is perfect to show pictures over the span of two pages.

I also checked the book for any damages during printing or shipping, but everything was in perfect condition. The only thing I can think of which I am missing is printing at least some text on the spine. Imagine you are printing a book of all of your vacation trips you take every year. Once the book sits on the shelf, do you know which one is what? it would be nice if there would be an option to add at least some form of text.

Conclusion

Overall I am very satisfied with the photo book and this showed me that showcasing my photos on a physical form like paper is way different than just uploading the images to websites like my blog or Flickr. If you are looking for a great photo book in terms of quality and ease of creating one, Saal Digital got you covered. I think if you know how to use a computer and can navigate the web, you should be able to use Saal’s Design Software to create your book. Watch some of their tutorial videos to get a better understanding of how things work and what you can do with the software.

Saal Digital Professional Line Photobook

Disclosure

As mentioned multiple times throughout the post, I received a voucher from Saal Digital worth $150 which I could apply to any of their Professional Line Photobooks. However, all the opinions in this post are my own and were not influenced by Saal Digital or any other company or person. Also bear in mind, this is the first photo book I ever created and therefore I have no direct comparison to other services out there. I am very happy with the product and service I received from Saal Digital and can highly recommend them.

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