Acrylic Gallery Print by Saal Digital Review
As I delved into the world of nightscape photography, and began plying my trade in this field somewhat more than traditional landscape photography, I ran into the problem of displaying it as wall decor.
The issue lay with how best to display, and provide clients with, large format pieces whilst showcasing the photography off in its best light; although I produce standard size nightscape images printed in Fuji Lustre, large format needed something more, something that stood out.
This led me on a rather expensive quest as I sampled lab product after lab product looking for the ideal solution and which was eventually found three or four years ago; it came in the form of Fuji print mounted to aluminium under a layer of acrylic glass. Additionally, I moved away from the lustre/matt finish normally associated with landscape photography and started having it produced in a glossy finish.
I felt it helped give the night work the wow factor that was needed and have sold quite a few pieces in this format since; also, I also started breaking the mould and producing a few landscape pieces in the same fashion.
After trialling products from various print labs, I finally stuck with a supplier who was up and coming at the time and is now renowned amongst photographers and artists, regularly printing their work for exhibitions and clients. Not only do I now receive maximum discount from the said print lab, due to spending over five figures with them on orders, but I also believe their product is far superior and simply outclassed anything else I had been supplied with elsewhere at the time.
Gallery Print Product
So, let’s stop the waffle and get down to business, what is this blog actually about?
Well recently I reviewed a high-quality photobook for a print company, called Saal Digital (read my review here), which provides professional standard products, I was very pleased with the product, and they with my review. This in turn led to a conversation about wall decor, and the long and short of it is they kindly decided to send me their premium wall decor product “Gallery Print” to cast my eye over; not only that, but also in large format at 120 cm x 80 cm (about 47” x 31”).
Technical Product Spec:
- Direct print on acrylic glass (2 mm) with an Alu-Dibond panel (3 mm) on the back
- Glossy finish (matt also available)
- Aluminium hanging/mounting system (standard, stand offs, or no system also available)
- 6 Colour UV ink
Their Gallery Print product is very, very similar to the product I have been supplying to my clients, and to give an idea of retail value of a piece that size, in galleries I have displayed in or at exhibitions, around £450/£550. So, as they had entrusted me to review such a high-end piece, I wanted to pick an image to suit, so I chose my award-winning image which bagged me the 2015 Velux Lovers of Light competition and an all-expenses paid £10,000 prize trip to Finland (read the blog here).
So, a glossy landscape? Yes, this is one of the images that I took a gamble with in the glossy finish, and it sold well in this format for some time after appearing in multiple places, including a centre double page spread in The Guardian. Acrylic wall decor also look stunning in a matt finish but as they are frameless, to me the gloss just highlights the uniqueness of the piece, differentiating them from aluminium-dibond prints and with a frameless design, providing an ultra-modern look.
Admittedly, even though their photobook was of the utmost quality, I was not expecting them to be geared up to offer the same standard with their wall decors; no offence intended and I don’t know why I had doubts, but I still have products from other labs in my lock-up that in one way or another didn’t match up to the sort of quality I have now grown accustomed to.
To add further suspense, my workload meant I had to place the order about a day before I headed off on a 6-week trip. As with the photobook, order confirmation was lightning speed and the piece arrived quickly, with me missing it by about a day. Whilst I was away it was taken to a studio by a friend to produce a few shots that removed the glare from the acrylic. As he didn’t really comment when I picked it up, re-wrapped, I didn’t get too excited.
I was completely wrong, unwrapping it I instantly saw it was printed and made to a very high spec and furthermore, very similar to what I already use.
Anyone who reads this and has purchased one of my acrylics will know they are the real deal, the only differences between the products are Saal print to the acrylic, however the print quality is excellent both in colour quality and detail rendition. Also, Saal provide 2 mm acrylic as standard, as opposed to the 0.8 mm which I was using before as standard, or having to pay extra for a thicker acrylic layer. This is not a plus or a minus to me as I have always been undecided as to whether I prefer a thick or thin acrylic layer; with a thick layer, however, the product appears more robust.
The build quality is excellent and the piece feels extremely well made, the bonded rails on the back feel solid and are bonded seamlessly to the rear. The product was also very well packed.
I opted for the aluminium profile subframe hanging system as it is a system I am used to; although very tempted to try the stand off system next time.
I honestly cannot pick between the two products as I have a 36” x 24” version of the same image, but from my previous supplier, in stock ready to be re-hung in the gallery (when it has finished being refurbished); however, I know the 36” x 24” piece will not be the one going back on the gallery wall; instead, the 120 cm x 80 cm produced by Saal digital will take its place, and with that you have my conclusion.
Saal Digital do a range of products and I have faith that they will all be completed within very similar fashion, quick lead times, fast delivery, excellent quality. Best of all this is it is all completed with a human touch; you can speak to the guys at Saal and they will answer promptly and courteously, and they clearly take pride in their products and being involved with the photographers they are working with.
I’ll now be working closely with Saal Digial in the future to provide my clients my work finished to a high standard due to the enthusiasm they have show with regards to my work; if you would like to be considered to provide a review on their products, you can apply here.
Although Saal are producing a very high end product line catering to semi-pros and professionals, this certainly does not mean they don’t cater for beginners and aspiring amateurs in need of producing products from their material.
The software provided by Saal as a free download is really user-friendly and easy to pick up. Just remember, if you are only just starting out and looking to produce something that represents maximum quality and the truest possible representation to what you see on your monitor, there are a few other steps you need to consider.
Number one is you need to calibrate your monitor, unless you are producing hundreds of very expensive pieces, you don’t need to go all out, you can pick up decent X-rite or Datacolour Spyder calibrators for £100/£200.
The next step is to install the ICC profiles from Saal to your operating system, this way Photoshop will pick them up, once installed, when it opens you can proof on screen a true representation of how the Saal’s printer will reproduce your image; download Saal Digital’s ICC profiles.
Saal makes its ICCs easy to find with a link right at the top of their homepage; when working with a print lab, I usually install all their ICC’s even if I don’t use some of the products, it saves keep going back and reinstalling each time you decide to use a different product.
Installing ICC’s is simple on both PC and Mac and varies a little depending on which version of their operating systems are installed; see instructions.
ICC’s are a set a set of data assigned to a device (i.e. monitors and printers) that produce the range of colours (gamut) it can output derived from an international set of standards propagated by the International Colour Consortium. However, with hundreds of manufactures producing products that read this set of data, it varies between products so it is important to get an idea of how your monitor colour space may differ slightly from a printer. If you are new to printing, or printing from an external lab, it is always advisable to order in a small piece of work on your chosen media before forking out for expensive pieces; sometimes if the colour is miles out, the lab will pick it up before printing, if not they will certainly work with you to help you correct it for your next order.
Further reading on ICC’s, colour space (gamut) can be quite in depth and further reading can be found here.