The Art of Collaboration

UPAA Blog 2023-24 #1 - 9/7/23 - By Chamberlain Smith and the University of Georgia Photo Staff


More often than not, photography is a "solo sport," like swimming, or fencing, or golf, for example. Yes, there may be so-called "team coverage" of a big event or game, and an overall team goal that everyone contributes to, but during the event everyone is on their own to do their part.


On occasion, though, photography can be like football or basketball, where each team member must do a small part in coordination with others to put one team member in a position to score a touchdown, make a basket, or in this case, make a photo. Chamberlain Smith (bottom row center in the photo above) is a staff photographer at the University of Georgia and does outstanding behind-the-scenes videos on her Instagram page. (Check out the "week in the life" series!) In this article the UGA photo team shows three examples of how they collaborate on big jobs. -Ed.



We believe some of our best work is accomplished as a team. Collaboration is an essential part of our process as a photo staff and allows our Individual strengths to elevate each other and push the boundaries of what we can create.


Below, myself and my coworkers, Andy Tucker, Dorothy Kozlowski, and Peter Frey give first person accounts of the roles we each played in our most recent collaborative photoshoot for the cover of the Spring 2023 National Championship edition of Georgia Magazine.


The confetti was actual confetti from the National Championship game. (photo by Andy Tucker...with help!)


Andy Tucker:


Our magazine editor, Eric Rangus, had the idea to try and shoot the two trophies together for the Georgia Magazine cover. It was our task to try and come up with a cool unique way to shoot them despite never having photographed a reflective trophy before. Chamberlain Smith did a ton of work on researching the best way to shoot something with a reflective surface. Since we would not have a chance to do a dry run with the trophies, we constructed our own makeshift trophy out of aluminum foil to test. We used that test trophy to test lighting for the two trophies.

We also constructed some black curtains to shield the reflection and hide the photographer. Everyone on our staff helped prepare the set and proper lighting a few days before the trophies arrived.


I was the one pressing the button, but our entire team worked together to make the photos. I worked with Peter Frey in shooting and reviewing the photos. We also switched out shooting on two different cameras to cover our bases and allow for different file sizes. Our designer for the magazine, Jackie Baxter Roberts, was also reviewing the images on the back of the camera and providing input. We would shoot some and then review images, make changes, and go right back to shooting some more. We made lots of tweaks, adjusted the trophies, and changed the lighting many times. Throughout the shoot, we would all talk, give input, and ask for help on what problems we were seeing in the camera. It was a total collaborative effort. We all trust each other and that is why it works. No egos, no hurt feelings, some folks keeping others (mainly me) on task, watching our time, and just all of us working together to make the photos. It is certainly where we do our best work. Together.


Dorothy Kozlowski:


I played the role of studio assistant on this particular shoot. A few days prior, we collected materials for a platform, fabric for the table and backdrop, lighting equipment, and more to get some test shots. The day of, I assisted with logistics; holding lights, fabric and scrims, polishing the trophies, consolidating cables, clearing out the background, straightening out the crumpled confetti that was collected during the National Championship game, and even camouflaging

myself in with the fabric to keep my reflection out of the trophies while lying on the floor in front and underneath. I had to leave early, but my husband stopped by out of curiosity. Since he’s tall and was willing to help, he ended up holding one of the lights that otherwise would have probably needed a boom. He made it into the group shot at the end, without me!


See the BTS video on Instagram


Peter Frey:


We had the trophies for about four hours and figured we didn’t have a second chance at photographing them. We knew we needed to come away with several options for the cover. I’ve lit jewelry and shiny things before, but not two 30-inch tall conical shiny things with sloping tops. 


I brought a piece of thin white muslin, but it wasn’t big enough to make a total wrap-around light for the front of the trophies. Instead we used a roll of duvetyne that we hung to hide reflections. When we finally got the bodies of the trophies lit in a way we liked, we had to figure out a way to light the sloped, angled tops so they truly looked “back to back.” To accomplish this, we used two speed lights with umbrellas on light stands held by our tallest assistants on set, Dorothy Kozlowski’s husband Brad and Ireland Hayes, a Georgia Magazine intern.

It all came together, but we noticed we only had 15 minutes until the athletic department was scheduled to pick up the trophies and we hadn’t done the confetti shot yet. We wanted to drop confetti to turn a static photo into a dynamic shot. We divided up the confetti and stood just out of the frame, getting only a few attempts at throwing it, gathering it up off the floor and throwing it again. Surprisingly a few shots actually worked out well, with some minor work in post.


Chamberlain Smith:


Leading up to the photoshoot, I conducted independent research on effective ways to light reflective surfaces. I reached out to our friend Kevin Liles, the team photographer for the Atlanta Braves, for advice and insight on how he conducted a similar photoshoot of their World Series trophy last year. On the day of, I was on site in our photo studio to provide a helping hand in any way possible, big or small. I always look forward to the days we all get to work together on projects and enjoyed playing a background role in helping this shoot run smoothly.


A single person may be the one pushing the button and receiving the byline or credit for a photo, but our collective ideas and skill sets are what bring those images to life. Here are a few more behind the scenes looks at some of our favorite collaborative group photoshoots from the past school year.



We photographed UGA senior Cam Kreitner and alums Sydney Wakeford and Keegan Westra earlier this spring for a student profile about a local talk show they collectively produce, “Late Night in Athens.” We discussed the idea of doing a studio photoshoot with a green screen or projector, but ultimately decided to do everything in camera and on location. All four staff photographers and a writer, Cole Sosebee, worked together to develop the concept of creating a late-night talk show style set in the streets of downtown Athens.


Click here for BTS video


Collaboration allowed the shoot to run seamlessly from start to finish. We brainstormed ideas as a group and each played a part in the set up and procurement of props from around campus.


On the day of, I was stationed at the camera, Dorothy Kozlowski directed subjects and relayed information between the team and our models, Andy Tucker operated the key light and shot behind the scenes content, Peter Frey operated the rim light and acted as a stand in model for tests, and Cole Sosebee held reflectors and scrims to block streetlights.



We photographed UGA freshman Beau Shell, also known as Lil’ Ice Cream Dude, in our studio last fall for a student profile. The group photoshoot involved all four staff photographers, 2 staff videographers, Cade Massey and Brett Szczepanski, a group of student volunteer models, and Beau’s parents. We came up with a concept to highlight Beau’s ice cream business in a unique way since he has received a lot of press coverage over the years as a young entrepreneur and wanted our images to stand out from the crowd.


See the BTS of Lil' Ice Cream Dude


We worked together to run light tests for days leading up to the shoot to figure out a streamlined set up that we could orchestrate quickly given our time crunch with melting ice cream. It was an all hands on deck (literally) photoshoot that utilized our individual strengths for technical and creative lighting, organization and directing a set full of people, and collaboration to produce a final image we were all proud of.




"I may have a future as an athlete after all...I was invited to be the catcher on the javelin team!" The UPAA Blog publishes every other Thursday between September and June. We welcome contributions and suggestions. Email editor Matt Cashore, And if you don't already, follow UPAA on Instagram!