Cake Smash Photography
Some trends in photography come and go. Before you even blink, it’s a new hip thing, and then just as quickly, the sizzle goes away. Then there is the cake smash – a trend steadily gaining in the list of memorable moments of a child’s first year that needs to be captured – moments that need an experienced, professional photographer to capture the wide variety of emotions.
Then why is it that cake smash photography isn’t popular? Google’s keyword planner shows 40,000 average monthly searches for “newborn photography,” 8,000 for “maternity photography,” 2,500 for “birth photography,” but only 1,300 for “cake smash photography.”
The answer lies in a three-letter word: FUD
Now, hold your horses. Being a photographer myself, I know we are a crazy bunch! Before your imagination runs wild, let me clarify what FUD means:
Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt
- Fear – will the cake smash session be as EXCITING as a cute posed newborn session?
- Uncertainty – should the photographer or parents get the cake?
- Doubt – will the baby actually smash the cake so that we (the photographer) can get good pictures?
Let’s smash these one by one. See what I did there. Now that we are over my clever puns, let’s get into it.
What Should I Keep in Mind Regarding the Cake?
- Safety: I am big on baby safety in all my sessions, whether newborn or cake smash. A baby may be allergic to wheat, egg, refined sugar, among other things. For that reason, I always ask the parents to bring the cake. This also allows them to choose the design and colors.
- Smash Cake Design: I suggest parents get a professional cake. The results are usually much better. I know the cake trend is to go large, but we don’t need a three-layer cake. A medium cake gets the same results at a more reasonable price. Here are some excellent smash cake ideas.
- Smash Cake Colors: Pink, white, yellow, and light green cakes photograph nicely and match well with most backdrops. I also like orange. It is vibrant and makes the pictures pop. Avoid chocolate, red and blue – the first two don’t look good when wet, and the last is tough to clean.
- Smash Cake Decorations: Go with whipped or buttercream frosting, so it’s easy for the little one to dig into. Avoid fondant – it’s tough to break and can be a choking hazard. Sprinkles? Absolutely, if you can get them on the cake without having to modify your design.
Can I Assume the Baby Will Always Dig In?
Follow this trick that has always worked for me. Close your eyes and dream. You have a one-year-old sitting in front of a cake who will listen and do exactly what you ask. “Dig in,” you say! And dutifully they dig in, smashing the cake in the most photographic manner possible.
I am sure you saw this one coming from a mile away. It’s a dream; REALITY IS DIFFERENT.
- Practice: Remember the baby is just one year old and is often shy of exploring new textures, shapes, or tastes. Especially when surrounded by adults making funny noises and clapping to egg them on. So, take away the anxiety. I suggest that parents practice at home, before the session, with a cupcake – icing on top (preferably the same colors), and a similar environment (i.e. everyone sits on the floor). This isn’t a foolproof solution, but it has given me good results. By the way, a smaller portion of cake may help uncover any allergies not known to parents earlier.
How Do I Make the Cake Smash Session an Experience?
Repeat after me; this is not just a cake smash session! Sincere apologies if this sounds condescending, but know this, I am guilty too. We have to remind folks that this is about an experience. And a cake smash is perhaps the only time when we both create and capture the memories, right?
- Plan a Theme: I ask the parents about the child’s favorite toy, book, or character. Then we plan a theme around it. Trust me; this makes it easier for the parents as well. Well-known characters mean known colors – which makes the smash cake design easier, and available accessories easier to find and purchase to add to the setup. For example, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” or Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, The Places You’ll Go.”
Remember, a cake smash session invariably coincides with a first birthday party. Picking out a theme can help parents with planning that significant event too. Even before they step into your studio, you will have become good friends with them.
How Do I Set Up for the Cake Smash Day?
Getting down to brass tacks. Make a list, so it’s easy to plan effectively:
- Cake: Make sure it’s at room temperature.
- Cake Stand: Always looks good, but you must be very careful. Stands can sometimes fall and ruin the cake.
- Extra Sprinkles: Trust me, you will need them.
- Spoon: Just in case, to help the baby get started.
- Backdrop: I prefer seamless paper that I roll all the way down so the baby can sit on it too. Yes, you will lose some at the end.
- Siblings: In a different room, preferably. After all, there’s a yummy-looking cake waiting to be devoured. If they are around, it might be hard for them to resist digging in and you can’t blame them for trying.
- Watchful Eye: Remember, babies can move quickly. Guard the cake and the accessories.
And, all of this brings us to…
The Cake Smash Clean-Up Plan
Never start a cake smash photo session without a clean-up plan. Here is the list of items I always keep on hand.
- In the Studio: I make sure to keep baby wipes, kitchen paper rolls, brush, dustpan, and trash bags in my studio at all times.
- Nearby: Ample towels. Especially in the bathroom or powder room. If you don’t have access to either, I suggest a small bathing tub.
- Parents Bring: Extra pair of clothes for all family members attending. Bags to take the dirty clothes home.
Editing Cake Smash Photos
Shooting a cake smash session is only half the battle. Once you have successfully captured your images, it’s time to edit them. And boy oh boy, does editing infants come with its own distinctive set of challenges, like removing blemishes, reducing redness, smoothing skin, etc.
Luckily Pretty Presets & Actions has a fantastic collection of Newborn Presets for Lightroom users. Their Bella Baby Newborn Workflow Preset Collection includes gorgeous soft and clean presets and some can’t-live-without retouch and color correction brushes – everything you need to edit cake smash photos in Lightroom!
And if you edit in Photoshop (I use both), don’t miss out on the LUXE Newborn Complete Workflow Photoshop Action Collection – MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE EDITING TOOLS FOR NEWBORN AND CAKE SMASH PHOTOS. In addition to the lovely color-enhancing actions, it also includes many incredibly handy skin soothing and retouch actions!
Either option (for Lightroom or Photoshop) will SAVE YOU SO MUCH TIME with beautiful results!
I hope you found these cake smash tips helpful, and the clouds of fear, uncertainty, and doubt have been cleared away. And a special thanks to the team at PRETTY for providing this photography blog to share insights with each other, helping us all.