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Photobook – Review of Saal Digital

About 3 weeks ago I replied to an Instagram post by Saal Digital that offered £25 voucher off printing if you did a product review for them so long as you wrote a review of the product once received. So here it is.

I only had about a week or so to put together a book (the voucher only valid for 14 days), and being on holiday I relied on all the images I wanted to use all being in my Flickr account. As ever I decided (not for the first time) to create a book of black and white images, and titled it “Monochrome One”. Not to be confused with “Mono One” that is available through Blurb.

The Software

Images selected and downloaded onto the Mac I then downloaded the book building software. I previously used Blurbs equivalent software and there are similarities but I have to say that I found Saal’s software very easy to pick up and start putting together the book. Images auto-aligned nicely, resized to similar dimensions as nearby photos on the same or opposite pages. I put the whole thing together relatively quickly, in part because I only had 32 pages and I was generally keeping to 1 image per page. I’d chosen to make the book a landscape format (28 x 19 cm) on matt finish paper, and on at least one page, laid a single image across both as a centerfold (of a beach, nothing more existing than that I’m afraid).

My only criticism was the choice of fonts which was broad but far too many nasty, comedy fonts and not early enough choice of sensible, grown up fonts like Georgia, Gill Sans, Perpetua, Helvetica and so on.

Anyway, job done I clicked a few buttons and off it went to get printed (in Germany I think) plus a few extra quid for some additional pages (and postage costs).

The Product

And yesterday it arrived (barely a week after I’d placed the order so extra stars for a fast turn around). I have to say that I was very impressed, the book just felt like quality before I’d even opened it – a good weight, nice feel to it, and the cover that I’d designed to be black, with white (and pale blue) lettering and a photo on the right edge, looked good. Really good.

Opening up things just got better. The paper was really heavy, practically card, but most importantly, the images look superb. The contrast was deep – blacks were black, whites, white – matt finish worked well for this. Of the tinted and split tone images the colour was accurate.

The resolution was very good too – fine details as good as I’ve seen in any print.

My only wish was that there was a way to sell this online in the way that Blurb have a digital version you can have as a shop front. I have one copy of Monochrome One and if anyone wants one they’ll have to email and I’ll order it again and send it on and get payment by cheque or something. This isn’t what this service is for – this is a way to produce a high quality book for your own enjoyment, for showcasing, portfolio, or whatever. Given the quality I was say Saal Digital provide pretty good value for money too.

So will I use Saal for Monochrome Two? Yes I would expect so (I’ll have to start saving up now).

For more info see and get a £15 welcome voucher…

@SaalDigitaluk #saaldigitaluk

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If I can ever work this one out…

Posted this image on Instagram and in the time it took to brush my teeth it had gathered 39 likes. Huh!? This nearly doubled over the next few hours – suddenly the biggest hitter

Cafe 2 #barcelona #interior #coffee #blackandwhite #bnw #bw #blackandwhitephotography #monochrome #mono #minoltax300 #minolta #minoltafilm #35mm #35mmfilm #filmphotography #film

A post shared by Tim RP Brown (@timrpbrown) on

Not that I’m complaining. I like this image (the white edges are light leak incidentally, not deliberate) but no clue as to why it was so popular. If you could bottle it…

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Development at home – the first run

The original plan was to set up a dark room and develop and print my own film. Not sure about the printing bit, but development is now been achieved. Like true scientist I kept notes, recorded the procedure and the results.

All the bits obtained from eBay:

  • Paterson developing tank (with spools)
  • Adox Rodinal developer
  • Adox Stopbath
  • Adox Fix

Using the excellent Massive Development Chart I determined my film (Ilford Delta 400 Pro) needed 1:50 dilution developer for 18 mins (at 20oC). Other than struggling to get the film loaded on the spool, the process was super easy and it flippin’ worked!

Little Elephant 1 (Ilford Delta 400 Pro)

One thing I noticed once scanned was how grainy this film is (oh and the camera has a light leak probably through the door hinge). The next film I used was Ilford Xp2. This is a C41 chemistry film that normally gets processed by a machine, and is uses dyes rather than silver (something like that). To develop needed 20 mins in 1:25, but finer I would say. I finished my Delta 400 film with the image above I took this photo immediately after with the new film.

Little Elephant 2 (Ilford XP2 Pro)

Generally I would say I preferred the results from XP2 but perhaps I should interchange as grainy is nice too.


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Successfully Revisiting an Old Shot

Back in 2005 we went on a family holiday to France (20 miles west of Carcassonne). One evening the kids took a walk through the wheat fields on the farm where we were staying; the farmer encouraged them to pick stray wheat stems at the edges of the field which they thought very exciting. With my little Nikon I grabbed a shot of my daughter (8 at the time).
I always liked this image, the excitement clearly evident in her eyes. So it occurred to me that it might be worth having another go at improving the image in Photoshop, given I have a little more skill and experience. And I have to say the results were good, though it took quite a bit of work.

Picking​ stray wheat from the edge of the field

A post shared by Tim RP Brown (@timrpbrown) on

Currently this is now sitting as  the highest liked image in Instagram.

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Pic of the week

Looking at the very excellent Black and White Photography Magazine (link) I was inspired to try a darker looking still life image. Taking a fairly ordinary looking shot of a pineapple lying on it side (using a ring flash) it turning round, converted to mono, tinted it, whacked up the contrast, added a little Orton effect (I can explain later, or just Google it) and boom, one of my favourite images.

I like it when you have an idea and comes out exactly as you imaged it would:


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The Instagram Compulsion

Today I reached 100 followers on Instagram (that shortly afterwards dropped back to 98, such as things go when followed by follow-whores), so quite pleased with myself. I’ve been steadily adding my images from Flickr, some perhaps a little old (any marked as #nikon as taken by my Coolpix 500 prior to 2008).

What’s interesting is the images that I personally think are better often aren’t the ones that get loads of likes. It’s difficult to analyse though since the choice of has tag can really influence things. For example, I posted an photo of a fishing trailer (off the coast of Skye) and within 30 mins it had over 35 likes. Looking at who the likers were revealed a large number of anglers and other fishing types.

The top 5 chart of liked images is as follows (as of today at least):

1. Fishing trawler (45)

2. Gasometer (44)

=3. Maryhill flats (38)

=3. Campsie Hill (38)

=3. MNAC Interior (38)

Monochromes seem to score best, and film is popular.

Now that I’ve pretty much exhausted the old stock I’m not forced to keep producing new photos to feed the beast – so I great driver for productivity.


instagram.com/timrpbrown/ to see more

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