I was recently asked by Saal-digital.co.uk if I would like to create a free photobook in return for writing a product review. I have only ever used Blurb.co.uk for photo books in the past and, as they came highly recommended and I was more than satisfied with the result, I have never ventured elsewhere. An opportunity to test out another company for free couldn’t be refused.
Saal produce a variety of photo-based items, including greetings cards, calendars, wall art and printed gifts alongside a wide range of photobooks in modern and traditional finishes. Gift boxes are also available, so creating a wedding album or keepsake for a special occasion, can be nicely packaged and protected.
Having just returned from a photo trip to Japan, I thought this would be a lovely theme for the project, so I downloaded the free software from the website and set about selecting the images I wished to include. Grouping everything in one folder in advance made it easier to navigate to and select from once working in the software.
As a purchaser, I decided there were 5 key areas I needed to look at:
- Product range
- Ease of use
Download the free software
First you must download the free software form the website http://www.saal-digital.co.uk. On opening, you are presented with a welcome page that immediately offers you a £15 welcome discount for your first photobook, subject to a minimum spend of £24.95, (plus P&P).
Once the Photobook option is selected, you are clearly advised of the current delivery times, as well as a range of styles and finishes. I opted for the 28 x 19cm A4 hardcover book with 30 pages and gloss finish. The usual cost of this would be £39.95 + P&P. It is easy to add or delete pages as you go, but remember that this alters the price, so don’t get carried away! Once the basic selections are made, just hit the ‘Design’ button and you are ready to get started.
A wizard opens and allows you to select from four different templates but, as these are customisable as you go, it doesn’t entirely matter which you select. I chose to ‘fill the article with empty layouts’ and then opted for Layouts (Simple). There are numerous possibilities, so just select what suits your needs.
The software gives you a complete control over your album, with a folder navigator to the left for image selection, and page layout options to the right. There are also built-in tools for enhancing, cropping and resizing images but, as I had already prepared my images in advance, I didn't have a need to test these out.
Creating the book is a simple matter of dragging and dropping images into each page to populate the album. Surplus windows can be deleted, and windows can be resized by dragging on the arrows. Text boxes can also be completed or deleted as required.
The only minor problem I encountered was when I left the wizard idle for a while and, on return, I had the following error message:
Not being sure of what the problem was, I clicked on Help and was directed to a web page in German and couldn’t find a language selector to change it to English. I think the page had simply been left unattended for too long, and clicking OK took me back to where I was. I was a little concerned though, that something had gone wrong and that my work may be lost.
Make your purchase
Once you are happy with your design, you simply ‘Add to shopping cart”.
A great feature here is that you will be warned of any empty image or text boxes, as you don’t want to leave a rogue ‘enter text here’ or blank page that you failed to notice when you were busy being creative!
Once the item is paid for, you will be emailed an order confirmation with links to current delivery times and delivery status, as well as online and telephone support details should you need them.
You are also emailed a link to your project, so that you can share this with your clients or friends and family, and a link you can embed in your blog or share on social media. Access remains active for approximately 60 days for both viewing and purchase of further copies.
Delivery of my book took six days, and the item arrived well packaged and protected in sealed plastic, polystyrene padding and a cardboard outer envelope. The item needs to be signed for, so keep an eye on the delivery status to be sure someone is available to take possession.
I have to say that I am very pleased with the finished product, and will be likely to make further use of the service in the future and would be happy to recommend the service to others. The quality of the printing and paper are excellent, and the item feels quite robust. The paper is strong and durable, and the colours are accurate and well saturated. The only small note I would have is the finished size - the book is 28cm x 19cm (as listed), but the 'A4 Landscape Format' is slightly misleading, as the quoted sizes are less than A4, which is 29.7cm x 21cm.