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Saal Digital A3 Book Review

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Here’s a follow up to my earlier review of Saal Digital’s Photobook.

Once the book arrived, I immediately regretted that I hadn’t ordered a larger book which would have been stunning to display panoramas. Hindsight is invaluable but had I known the quality of the product then the added cost for a larger book would have been a no brainer.

Once Saal heard about my regret offered me a voucher for their A3 Landscape Book which is 42 by 28 cms. With their layflat binding this allows panoramas up to 84cm wide to be included. Such a large volume would serve multiple purposes for me;

- It would showcase by best work in a large format which would be easily portable to show clients etc.

- Such large prints would also be ideal for showing clients routes high on the Cuillin Ridge.

- The detail in the original small book was incredible and I could only imagine what would be visible on the A3 version. Good as computer monitors are, it’s always nice to see your work in print and this was a chance to showcase my favourite images and if they turned out well then order as large prints.

With the advent of digital photography more and more images are being taken but fewer than ever end up being printed. According to the legendary Ansel Adams, “The negative is the equivalent of the composer’s score and the print the performance.” Tablets and phones with their small screens hide a multitude of sins and even out of focus photos can look good on most social media. Large prints are the true test since they will inevitably attract intense scrutiny and any defects will be glaringly apparent. I have had huge canvases printed but these are a very forgiving media. To say I was worried about how my favourite works might look printed so large would be an understatement.

I use a Sony A7, the base line model from a few years back mainly because it is the smallest and lightest of all the models, an important consideration when I might be rock climbing or carrying lots of gear for camping. It is only 24 megapixels compared to 40 or more of later iterations and I did worry if the files would physically contain enough info for very large prints. Some of the panoramas were stitched from multiple images but single image shots were also used. I was meticulous in my image selection and many favourites were culled when viewed at 100% in Lightroom or more usually Photoshop.

A lot of effort went into selecting a variety of images that I thought would best showcase my work. Most images were shot from tripods with a timer so as to reduce the chance of any camera shake. In windy conditions the tripod was anchored by a heavy rucksack for added stability.

Image selection and preparation was time consuming but I wanted the book to be as perfect as possible. The actual production of the book was a doddle compared to prepping the photos. Once I had a file of images, I opened the Saal proprietary software that was still familiar from the first book. Some reviewers have described it as being clunky and utilitarian but, to be honest, it was a joy to use, being simple and easy. I was looking for a very simple layout where the photos would speak for themselves. Large photos with minimal text to describe the locations. I briefly played around with the variety of templates but then just selected a blank book and inserted the photos as I wanted then added the captions.

I spent a while selecting background colours, text size and font but soon settled on my choices and the production was easy, quick and functional. It may not have all the bells and whistles of InDesign or other publishing programmes but it did what I wanted and it was intuitive to use. The only slight hiccup in production was entirely my own fault. The book had been put to bed and was to be ordered one evening but a glorious sunset lured me out and I just had to include the view down Glen SLigachan as a panorama which meant a mad rush to rearrange photos.

Nervously waiting for the book’s arrival, I was kept informed by Saal about it’s rapid printing and despatch and was able to track the parcel.The book duly arrived 4 days after uploading. I admit I was a bit disturbed to see the book was packed exactly the same as the cheaper one and there was a largish tear in the cardboard packaging. I guess I was expecting more deluxe packaging for a £100 book but as it was the packaging had done it’s job and the large corner protectors created enough dead space around the book that it was undamaged.

The book itself was wrapped in a foam bag and in perfect condition. Bridgette and I looked through the book and were completely awestruck by the quality of the whole thing. Huge double page panoramas worked well with the layflat technology of the pages. The colours and brightness were all spot on exactly as viewed on my monitor during editing. The minutest details were visible and the book easily surpassed my greatest expectations and made the effort that went into image selection and preparation well worthwhile.

The pages have a lovely thick feel and the product is produced using photo paper so the photos look more like a collection of expensive prints than a mass produced photo book. I know the book costs a lot but when you work out the cost per print it seems reasonable because with the 36 pages I could have had eighteen 84cm wide panoramas if I chose. Make no mistake, these are very high quality prints and look superb. I know the book was a freebie and as such my review might well be seen as biased but Saal stipulated that they wanted an open and honest review and it really was hard to find fault with the product.

Showing the lay flat pages which allow the book to open to 180 degrees.

 
Date: Jan 10, 2018   


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