You are finally ready to put yourself out there. Take the big next step. Go beyond the "Likes" your friends and mother give you on Facebook.
You could join a local club or meetup where they "judge" your photo or critique them. How does that work? Often the person giving the critique is going to tell you how to improve the photograph. Just the nature of the photo being "critiqued" causes the person to look for problems. You are hearing their version of how they would do it differently. It is purely subjective.
Objectively you may learn things like leading lines, rule of thirds, and how to level your horizon line. In addition, you may learn to tell a story with your photograph, or use color to bring emotion, or how choice of lens and aperture plays a role in the final product. In fact, there are over 60 composition considerations and just as many editing techniques to master.
Beyond critique, there is exhibiting. Now you move from someone judging your work to being juried into a show.
How is that different?
Arts Council for Anne Arundel County jury their shows by team; sometimes three, sometimes four jurors. Each juror scores every submission on how it fits the topic; composition; originality, quality, and overall impression. Each juror gives up to 5 points. Top scoring work makes it into the exhibit and lower scoring work does not. They are currently exhibiting work in a gallery at BWI and the building for What's Up Magazine. Both are highly visible and lead to sales.
Maryland Federation of Art invites jurors who are established art professionals, such as art Professors from colleges. The juror is given instructions to curate the exhibit. How does this differ? First, it assumes all the submissions are art and the juror curates an exhibit she/he feels best interprets the theme. Here the art is interdependent upon other submissions to create something interesting and yet with a cohesive thread.
The trouble artists can run into, especially photographers, is when the submission is beautiful, but the final piece doesn't do the work justice. The juror may have a preliminary list for awards, but in person, be disappointed if the artist did not present the work in its best light.
According to Joann Vaughan, Executive Director of Maryland Federation of Art:
"However, for awards, there really are a lot more specific criteria. I would state the following:
To sum it up, being judged is a good way to learn about where you need improvement and being juried into a show is what you do when you are happy with your level of expertise, looking to establish yourself as an artist, and start selling work!