Earlier in the summer, I saw an advert on Instagram from Saal Digital UK. If you applied to them they were offering £100 off a 'professional line' photo book in exchange for an honest review of the product. I'd never heard of them (they're actually a German print house) but thought it was worth a punt because I hardly ever get any of my photographs printed and I thought it would be nice to photobook of my ‘Formula 1’ experience with the photo’s I had taken.
So, here is the honest review. First up, there are plenty of options on sizes, number of pages and cover finishes, so it's unlikely you'll not find one to suit. I chose a 30 x 21cm book with a Acrylic + Leather cover effect - it has a nice solid feel to it and however I’m not sure I would chose it again for a book but maybe as a single print on Acrylic. You can have text in various fonts on the outside, but not a graphic image - so no company logos, which is a shame if you are a professional with a logo wanting a portfolio book. There is no Saal branding or barcode on the professional line book however, which was nice. You can get the book in a very posh display box (great for weddings/babies I guess) but I didn't tick that option as it adds quite a bit to the price.
Inside, you can choose glossy or lustre paper. I saw another review that featured glossy paper and the colours really did pop, but I don't care for reflections and went for lustre. Happy with that choice. The pages are very thick and fold flat, allowing full width images to span the entire book - great for panoramas.
Despite choosing lustre paper, the colours are nicely saturated, have true blacks and the paper really allows details to come through. The colours in Imogen's tutu and extreme close up of Dougal's the Sproodle's nose both looked great. There were no dodgy printing artefacts - print quality was excellent as you'd hope it would be in a professional line product.
You download the design software and it can run remotely on your computer - though obviously you do need to be hooked up to the internet when you submit your order and upload photos. The software is pretty intuitive and there are a lot of options for backgrounds, text, framing, drop shadows etc. You can have full bleed images. You can snap to a grid to position images, which is good - but there's no auto guidance for symmetry like you get in Photoshop, which was a real shame and would be a very worthwhile addition. I'd take that over the hundreds of horrendous clip art images on offer that no professional in their right mind would ever use. All in all though, I found the software pretty good - certainly better than I expected it to be and I really enjoyed putting my book together.
Shipping was free on my order - which was good because it comes from Germany and my book was quite a weight. The quoted turnaround was around 10 days from memory - but I'm pleased to say it came in within that time. It was well packaged and didn't suffer any trauma in transit.
All in all, with just the few caveats mentioned above, I have to say that I'm really pleased with my book and I'm going to enjoy revisiting the photos in years to come. It certainly does look and feel a professional product. Getting £100 off the price made this a no brainer. These kind of photo books are not cheap, so if I were to repeat the experience without the financial incentive, it would have to be for a very special reason - but if I did have that reason, I wouldn't hesitate in doing it again.