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Lights, camera, Surface: Photographer Joshua Lawrence uses tethered tech to capture the perfect image

After graduating from high school, Joshua Lawrence settled into a comfortable, successful career as a structural steel draftsman, producing detailed drawings for welders and high-rise building projects. Precise and mathematical, he excelled in his field and started his own drafting business.

But Lawrence always viewed the world with a photographer’s eye, noticing shapes, colors, lines and shadows. While supporting himself as a draftsman, he taught himself photography by studying works of other photographers and going to what he jokingly calls the “School of YouTube.” He worked as a photo assistant, shot weddings and over the course of several years slowly transitioned from a draftsman to a full-time, professional photographer.

“My whole life, I’ve always looked at things as though I was a photographer and didn’t realize it,” says Lawrence, who owns his own photography business, Joshua Lawrence Studios, in Victoria, Canada. “It’s so rewarding and satisfying to get to do it as a job, because I love it so much.”

Now an accomplished commercial photographer, Lawrence creates visual stories of beauty and inspiration, whether he’s highlighting the strength of an athlete or architectural splendor of a home. To build compelling images, he uses his draftsman’s attention to detail, artist’s talent for composition and a robust set of tools that includes cameras, lights, software and his Surface Pro 3.

Lawrence brings the powerful, mobile PC to every shoot, clamping it to a tripod and tethering it to his camera so he can build the perfect shot in real time. He runs full versions of Adobe Lightroom and Nikon’s Camera Control on his Surface with Windows 10, which enable him to see photos on the device’s high-res screen and adjust his focus, aperture, shutter speed and other settings on set.

Tethered photography with Surface Pro 3
Joshua Lawrence uses a Surface Pro 3. Photo by Tyler Kalberg.

“The Surface is critical because I can see my shots on a full screen and make sure everything is right, instead of awkwardly trying to click on the back of my camera on a tiny screen,” he says.

He can also walk around on set with the tablet and show clients their photos, in person and in real time, drastically simplifying communication and feedback.

“People are spending money to get photos done, and it’s nice to show them that you know what you’re doing while it’s happening, rather than shooting everything secretly into your camera and making them wonder, ‘Uh, did he get what we wanted?’” Lawrence says.

Tethered photography with the Surface also enables him to remote-control his camera, which is essential when he’s shooting in tight spaces. It also helps him be more creative and try new things, whether he’s experimenting with softboxes and color gels for a portrait, or creating a stunning, athletic photo with light, movement and a dramatic plume of gym chalk.

Female fitness model
Photo by Joshua Lawrence.

For architecture photos, Lawrence uses his understanding of structures to build images with clean lines, inviting spaces and strategic light, conveying a sense of space in a natural, organic style. He jokes that one of the hardest things to shoot naturally is a throw blanket.

“You would not believe how many hours it takes to get a blanket to look like it’s not staged and was just thrown there. There will be a few tassels out of place, so you fiddle with them, they look worse and you have to start again,” he says with a laugh, while describing his patient, meticulous process.

As part of his goals for 2017, Lawrence hopes to shoot a campaign for a major athletic brand, because he finds fitness photography motivating and fascinating. His photos in the genre highlight the human form with power and grace, inspiring healthy living, exercise and tenacity.

“It’s really hard to get your body in that shape,” he says of the athletes he’s photographed. “It takes dedication, focus, commitment and perseverance, all qualities I admire.”

With the Surface, Microsoft is cool again.

For all of his photos, working with clients is one of the most important aspects of his job, and Lawrence relies on Office 365 to make it easy and productive. He loves OneNote for taking notes during meetings, PowerPoint for presenting his work and Excel for tracking his finances.

He had always viewed Microsoft technology as essential to productivity, but not as anything particularly exciting or creative. But the way Office 365 empowers him as an entrepreneur, coupled with the Surface’s ability to foster creativity, changed his mind.

Joshua Lawrence photographs a fitness model
Joshua Lawrence at work. Photo by Tyler Kalberg.

“With the Surface, Microsoft is cool again. There are cool products,” he says. The tools help him run his business and achieve one of the most rewarding parts of his job: bringing a client’s vision to life.

“When they see my first shot, they often go, ‘Wow, that’s me?’ Or, ‘That’s my house?’” Lawrence says. “It’s a great feeling to make them happy and see them do that.”

Lead photo by Tyler Kalberg.

Learn more about Joshua Lawrence at Microsoft’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.