The idea that you're going to be "discovered" just because your work is amazing is pure fantasy. If you want to have a chance of getting into the better galleries, and have professional representation (before you're a "name"), you're going to have to have a CV to send with your portfolio. This CV will need a history of exhibitions and/or competitions.Without a history, they won't be interested. The better galleries are looking to have a relationship with the artist. Part of it is seeing a history of commitment to their art- more than a few years. The better galleries will spend a lot of money promoting their artists. If the gallery participates in something like Art Basel Miami, they can spend more than $10,000 exhibiting just a few artists.

Sales may be rare at the show, but it can lead to other sales. I had 2 pieces hanging in a competition far from me. A couple checked out my website, and bought 3 photos, totally different than what was exhibited. I happened to take first place, too, and got a bit of $.

LENS 2013 is legitimate. It's well know among photographers who do enter competitions. Being accepted looks good on a CV, and would open up the Chicago area to those with no exposure there.

At some point you have to have confidence in your work and aspire to more...