Independent from the shape of your media business in the digital world, print and online have one thing in common: You need great photos to get the attention of your readers.

But, what is a great picture? Look at your newspaper or your Web site: How many photos are actually fit to publish?

Quality photos that offer exclusivity, a sense of place, and tell a story are more likely to leave an impact with readers.
Quality photos that offer exclusivity, a sense of place, and tell a story are more likely to leave an impact with readers.

Some time ago, I mentioned a benchmark list of quality criteria the local newspaper, Hamburger Abendblatt in Germany, is working with. Every single text has to match at least six out of 12 points to pass the quality management test of editor-in-chief Lars Haider.

Would such a system work for photos? Ken Mainardis, vice president of global sport and entertainment at Getty Images, the world’s largest photo agency, recently revealed what he calls the “DNA of great photography,” a list of eight criteria photos need to have to create an impact.

Before I explain the eight pieces of DNA Mainardis asks for, I’d like to explain why I think a criteria catalogue is a brilliant tool to improve both the workflow in your newsroom and the quality of content in a news organisation.

Your success depends on the quality of your content. But what is quality? Does the editor-in-chief decide? Or his deputies? A team? And how can someone implement his point of view in the editorial team on a daily job? A benchmark list is a great tool to use to achieve success in quality.

You can list the criteria a certain piece of text should achieve in a perfect world, and you may want to define a minimum number of points that any particular piece should reach for. Any editor understands the expectation the boss has defined and can check the text on his own.

Why shouldn’t this be done in the photo department, too?

Mainardis of Getty Images defines his eight criteria this way:

  1. Moments: atmosphere, situation, relationship.
  2. Speed in delivery: documentation of what has happened.
  3. Wow factor: something you cannot see on a TV screen.
  4. Sense of place: beautiful or special place.
  5. Narrative: the photo tells a story of human beings.
  6. Exclusivity: you’re the one and only who gets access.
  7. Regional tangle: it affects people’s daily lives.
  8. Behind the scenes: it explains the reason for something.

Let’s say your photo matches more than five out of these eight criteria. The chance will be higher to create engagement or reaction among your readers than if only two or three criteria are met. This little tool will help you create an understanding among your editors about what great stuff really means.

And, by the way, look at my Instagram account. This photo checklist helps you survive the expectations of your community in the social media world, too.