So, I designed and created a 30×30 photobook using Saal Digital’s downloadable creation tool and a bunch of my own pictures. In truth i was wary of quite how this might turn out, having been forced to use some older pictures from the ancient Canon 350d and equally archaic Medion X44088 MD 86888 as my Olympus camera is still nowhere to be seen several weeks after ordering (thank you Currys, and especially UPS for losing it!) a new one.
Designing was reasonably simple, as there were offers to build the thing intuitively by just importing your pictures to the interface and allowing it to do it for you, as well as fully customisable options so as to add and create to suit your own needs. There were a few glitches along the way, and I found that often when editing myself the interface would switch images so that the layouts were not as I wanted them, and required adjustment.
The images themselves are well produced, apart from one, the only portrait which I’d included, which was far too dark and was pretty much useless. The plates feel premium, rather than cheap, which in truth for a photobook costing £100 they absolutely should do! The editor for the design seemed to be trying to push me to use gatefold images (crossing the two pages) and so trusting this I took a couple of chances with somewhat mixed results.
Because of the glossy pages, unless you’re in constant light it’s actually quite hard to display a picture in gatefold without the light interfering with the viewing, which as you can see on the hooded crow picture, renders it almost 3D but with huge loss of colouration on the left side. This is not due to the image quality at all, purely the nature of the face of the page.
Colour representation though on the starling was fantastic, looking exactly as desired. Contrastingly though San Francisco’s famous bridge seems to just not look right at all. Perhaps the vibrancy of the first picture makes the latter struggle. Either way it was a little disappointing.
There was quite a lot to like about the process though. The ability to change the background from white to black meant that photographs transitioned nicely from one to another, hiding the fold n the centre nicely. I’m still not sure I’d recommend gatefold pictures though, but as you can see, the robin worked well.
Is it worth £100? I guess that’s subjective. You can produce something similar from Google’s photos own designer at a fraction of the price, but I’d not expect it to be at this level of quality. The same too in most print shops in town if you go in armed with your SD card. However, the plethora of options and the binding (my invoice claims the binding constituted 50% of the retail value!) again will not be of this standard. As someone who’s photographed many things I’d have no problem using Saal to produce something I’d then be good with giving to a customer. However, I’m not sure I’d make much of a profit from it! I’m not comfortable with the pricetag, and would suggest its true value being something closer to 20%-30% off, however… this is a German company, and after having seen how expensive things are while living in Holland for several years I would have no problem imagining that the price there would be of the same ilk.
Sadly, this whole experience was ruined by Saal’s inability to actually get this product to me. Having incorrectly addressed the product the first time, and subsequently having to reproduce it back in Germany while the original resides who knows where, they subsequently incorrectly addressed it again. Does this detract from the quality of the product? Of course not, but if like me, you took time off your day job to collect a parcel which didn’t arrive, while also promising to exhibit this as a precursor to a wedding photography job booking.. I think you can see where an issue might occur. Add onto that two emails asking me quite why I’d not written this review yet for a product which I literally hadn’t had in my hands to view myself, let alone write about, and it’s safe to say that the customer experience is not something I would like to go through again.
The photobook IS a decent thing. Made well, looks like it will stand the test of time, and will display your work well. The portrait glitch was annoying, the gatefold pics were a little hit and miss, and the customer experience… is obviously something that is not likely to be happening to everyone. Saal regularly have discount vouchers on their products, and with those applied I do think that the products are viable, for a gift, or for someone like myself producing things to then use as part of a portfolio or to sell on as part of a service, used to aid the production of photographs to the consumer. Assuming your experience will not be the same as mine, they come with my recommendation.