Something to Hold
Don’t get me wrong, as a veteran of traditional film cameras and traditional wet processing I do love the world of digital photography. The ability to capture as many images as I can fit on a memory card and then process them easily and share them with people all over the world is fantastic. But I do find it too transient at times, once your image has been viewed along with the hundreds of others, what then? Your pride and joy just languishes on a hard drive somewhere or gathers dust in a corner of the Internet.
That’s why I’m being drawn more and more to printing my work. Nothing beats holding a physical print in your hand, seeing it framed on a wall or presented in a book. It really is the culmination of the creative process that starts with planning a trip, getting to the location, imagining the composition, capturing a perfect digital file and processing the image to match your vision.
In my days of wet processing, creating an album would mean taking your best prints and mounting them in an album as best you could. Text would have to be hand written and layout and cover options would be limited. In the digital world though, photo books offer a wide variety of sizes, finishes, layouts, etc. The latest software tools make the books easy to design and they are then uploaded, printed and constructed and delivered back to you.
A few years ago I decided to create a photobook at the end of each year that contained my favourite and best photos taken throughout the year. These ‘Yearbooks’ track my progress as a photographer and are an excellent record of the various trips and photography days that I’ve been on. As well as these, I decided recently to create a portfolio book to present my best work to date and in a format that showed my images in their best light.
All my previous books have been conventionally bound, and whilst I’d seen ‘lay flat’ books in the past they’d been prohibitively expensive. A friend of mine, Neil Nicklin, recommended Saal Digital to me as he’d recently had a test book created by them and they offer lay flat binding as standard. I downloaded their software and set about putting a portfolio book together. The software was easy to use and broadly similar to those I'd used in the past. I decided on a 28cm square layout with a glossy cover and matt pages. There was a good choice of page templates, but I was looking at doing a very simple layout with white pages and minimal text.
Software Screenshot - Designing the cover
The hardest part of the process was deciding which images to include and which to leave out. In the end I opted for a selection of my coastal, landscape and architectural work and used a few different layouts including centered across the spread, a triptych style series and some panorama formatted images that went across the whole spread. The upload process and ordering was straightforward and it was produced very quickly indeed. I uploaded the order on a Sunday evening and the package arrived the following Friday.
The photobook was packaged well and after opening the first to see was the cover, which had reproduced very well indeed. I was pleased with how the image I'd chosen as a wrap round cover had worked well.
The introduction page looked good, although I did spot one glaring typo - must learn to proof read better!
Then it was onto the image pages themselves, and I have to say I'm blown away by the quality. As a monochrome photographer, getting work printed commercially with correct exposure and tonal range can be challenging. As I turned each page in the book, I was very pleased indeed that every image looked great with nice brightness and contrast. The paper finish was also very good and the layflat binding worked well.
Overall I'm very happy indeed with my portfolio book and it's very nice to have something to hold and to be able to share with others. I'd recommend Saal Digital to anyone looking for a high quality photobook.
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