I've never won a photo contest--until just this week. Just days after Obama won a second term.
It was an open contest put on by a local business group: you post a set of twelve pictures on Facebook and the ones with the most votes during a set period gets into a calendar (plus 15% of the sales of that calendar).
It seems like an all right deal, except there was not a panel of judges and anyone could vote on the photographs so whoever could get the most people to vote for their photos could win. This is what happened. Which, in the aftermath of a tough US presidential election, begs the question: Is an open vote by a mass of people better than a vote by a panel of experienced judges?
I have no answer. Several of the photos submitted by people were snapshots, many were decent enough shots of flowers, animals and such, and there were several highly professional images of big cats taken while on safari! I personally thought the safari pictures were the best, but they didn't get a tremendous amount of votes (possibly because the shooter of those images is a working professional and didn't bother asking directly for votes, preferring to let the chips fall where they may). I thought my photos were of reasonably average quality among the field. All the people that voted for my photos seemed to like them well enough but most of them are casual consumers of photographer and not experts in the field by any means.
Thus, I have mixed feelings. I think getting photos into a calendar is a good promotion for my photography but perhaps the process was not as pure as possible. I will take the 'victory', I suppose, for what it is and keep on shooting.
-- note: i was going to include a link, so you could look at the entire slate of photos yourself but apparently, the page has been deactivated now that the contest is over.