For the past several years, I've submitted images for print competition through the Professional Photographers of Colorado (PPC) and the Professional Photographers of America (PPA).
A panel of judges reviews each image submitted for competition and assigns a score of up to 100 points, depending on how the image meets the 12 Elements of a Merit Image.
Photo competition at this level is quite challenging. Each photograph that scores in the "Deserving of a Merit" category or higher receives a merit. Photographic merits, as well as service and education merits, are applied toward earning the Fellowship of Photography (P.F.) and Master of Photography (M.Photog) Degrees.