Saal Digital Photobook – :-D

A vivid blue peacock on Kauai unsuccessfully trying to impress a passing peahen.
A vivid blue peacock on Kauai unsuccessfully trying to impress a passing peahen.

|| Saal Digital was offering a promotional coupon for one of their professional grade photobooks in exchange for writing a review. This is that review, and I would also note that while Saal did ask for feedback, their requests were always inherently neutral. As someone who has self published on Amazon, I know how valuable an honest review is, so that ‘s what I’m giving here. (The picture in this post are all of the book itself, not the originals I sent in)

One color Black and White image of the Broadway Bridge in Portland, OR

Overall

The book is incredibly beautiful. Seriously. The cover is acrylic, the pages are nice and thick, and the colors are absolutely gorgeous. The deep blacks are indeed deep black, and darker, shadowy images readily came through too. It was stunning to hold and flip through so many of my pictures that I hadn’t printed yet, and have them look so good too! Indeed, as a deliverable to a client for a wedding, boudoir, or other shoot, it’s going to be a fantastic end product. I got the 8” x 8” book with 62 pages so, with the front cover, I was able to create a book with 63 images for the $150 credit I was given. I could have also created a 12” x 12” for that same amount, with just over half as many pictures, but I opted instead for quantity over size for my own image testing.

The afterburner of an F-4 Phantom II at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinville, OR, showing off the deep black of the print.

Pros

The ordering process was fairly simple, and their support folks are wonderful. They answered my questions quickly and professionally and, if you do have questions, their ticketing system includes all of your prior emails by date, so it’s super easy to keep everyone on the same page. As someone who’s day job involves making technology work for attorneys, this is the kind of little thing that I really appreciate. You will likely not need it, but if you do, they have your back.

I already talked about the quality, but it’s worth mentioning again. They advertise themselves as providing “high end photobooks” and they really do deliver that. While my own photography right now can’t really support using them regularly, when I do start doing portraiture this will likely be my go to end product.

To order you have a choice of either downloading their custom software or sending them a PDF with specific parameters. Their website offers extensive instructions for both, and any photographer already navigating digital photography would have no trouble using them. It’s easy to add and subtract pages, and formatting your pages are as easy as simple dragging the photo you want over to the template and placing it where you want it to be. It’s the same kind WYSIWG system I’ve seen on other photo sites, so it should be familiar to other photographers as well. It also includes resolution warnings, and let’s you see the pages you’ve already built along the bottom.

Putting the “Gold” in Golden Hour, leaves and branches from a glorious sunset in Eugene, OR

Proviso

As you can see in the photo I took of the cover, there is a fairly noticeable scratch in the acrylic, along several other fainter ones too. I firmly believe this is likely an anomaly though, and am not docking any points from my review for it. In fact, I did not even reach out to Saal about it since this was, after all, free to me and everything I could possibly need from it I have. I have no doubt based on the replies that I got from Saal with my other questions that if I had formally complained about, if I was giving it to a client for example, they would be very forthcoming in making it right. Since I’m not in that position, it’s not something that I feel would be right in pursuing.

I deliberately over-enhanced the contrast in this pic to show the scratches. (The image itself is a contrail high above a passing hawk in Tres Pinos, CA)

Cons

The only con for me is, in full honesty, likely only an issue for me and like three other people. Since the only way to submit photos is through either Saal’s application or using Adobe Acrobat Pro, I had to borrow a friend’s Windows laptop since I run Linux. Indeed, my entire workflow is all FOSS programs, including Darktable and GIMP, so I was unable to use upload my images using my hardware. That being said, while it would be nice to have an option that doesn’t require either running a Mac or Windows, I fully recognize my choice in software is, indeed my choice– For good, for bad, and for inconvenient. Since Saal is deliberately courting professional photographers, I understand their choices too, and I can’t say as that I blame them.

A lonely jetliner passing by a crescent moon over Oakland, CA

Conclusion

The books is gorgeous. It ain’t cheap, but it really does feel like you’re getting your value out of it too because of both the quality of the prints and its materials. Yes, mine came with a scratch, but I have no reason to think it would ever be a problem again or that they wouldn’t take care of it if I had asked. And, finally, while their software is easy to use, it would be nice if it was accessible from other platforms.

So, again, if you’re a pro looking for a great deliverable, and your client can afford one, it’s absolutely worth it.

A lone duck, cruising along a lake in Eugene, OR

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