Creative toddler takes charge of photo shoots

Story highlights

2-year-old Henry Shakyaver's poses inspire photo series "Henry's Concepts"

Henry's nanny Alex Neary is a photographer who started the series on her site

The concept: Henry poses for a picture, Neary mimics his pose so he can take her picture

Neary: "Kids have crazy imaginations. ... Be ready to laugh at yourself"

CNN  — 

What happens when you give a 2-year-old a camera? For Toronto toddler Henry Shakyaver, his imagination runs wild in a good way.

Portrait and wedding photographer Alex Neary has been Henry’s nanny for the past year and a half. One day, during a visit to the park, they were sitting in a sandbox and Henry leaned over a toy dump truck.

‘“Take a photo of me like this,” Neary recalls him saying.

Then he asked her to mimic his pose and let him take her photo. She showed him how to hold her iPhone and push the shutter button.

The results were delightful, if not a little blurry. Neary started compiling the images on her website in a photos series Henry’s Concepts that’s catching the attention of blogs and local media.

Neary has been photographing Henry since she became his nanny, so his mother wasn’t surprised to see him show an interest in getting behind the camera.

“The irony is that he won’t sit still to take a picture for me,” Lorri MacDonald said.

McDonald thinks the project teaches her son observation skills and inspires him to be creative.

“He’s learning to see the world through a different lens. I think he’s aware of his surroundings more through this project,” MacDonald said.

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    Neary has also learned a thing or two from the project, which continues on her site. She shared with CNN some wisdom and tips for teaching children photography skills. The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

    CNN: What are some of Henry’s interests?

    Neary: He loves dinosaurs. We go to the museum a lot. The aquarium; he loves underwater life. He loves trucks, trains and building ramps. He’s a really hands-on, energetic kid.

    CNN: I’m amazed these are all shot with an iPhone.

    Neary: With the iPhone, doing indoor shots with him is tough. I’m trying to teach him how to focus, but he doesn’t quite get that. Some of the photos are blurry and not quite right.

    I don’t know if I’d be able to do this if it were a real camera. But because it’s an iPhone, it’s so light and small enough for his tiny little hands to hold. He can hold it and slide his thumb over to take a photo.

    CNN: How many times does it take to get a picture before turns out?

    Neary: Sometimes he gets it on the first go. Sometimes it takes three or four times. Usually I get in a pose, then he takes the photo, then I have to take a look to see if he got the shot. If he didn’t get it, I’ll get back in the pose and we’ll try again. Sometimes he only gets my legs in it, or my head and sometimes his thumb is over it.

    CNN: What has Henry learned in doing this project with you?

    Neary: I don’t know if he’s learned anything really, but he’s taking interest in taking photos of other things in the location that we’re in. I think it’s starting to bring out an interest in photography. I don’t know if he’ll grow up to be a photographer, but I think he’ll definitely do something creative.

    CNN: What are your tips for other parents or people who want to try having their kids take photos?

    Neary: If they show an interest in it, and you feel comfortable and safe with them using the camera or phone, teach them the basic skills, like this is the button to push. When you see what you like in the screen, tap the icon. I think it’s more about getting them to have an interest in photography and having them interested in seeing things with a photographic eye.

    Be game for what they throw at you. Kids have crazy imaginations. You just have to be ready for whatever they throw at you. Be ready to laugh at yourself and make a fool out of yourself.

    CNN: What has Henry taught you through this project?

    Neary: The poses he chooses, I would never make my clients do that. More than anything it’s just brought me a lot of happiness. There’s really no age limit to photography and creativity. If you have a creative mind at such a young age, then just embrace it and try to bring it out. Just let him do his thing.

    He’s starting to get really smart with this. I was getting him ready for his nap and he said, “How about before nap time we do seven different poses?” He’s using the posing as a way to stall things that he just really doesn’t want to do.

    Related: Meet Fuji, the 3-year-old photographer