Recently I was fortunate enough to be offered the chance to review Saal Digital’s Wall Décor products. For those of you that haven’t come across them before Saal Digital are a European professional photo lab, specialising in “high-quality photo products, including photobooks, photo prints, posters, calendars, greeting cards, wall decors as well as photo gifts”.
My fine art prints are currently done by myself in-house, and this isn’t something I intend to change. Having the ultimate control over the process remains of crucial importance to me for these prints. However customers are often interested in other print mediums, such as acrylic, Alu-Dibond, foam-board etc. These aren’t something I can do myself, so this was an ideal opportunity to look at Saal Digital’s options, with the possibility of then adding to my offering.
Earlier in the year I had picked up a sample pack from Saal Digital showing the different wall décor products they offer. Each has a slightly different look and feel, as you would expect.
After some deliberation I decided to go for the Alu-Dibond finish at 60cm x 40cm. In main because this wasn’t something I’d really looked at closely before, and I was interested to see how the matte finish helped minimise reflections from window light. In terms of the photo I selected the image below, taken in St Annes in Lancashire. This wooden structure on the beach used to form part of the old pier, which was damaged by fire in 1976. It makes a great photographic subject, this image being taken with the Fuji X-Pro2 and 14mm lens, combined with a Lee Filters Big Stopper.
I’ll caveat this review from the start – Saal Digital kindly provided me with an online voucher to use in return for this write-up. However, I remain free to voice my own opinions in this review.
There are so many online print services around now and for me it’s not just about the final product, but the rest of the process as well – from preparing your file, uploading and selecting print options, though to delivery. This review is therefore split into sections covering each part of that process.
It’s true that many people will simply upload a jpeg straight from a memory card and be happy with whatever they get. However, for the discerning amongst us there’s much more to do; processing the raw file, soft-proofing against a known profile and then sizing the output file appropriately, knowing which areas of the image could be lost due to bleed.
Saal Digital really excel here – from the website you can download ICC profiles for all of their products and you even get a table telling you which rendering intent you should use when soft-proofing and whether you should use black-point compensation and paper simulation. Having this information really helps to ensure that the colours you see on the screen will match your end print. I run with a calibrated monitor, and I have to say the end result matched as accurately as I could hope with my soft-proof.
You also get superb information to help you size the output file. The website offers a ‘professional zone‘ which lists exact image dimensions for each of their output sizes together with the expected bleed. Another big thumbs up here, helping ensure any important detail at the edges of your image doesn’t go missing.
Saal-Digital provide two options for getting your image to them – you can either download their Windows software or you can upload your files directly. I can’t comment on the software, as I opted for the 2nd solution and uploaded my file directly. This went very smoothly and I was guided through the process step-by-step until I was ready to submit my order. Shipping prices didn’t get added until pretty near the end, which could cause an unexpected surprise, but about £6 for UK shipping seems reasonable. When I looked again the shipping costs are also available on the pricing page, but in my case had scrolled off the bottom of the screen.
Not much to say here! Delivery was via DHL and came with a tracking number. Shipping started the day after my order, and coming from their processing centre in Germany took 4 days to arrive. Packaging was very robust and sufficient to ensure that damage was very unlikely to occur during transit.
The Final Product
From the above, it’s obvious that Saal Digital are doing a good job on their website and ordering process, but what about the final quality?
I have to say I was delighted. Even with close inspection I couldn’t find a single flaw in either the print or the Alu-Dibond backing. Colours were also very close to what I was expecting from the soft-proof. I will say that the matte finish of the Alu-Dibond product isn’t as vivid and contrasty as something like Acrylic Glass but I already knew this from the soft-proof and this is something that is just inherent in the finish.
I opted for the standard mounting set, which consists of 2 aluminium mounting plates with a secure self-adhesive backing. The mounting set also comes with two self-adhesive rubber spacers to help ensure the picture hangs parallel to the wall.
The finish and the mounting combined to give an excellent result, which looks every inch a professional high-quality product.
You’ll realise from the above that I’ve been more than happy with both the service and the final product, but the real question is would I use them again? Well to that the answer is almost certainly a resounding yes. Saal Digital are competitively priced against similar competition and certainly for the product I chose are offering a high quality product.
If you’re a photographer selling on to your own customers then Saal Digital also offer a 10% discount, which rises as your turnover with them increases. Can’t ask for more than that, and over the coming months I’ll be seriously thinking about adding them to the product offering on my site – so watch this space!
Thanks for reading, Andrew.