A review of Saal Photobooks

I usually dread making photo books as it can be so time consuming. This time was no different although I did have some photos ready edited so that took a bit of the dread away.

Installation
The software provided by Saal was quick and easy to install – it was completed within a couple of minutes.

Type of photobook
I was presented with a good choice of photobooks which could be customised to your taste and requirements.

I chose the standard hardcover for my project. There was also the option of a softbook and an extra thick one, plus there were plenty of size choices – square, portrait or landscape – to choose from. I selected the 28 x 19 landscape book. For a standard glossy book the price was £34.95. It would have been £5 cheaper if I’d chosen matt but I prefer to have glossy photobooks. There were other add -ons, such as a leather or linen cover ranging between an extra £10 – £18 which I thought was quite expensive just for a cover. I did however pay an extra £5 for a padded cover as I wanted it to stand out from other photobooks that I’ve created. Gift boxes are available for an extra £20 and you can add extra pages both before you start, as well as during the creation of the photobook.

Design and layout
The next step was to choose a layout design. Again, there were several choices but they were well explained

You can choose a blank book to which you can add layout templates yourself or the auto Layout option. Auto layout is a bit annoying as your photos don’t always fit the template provided so there is a lot of moving around to do. I found it better to choose the blank template so that I could choose the layouts that suited my photos. Having said that, there are a lot of templates that use squares and the majority of my photos are 3:2 format but I soon found options that suited my needs.

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Software
The software opens up the ‘My pictures’ folder on your computer and allows you to select images from there.  I prefer this method as it saves wasting time uploading images that you might decide not to use.  My advice here would be to put all the photos you want to use into one folder and add them from there. I have my photos split over three photos so it was a bit annoying going from one to another to find the photos I wanted. This is simply a user error and in actual fact, the software was really helpful as it kept the folders open that I wanted to use and I could just click from one to the other.

There are lots of tools available and they are very intuitive. I used the ‘move image’ and zoom features only but you can also add different backgrounds – there are a multitude of choices, borders, text, flip tools and change margin widths

There are different layouts for the cover. You can have the photo going right across the front and back of the book, or an image with a margin around it on both the back and the front. I would have liked to have two different images that completely covered the back and the front but this wasn’t an option.

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There are plenty of layouts to choose from for the pages and you just drag and drop them onto the page – really easy – especially if you change your mind – you just drag a different one over.

You can then just drag you photo from the folder onto the page. When you have used a photo, a tick appears next to it so that you don’t use it again. If you do use it more than once, a little number appears next to the tick… this should be useful but I found it unreliable as it told me that I had used a photo more than once, but I checked the book thoroughly several times and it was clear that I hadn’t. It would be useful if, when you click on the number displayed, it highlighted the duplicate photos in the photobook

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The software does a check for errors at the end – in my case, it highlighted that I had left some text boxes empty – and it gives you the option to fill them in or delete them. It would be useful if it showed when you had used a photo twice too

Placing the order
After checking the book and adding it to my basket, the purchasing process was simple, allowing you to pay by Paypal as well as with cards, and getting your order sent to a different address – always useful.

Shipping costs £4.95 which I think is quite expensive – especially if you have over 26 pages in your book and have selected add-ons. It all mounts up.

Cost

The time it took to upload the order was quite impressive. I expected it to take quite a while as it needed to upload quite a lot of high quality photographs. My 60Mb order predicted 20 minutes to upload but in actual fact, it only took a couple of minutes.

And even if it does take a long time for larger photobooks upload, you can go away and leave it as the upload happens after placing the order and paying. You don’t need to do anything further once it’s uploaded.

To summarise, I found the software to be really user friendly and I would be happy using it again. The only thing stopping me would be the cost. The basic option for a 28cm x 19cm book with Matt finish is £29.95 and if you add on the extras, it can be quite costly.

There are plenty of options to customise the layout of your book which is a plus and you can choose to use as many or as few of them so it’s good for those who want to make something simple quickly or for the perfectionist.

Dispatch and Delivery
I ordered my photobook on Saturday 15 July and was impressed to get the dispatch email on Monday 17 July.

Unfortunately there were problems with the delivery. It was passed to Parcelforce and they apparently attempted delivery on Thursday 20 July but didn’t leave a card, so I was unaware that the photobook had been taken to a local post office and was waiting for me to collect it. I only discovered this as I hadn’t received the book and though it was odd, so went to check the tracking and after a phone call, discovered where it was. I let Saal know about this and they were very good and promised to investigate. This was not Saal’s fault and had I received the photobook when the delivery was attempted, it would have been with me in five days.

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The photobook
The finished product is lovely. The pages are very thick and glossy and everything is cropped to how I expected. No horrible surprises. A friend who looked at my book said he could easily see it on shelves in a shop!

A very impressive service and great quality product. I would use Saal again but only if there was an offer on as it can be extremely expensive.

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