How Much is Too Much: Entering Competitions

As those who read my equipment blog post would know, I enter the I Shot It competition regularly. They have a very large range of contests ranging from cats to transportation, and the awards are very generous (money plus Leica equipment). But the problem I've run into is that I have too many things to enter. Some of my photos fit into more than three competitions, but it would be too costly (there's a charge to enter) to enter every good photograph into all contests it would fit into. To get my head around how much money I should spend, I need to look at it from a statistical perspective.

Warning! Math ahead! Skip the next paragraph if you don’t feel like having your brain explode.

For example: the last city-themed competition had 172 submissions. With this information, you could conclude that I have a 1 in 172 chance of winning the big prize. But to go any further, you must think about the quality of the photograph. If you assume that all my work is the same in quality (which is, of course, not true), then you can take a look back at my previous winnings. I got a mark of excellence a month ago, 1 out of 32. For that competition, there were 972 submissions. That means that there was a mark of excellence for every 29 photos. This basically means that there is possibly a picture better than mine every 29 photos. If you use this logic on the city-themed contest, then I have a 1 in 6 chance of getting a mark of excellence and a 1 in 48 chance of winning the big prize (there were only 8 marks of excellence for the city-themed contest). 

Now, keep in mind that this doesn’t take into account other variables such as the judges’ varying taste, other competition, and the quality of each photograph individually, instead of the quality of one photograph in my portfolio being the quality of all the rest. To sum up the calculations, I have a 1 in 6 chance of getting a mark of excellence and a 1 in 48 chance of getting the top spot in the city-themed contest.

So then I am left with the final question, do I spend six dollars at a 1 in 48 chance of winning 200 to 350 dollars? Also, is six dollars worth getting a 1 in 6 chance of getting a little prestige and some website traffic (the winners’ page allows a mark of excellence winner to put a link to their website)? I say yes to both questions.