Following my epic adventure to Iceland, I was asked by Saal Digital to review their photo book services, and so set about designing something a little more than your average photo book (being a designer has its advantages!) There are a variety of ways to put your books together – using Saal’s own software that you must download, automatic builder whereby you just upload images, or the DIY approach where, like me, you design using InDesign and upload a PDF as you would with any other print job.
Now, the confusion comes when you want to do the last option; naturally, as a professional designer you know how print jobs are set up, you know that pages must be set in multiples of four, you know what presets to export your document at, what to do if you want full bleed, all that jazz. So to be on the safe side I downloaded Saal’s InDesign templates, which in my mind weren’t set up correctly at all – only spreads, not multiples of 4 – and no explanation as to why. Where then is the first and last page? The inside cover? I emailed about this, to query just how they print their books and to double check that the template meant there would be no inside cover – perhaps they use a blank white page, I thought. They weren’t especially helpful, didn’t seem to understand what I was asking or understand that I actually knew what I was talking about. In the end, I designed the book and just experimented with uploading it to see what worked and what didn’t! It transpires that the inside cover and first page – likewise inside back cover and last page – are printed as a spread, so you can customise them, but this isn’t advertised. The book is bound to lie flat, so this means printed as spreads, not pages, and if you want to include bleed just ensure you export without bleed marks. What I was impressed with template wise was the clear inclusion of the spine so that you can include custom text (without trying to work out thickness).
I opted to try the standard glossy unpadded cover, with matte internal pages. It’s a well built, sturdy book; gloss is great to prevent obvious scratching, whilst of course matte always feels nicer to the touch but shows marks. The internal pages have a slight matte sheen to them, lovely and soft, hold the ink well, and have printed with a slightly muted colour palette, which I like! In some places the darker areas of the images do appear very dark, with quite a bit of detail being lost, but to some extent this always happens with darker images in print, and depends on a variety of factors.
It’s so easy to create a book that’s ‘even more’ than a photo book, inject a little personality, document memories, and keep something special forever. I’d recommend trying Saal’s services for a big beautiful coffee table book; I’ll be putting a big one together as soon as I’ve gotten through sorting out the rest of my images!