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  • Writer's pictureRuss Tierney

Better call Saal! A review of the Saal Digital Pro-line Photobooks

Saal Digital Professional line photobooks

I was given a £100 voucher to test print and review the new Saal Digital Professional line Photobook. The book total cost me £135, so £35 of my own mula. Here you'll see said review and quick look at proofing ICC profiles in photoshop. I will also post a transcript of the narration alongside the video on the Splash Point Photo blog via the below link :) Saal Digital Professional Line Photobook Studio & Photographer Narrated by Alex Bytheway

UNDERSTANDING ICC PROFILES In our photobook prep, we must first understand it's output in print.  With a market full of competitors who use different machines, inks and paper, and even across their own ranges, we can do this by proofing the ICC profile in photoshop.

If like me you edit your RAW's in Adobe RGB for maximum colour range and have a decent spec wide gamut monitor, you'll undoubtedly see a shift in colours when you save in sRGB for screen devices.  Using a fun RAW out take still on my computer from our Christmas shoot, if I toggle between Adobe RGB and sRGB, you'll see the red's take a hit and lose vibrancy and depth.  Opening the image up in photoshop and having already loaded in the ICC profile, we encounter a similar problem when we proof that too.  Now, if you're working with a more limited colour space, or have a monitor incapable of seeing so many colours, this shift will probably be less noticeable depending on the image's original colours and your RAW tweaks.  It may not even shift at all. With our proof toggle on, we can re-edit the image to suit how we feel it'll be best represented via that ICC profile, so we're confident it will be as we expect when the physical print arrives.

SAAL DIGITAL PRO-LINE PHOTOBOOK REVIEW Moving over to an actual edited image that I used for the opening page, you can see I came across this problem again, with red typically being a problem colour. Even with my tweaks, I couldn't reinject that life and vibrancy I was seeing on my screen.  The good news is however, when turning the page of a book, you have no means of instant comparison other than a universal profile across all images, so you're unlikely to notice.  The first big tick for Saal here is, while I was 100% conscious of this, I didn't feel I missed out on any extra pop. For my book, I choose the 40x30 white leather cover.  The pages were actually thicker than expected considering Saal also do a pro extra thick line too.  The gloss finish was just an extra 5 pound for all 24 pages, which is a must for me as i'm not a huge fan of matte as I like my colours and contrasts to jump off the page.  The book is a 4x3 ratio, so full pages will mean you lose parts of images taken on your average digital camera, however, you can of course move and crop your layout as you see fit.  As the book is also a lay flat, you don't lose any of the image should you wish to stretch across the spine and over more than one page.  Mixing up your crops and placements will also keep your book visually interesting, plus you can try grouping colours, locations and themes to help give it cohesion as you turn, even for someone as colour hungry and quirky as me.

The Saal software is easy to use.  Assuming you've prepped your images in advance, you can just pull them across from the menu or use preloaded layouts.  Once your chosen photo is in the software, it'll act like a smart object does in photoshop in that you can resize it until your heart is content without ever losing information and having to reimport it.  You'll also have a clear signal whether the resolution of the image is good enough for your chosen crop for it. Back to the physical product itself, the images are as sharp as the photos on my computer.  The saturation and colours are rendered with vibrancy, and even the UV shot of Zoe has plenty of details in the greens, which again was another problem colour for me when switching between profiles.  If I was to really critique it, the contrasts are slightly heavy, but honestly I have no real issue with that as there's no blown shadows that i didn't choose to leave in my original images.

Out of the interest of fairness, it is worth a mention that I was lucky enough to be chosen to review their new professional photo book range and was given a £100 voucher to do so.  I could have however chosen a smaller book and paid nothing, but this with postage and the introductory offer as it's part their new range, the cost of it was roughly a £135 with postage included, but I paid 35.  I also own a bunch of smaller consumer based photo books of my work too, so the step up in size was a must for me, and guarantee of quality with ICC profiles and the like, is of course on the next level too.  Being my own biggest critic, I can easily pull apart a printed version of any one of my photos if they don't come out as I envision, and certainly for newer photographers who don't have the confidence to question photo labs and blame themselves, I can honestly say I was more than happy looking throughout my Saal professional line book.

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