I love a good photobook! There’s something much nicer about having images in your hands than on a screen and making a photobook is a great way to ensure you’ll look back at your images again and again. So I’m always on the look out for good photobook manufacturers and recently took up an offer from new market entrant Saal Digital to try their new book software and service.
Here I’m reviewing the software and process of creating my photobook and when the book itself arrives I’ll review that separately.
There are 2 types of photobook software, those that are totally online and those where you download the software onto your machine. Saal has a downloadable software and it’s really nice to use.
I particularly like the fact that there’s no image uploading as the software connects to your folder structure and you select your images direct from there. I hate uploading my images to an online book provider because I don’t like the idea that they just stay there on someone else’s server when I’m done. This way I keep control of my images and I don’t create duplicates – perfect! Plus it’s as simple as dragging and dropping your images out of the folders into the layouts – it’s great, fast and reliable.
Layout wise there are plenty of pre-set options to choose from. I generally stick with simple monochrome backgrounds but there are also a lot of jazzier and themed backgrounds that I think would be great if you were making a holiday album or a gift for granny. For professionals looking for a classy, timeless look though one very nice feature is that you can use an eyedropper to select a colour from an image and set it as the background colour or as a text colour. I really like this as it enables you to blend your image into the background and to ensure that your text goes perfectly with the image. It’s not a feature I’m found on other book software I’ve tried (whether it was there but not obvious I don’t know).
While preset layouts are a good place to start, the software also offers you plenty of options to customise image frames by setting size and location, which is great and as far as I’m concerned an essential part of creating a book. Guides are provided to help you align images and you can add text, stack images together and set an image as a page background, which works very nicely as shown below.
One of Saal’s selling points is the ‘lie flat’ nature of their books which allows them to work well with double page spreads and panoramas. I’m reserving judgment on this for when my book arrives but I have deliberately set some images over the centre gutter to see just how flat they go.
During my trial I did contact Saal customer support as I’d found one bug in the software and had a couple of questions about how to do things – one on page gutters and one on how to lock aspect ratio. I got a response within 24 hours and the bug was fixed at the next update which is pretty impressive. So their customer service also gets the thumbs up from me.
One additional features for pros and enthusiasts is that they provide icc profiles for soft proofing which most mainstream services don’t. Using the icc profile with Adobe Lightroom to check how the colour on my images will look when printed, I saw that the glossy paper they’re using is slightly on the cool side but the colours otherwise appear pretty true. I’ve slightly warmed my images to compensate so when the book arrives we’ll see if that worked. Note – I calibrate my monitor using a Datacolour Spyder and I know it’s pretty accurate as I print at home using custom icc profiles for my Canon printer.
I can’t really find anything wrong with this software to be frank. A Lightroom plugin would be nice, so you can just drag photos in from Lightroom without needing to export them to JPEGs (when they’re shot in RAW) but Photoshop and InDesign plugins are available and the professional zone on the Saal website has everything you need to design your book and then upload the whole thing directly if that’s what you want to do.
So – all in all a big thumbs up! I’m excited to get my design finished and ordered so I can review the book itself!