I was briefly reading through Google about photography contests and one pro reason used to enter them is mental toughness. I laughed out loud at this because you can get this by posting your work on any social media platform especially if your goal is to be accepted, liked or subscribed to.
I recently took a straw poll asking my contemporaries if they still entered photography contests. The answer came back 50/50. I can see both sides of the argument and personally I still enter - very few. Primarily I enter photography contests that support film photography and contests that really push your images out there like Nikon.
I feel that most photography contests are click bait especially if there is an entry fee attached. These contests one never hears from until they're pushing their next contest in your email inbox. My final discerning straw came when I was a finalist and notified of this honor 40 minutes before the online ceremony. Two words. Click. Bait.
When I began dismissing photography contests I asked myself does winning this contest assists you in getting jobs? Do they introduce you to the right industry professionals? Do they offer the plum assignment(s) in which you can shine and build upon?
Most photography contests do not; worst case scenario they're parasitic, at best, they offer a cash prize and publicity tied to their own brand. Without having your work seen and known there is no revenue stream. The final analysis; I don't think that anyone is ever discovered. I think success in every career is hard work, consistency and planning.
It is true that we will work harder for actual employers than we will for ourselves. The truest excuse is that we're tired from a hard day's work and so begins the cycle of a receding creative life. Creatives have routinely taken a backseat to other professions because it is thought that anyone can do that; be an artist. Not true so put your creative self first.