What’s up everyone!  Today I’m doing a review on my portfolio book and how this process went!  I recently had the opportunity to jump on a promotion with SAAL Digital, who at the time was offering Beta testing on their Pro-line photo-books in exchange for a review.  Well, here it is.

FIRST, for anyone looking to produce a portfolio book, I recommend thinking about how you aim to use it in the first place.  This is going to determine the size of the book and the volume of images you use.  Do you want to send this book to prospective leads, or keep it in the waiting room of your studio?

For me, I’ve been looking for something portable that I can show people in person at networking events.  This ruled out large coffee-table sized books, but still needed to be large enough to leave a lasting impact on those I was showing it to. 

Here are the specs I personally used; 8″ x 8″ Professional line photo book, lay-flat spread, 42 page matte paper, with leather cover.   


SECONDLY, I recommend anyone looking to produce a portfolio book to curate your images down to the most impactful photos you have, even if it’s a short list.

As unfair as it seems, people’s perception of your portfolio is usually based on your weakest images, so don’t include them. 

It’s better to have 10 strong images than to have 10 strong images with 5 average ones.  Now, I will fully admit that I’m not good at curating this aspect myself.  We, the creators, are too intimately attached to our work.  We often over-celebrate images that took a lot of work and commitment to make.  We need to view it from the impact it will have on an unbiased viewer.  Get your work in front of qualified eyes, and have them help you narrow it down. Niches tend to work best, but if you do provide a wider scope of your work, I would recommend keeping it to a category.  For instance, I wanted to include a variety of subjects like athletes, models, and actors in my book, but still have it feel consistent.  Thankfully, all these aspects fall under the portrait category, and I felt comfortable enough to put them under one umbrella.



THIRD, avoid spending too much time on this process.  Done is better than perfect, unless you’re planning on selling copies.  Agonize over how you’re going to get this work in front of the right people, not so much about the specifics of the book-building process.

Keep it short and sweet.  As the saying goes, “Brevity is the soul of wit”.

If the images work, nobody is really going to care about all the nuances you scrutinize over.  They’re looking for a feel of your portfolio, a sense of your style and passion.  This isn’t a doctoral dissertation that will be reviewed by a board of skeptics.  Keep that in mind, and it will help you get through it faster.  So let’s get to it, shall we?


The user interface of the program is clean and simplified, which is exactly what I’m looking for.  I need to be able to pull images quickly and customize the look of each page.  There are layout templates on the side bar to give starting points, which is a great feature.  If an image needs to be moved or customized, you can do that as well.

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The lay-flat option in this book is what really sold me.  Almost every image I used, I ran as a double page spread to emphasize impact.  To me, this is where the wow factor is really shown, as you can expand the size of one picture to fill 2 pages and create unique compositions.  I promise, this feature will knock your viewers off their feet.



In no way am I a color calibration nerd, but for me, everything looks the way I want it to look.  All my images are retouched and toned to my preference, and we can debate all day on whether I do a good job of that or not, but in the end, it’s how I intended the images to be presented, which is all I can ask for.  The paper quality is beautiful.  I chose a matte paper which gives a wonderful texture to my images.  The paper stock feels thicker than a traditional photograph and lays beautifully flat, as advertised.




The housing of the book is outstanding.  My cover is as basic as it gets, but this classic white leather cover looks elegant and feels resilient.  Maybe, in hindsight I would have gone black, but I chose white because everything I own is black and I wanted a change.



This was a no-brainer for me.  The SAAL promotion was too good to pass up on and obviously plays a big factor in my grade on it, but ultimately the ease of this book-making process and the overall quality is what drove it home.  I can’t wait to bring this to events and network with people.  When they ask to see my instagram handle, I can show them this instead and leave them a card.  There’s simply no way it won’t stand out more.  This product has a way of making ok pictures look good, good pictures look great, and great pictures look unbelievable.


I can’t promise that printing out portfolio books will lead to an influx of new clients, but it should help you stand out more.  Whether you spend $30 or $200 on your book is up to you and what you plan on using it for.  This 8×8 format is a perfect fit for my laptop bag that I normally carry around and I’m glad I have something to show.  Marketing is a never ending practice for freelancers and this won’t do the job on its own.  No print promo will.  But if we’re not looking to wow our audience, then what are we really doing?   Good luck everyone!

Michael Der

Thank you to the folks at SAAL for including me in on this product review.  Be sure to follow them on their platforms below:

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