A cake smash photography session is a fun, memorable way to mark your little one’s first or second birthday! I've had a few clients over the years ask me questions on how to prep for a cake smash, so I thought it would be useful to have a blog dedicated to how to make it as smoothly as possible.
Whether you are a photographer, a mom with a little one turning one soon, a client of mine, or anywhere in between, here are some of my tips and tricks.
Firstly schedule the session when you think they will be at their best and the happiest. Early morning or right after their nap I find is the best time. Little ones at this age are not going to want to participate or may be fussy during their session if they are tired or hungry! The same goes for sickness. Trust me on this, I don't mind moving sessions due to sickness.
Do a Practice Run
You would think most babies would love to eat cake and get messy but sometimes the opposite is true. Not all babies understand that they firstly can eat the cake or like the touch of the cake. Try giving the baby a cupcake at home. This way they get comfortable and explore on their own time. Having a chance to feel the different textures and see bright colors ahead of time can lead to fewer surprises and a smoother experience when the camera is on them. It’s also a great opportunity to make sure the baby doesn’t have any reactions to the ingredients in the cake (and give us time to come up with a plan B if they do have a reaction). If you don't want to use a cake, do some messy play with play-doh, food, paint, or icing in the weeks before, so they are used to the texture of soft and getting messy.
I have my clients bring the cake, for several reasons, including potential allergy issues and to make sure parents get the cake they truly want. Now there's no such thing as a wrong cake, but through experience, I tell clients to go with buttercream or whipped cream frosting over fondant if possible. I find fondant is harder for the little ones to get through, it can also be a choking hazard and cream is easier for babies to grasp and squeeze and makes the best mess. With Colors, I have a few recommendations. Personally would avoid Brown and red....for obvious reasons. Pastels or no dyes in the frosting are ideal. Deep colors in frosting tends to dye the baby’s skin, which can be difficult to wash off for the bath portion of the session. I've had babies looking like smurfs at the end but it's still cute.
I give the baby about 5 minutes to explore the cake on their own, then if they’re not digging in, have the parent grab a chunk and hand it to the babe (then step away) and see if that helps the baby get what to do. If we approach the end of the session and the baby hasn’t smashed the cake, l'll ask mom or dad if they'd like to mess it up a bit, for the photo. Many parents want this big mess, and the baby just doesn’t do anything to create it! Remember: the cake is there to be destroyed!
Don’t go overboard with expensive creations – I recommend to my client's store-bought cheap cakes and nothing bigger than 4" or 6". I also recommend that if the cake has been sitting in the fridge overnight pull it out a few hours before the session to help soften the icing.
My main advice is to go with the flow.
Keep the energy high, happy, and keep moving! It might take a little while to get baby comfortable in front of the camera, but patience is the most important factor. Be open to the unexpected. I try to move at a pretty good pace, so baby doesn’t get frustrated or bored during the session. I start with images in an outfit to help baby have warm-up time to this strange lady with a camera in their face. Regardless of how your little one feels about the cake, pretty much every single smash ends like this, an icing-covered baby crawling (or running) away!
This then comes to advice for outfits.
For the baby's outfit make sure it’s washable! or something that you're not too attached to that you will not mind discarding later. Certain icing colors stain clothing easily. I love minimal coverage for the cake smash portion, love seeing those baby rolls, tiny toes, etc. I recommend a diaper cover, suspenders (for boys), a sweet romper for little girls, etc.
Not only will your child get dirty, but so will you! Most little ones end up crawling around the studio with their body covered in icing. You will need to bring them back in the setup to continue the session, which means they may be sharing the icing with your clothes too!
End of the day try not to stress. Kids can feel stress from their parents. During the session, feel free to act just as silly as me to get them to giggle and smile! We are a team, and the goal is to capture great pictures!! Go in with an open mind and a playful attitude, and the baby will follow suit. After all, they only turn one once, and making it through that first year is definitely a cause for celebration!