Monday 22 August 2016

Sponsored review of Saal Digital photobook and software

In short: I got an offer for a massive discount on a photobook if I wrote an honest review for Liked the software and simplicity of understanding what I would get for what price, order and delivery process was good and the end product was good too. So all in all, a great experience and I will definitely be using them again when I am looking to print some of my photos to book.

In long: Who would turn down an offer of a free (or at least greatly reduced) photobook in exchange for posting an online review? – Exactly. So here are my experiences from using the Saal Photobook software all the way to creating a photobook for a first time.
Overall the software is easy to understand and mostly intuitive (though some words which seem to have been poorly translated from the German original). There are some nice layout pre-sets which can be individually customised (though more would be nice – also an option to import only part of the layout onto one of the two pages would be a great improvement). The menu structure which helps you choose what photobook you want to create is well done and it is very up front about the cost of each individual customisable item. Great attention to detail can start at the very beginning of the project and gives the feeling of a very solid effort at putting the customer first! Though I mainly do landscape photography, I went for creating a wedding album, having recently been given a very poor attempt at one, wanting to prove that better can be done – I also thought being able to see both landscape and people in a combination with pictures which were not all taken by me would give me a chance to better evaluate the quality and see any potential differences in the final product as well.
I really enjoyed using the software and found that even some more advanced requests (re-shaping, changing angles and colouring of frames, ornaments or background was intuitive), however there are also some critical points I have to raise. My source folder with the photographs which I had gathered for the pictures was not small (about 600 pictures) and the software seemed to struggle a bit to display all the pictures – especially when scrolling down through them. Even though there are sorting options, the software was not always accurate as to which photos were already in the photobook (also I would have appreciated being able to move a picture to another page without having to find it in my folder and re-import it again). Trying to do some more advanced things (image rotation within the matrix, only wanting to import one page of the pre-set mask) did not work out as desired and saving a painstakingly created pre-set mask only worked till I closed the program – though that might have also been due my inability to fully understand how the software works, it was not intuitive. Finally, a bear bug of mine is the generally fairly limited choice of fonts in photobook software. I am guessing this is for reasons to do with the printing process. There are a fair few fonts to choose from, however for my project I still struggled to find one which I felt fitted perfectly (you can activate additional computer fonts but that comes with a warning about loss of quality which I was not wanting to risk).
Having completed the photobook it was time to order and again the process was pleasantly easy to navigate – and even though I had quite a poor and slow internet connection from rural France where I was at the time, it was surprisingly fast to upload my completed photobook and receive my order confirmation. At this point I have to raise another point of criticism in that one can only have a completed photobook delivered to Germany or the UK – so if I want to send it to friends anywhere else, even within Europe, I would first have to have it sent to one of those two countries before forwarding it on. I would guess that possibly contacting Saal directly once ordered one may be able to change that, however it is something I would expect a good photobook software to do at the order screen stage automatically. As a result I am writing the first part of this review, looking out at the sunshine of Brittany, having to wait for my return to the UK to see and evaluate the finished product when I get back to Sunny Scotland …..

… Back home now I can report that the album print and delivery was good. The book arrived well protected and within the specified (and quite quick) timeframe promised when I ordered. So now for the most important part: the finished product. I went for a glossy photobook in A4 landscape (28x19) which has a special binding so that you can open the book flat (thus you can put a full picture onto a double page without losing half of the image in the shadow of the spine. Extra bonus points also need to be given for the possibility of having an “unbranded” book printed (i.e. you can remove the barcode for a little extra cost – but something that is not always an option).
The finished product is nice. The quality of the book feels good and the overall appearance is good too. I really quite like it and the people who I showed it to, were very impressed by how it looked and the quality of the images.
This however would not be me without some critical remarks as well (this was me looking very closely, trying to find something to fault…) Some of the images appear different in terms of their colour reproduction and sharpness compared to what the finished product looked like on my 4k computer monitor – even though I had taken care to try and avoid this when creating the album (remember - not all pictures were taken by the same people and thus camera settings and image quality was not consistent). I don’t know if anything was done to enhance the images after ordering as is sometimes the case. I also find the feature of being able to open the book flat (and have an image spread across both pages very nice, however one needs to bear in mind that it still leaves a visual fold in the centre of the page – slightly off centre if you are not exactly at the half way point of the book. As a result, some page elements wrongly may appear to have been misaligned.
My very precise and critical picking apart of the software and photobook took quite a while longer than the process usually would but I feel that in order to be true to me a close and critical look was necessary. Those who know me well, know that I can be extremely critical and detailed about these kind of things. This should however in no way detract from the very good and appealing product that Saal have. In fact I am in the process of ordering two additional copies of the photobook that I made. If you would like to judge a completed book for yourself, feel free to have a look at my photobook via the following link: Photobook link (a great feature to allow you to share your photobook with others but be aware that this link only works for a limited amount of time) or try out one of their offers with your own pictures. I am sure you will like it, and – just like me – plan on coming back for more in the future.

Interested to find out more? Go to their website at Alternatively go to “” (on Facebook) @saal_digital (Instagram) or #saaldigital (Twitter) and try it out for yourself.

Saturday 28 February 2015

Cervinia 2015

Skiing, at long last some skiing again. Of course I could not resist to take my camera with me and stop to take some pictures. However I did have my real camera and tripod with me as well. Here are some of the pictures I took, more can be found in my Cervinia 2015 album.


 The mountain at night.

This was taken from the other side - Zermatt. Think Toblerone...

And finally, 50 additional points for whoever can guess where this picture was taken (and what it is)...

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Traveling Scotland

Sunrise over Loch Lomond
Thanks to a visit from my brother and sister I had an excuse to go and explore some more of Scotland. After the, in the mean time almost obligatory, stay at the Oak Tree Inn we drove past Kilchurn Castle and Glencoe to the island of Mull. Here we stayed at a cottage in the middle of nowhere for a few days.
Sunset at the beach in Calgary, Mull
The secluded tranquillity of the location (and resulting reduced light pollution), together with two clear nights, gave an absolutely spectacular view of the stars and the milky way. The journey back included a detour via the Glenfinnan Viaduct and a stop for some tasty pub grub in Pitlochry. Unsurprisingly, my camera and tripod were along for the trip as well... (click here to see the full album)
The night sky from in front of our cottage (Aird Cottage)

Saturday 4 October 2014

Fireworks over St Andrews

Well, so far I have missed the fireworks display of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship which takes places in St Andrews once a year. This time I managed (a nice little break from essay writing), however I decided that instead of going to the golf course from where they were being launched, I would try and capture town with the fireworks from up on the costal path leading away from east sands. It turns out, it was actually worth the hike....

You can see all the pictures I took on the night (or at least the ones which turned out ok) here: St Andrews at night

Monday 15 September 2014

Sailing on the Tay

A fantastic Sunday afternoon of sailing on the river Tay. Follow the link to my album: Sailing on the Tay 2014 for more pictures.


Monday 1 September 2014

China 2014

Now then. A little two week trip to Shanghai - yes please. Thank you very much to the Shanghai Open University for organising the 2014 International Student Exchange Program. It was an absolutely unforgettable experience. There are hundreds (well actually thousands) of pictures. These are just a little taster. A more detailed selection of mine can be found here: China 2014

Friday 11 July 2014

Sunset in St Andrews

Time for a few more pictures. These are from the famous pier with the sun setting over St Andrews.

On my way back home, I just had to stop to take this one of St Salvator’s Chapel.

Finally, this was a few days later. Now at first glance the picture is completely unremarkable. This however is a weather phenomena known as noctilucent clouds. Looking through the kitchen window, I saw some really bright clouds in the sky. It was fairly dark outside and these clouds somehow looked strange in contrast. So I decided to take a "snap shot" before going to off bed. Truth be told, I forgot about the pictures on my camera till I was reading an article on the news a few days later explaining that these clouds had been happening. Next time I guess I will have to go out for some proper pictures...

Sunday 2 March 2014

Aurora Borealis

Ok, well there also was a reason for me blogging again. In fact, it is for one of the main reasons I had started it in the first place – pictures. These long exposure shots of the Aurora Borealis were taken on the evening of the 27th of February 2014 from the end of the pier in St Andrews, Scotland. (Click on the images to view them in full size)


Time for an update...

So apparently I took some time out. Graduated from St Andrews and am now in the process of finishing the last module so that I can also get my MBA from the Open University. Good that the internet never forgets anything, so I will just continue the blog from here (but won't make any promises as to how frequently...).

Friday 24 September 2010

St Andrean

Exactly 600 years after the founding of the University of St Andrews (the university charter was first granted in 1413) I have become an official St Andrian and as a postgraduate student also a member of St Leonard's College.