Cake Smash Photography - The Ultimate Guide (for do-it-yourselfers and professionals)

This is the Complete Guide to Cake Smash Photography in 2020.

And let me get this clear right from the start:

It isn’t your standard “10 nice ideas for your Cake Smash session” post.

Over the past few weeks, I have collected over 60 excellent tips for do-it-yourselfers and professionals.

Undoubtedly you will come across several well-known ideas that you might already use yourself.

But I have gone way beyond, and even I, as a professional photographer, have learned new things while writing this guide…

So, if you want to improve your Cake Smash photo sessions, I am sure you will love this guide!

jongen-cake-smash-verjaardag-

Chapter 1: A Cake Smash Session... So, what is it actually?

A bit of history

Your little one will soon be celebrating their first birthday, and this is an excellent moment to let them indulge in this delicious sweetness for the first time…

… and how better to do this by letting them have their own way with that cake? It is going to be a wonderful mess!

This new tradition has most likely blown over from the United States, and started getting a foothold in our cheese infused country about 6-7 years ago.

Taking a look at Google Trends (illustration above) we clearly see that interest in the word Cake Smash has only started being shown in the Netherlands after 2013.

In America they got familiar with the phenomenon quite a bit sooner with first mentions around 2004, and a clear spike after 2010 (illustration below).

Although the Yanks have started a bit earlier it doesn’t mean we don’t have a thing or two to say on the topic… dive right in and discover more!

 

Chapter 2: Preparations in advance About 4-8 weeks before the shoot

Of course, long before the actual photo shoot can take place, it has to be prepared, and we start right away with your first question:

Who will take the pictures?

Would you (as the DIY enthusiastic that you are) prefer to work alone, or would you rather hire a professional photographer to capture this exceptional day on camera?

Of course, both possibilities have their pros and cons, so I’ll put them together for you:

Having your pictures taken by a professional

  • Advantages
    – Professional camera & equipment
    – Professional editing (post-shoot)
    – A ton of experience
    – A special photo studio with excellent lighting
    – You don’t need to fix you own decorations

  • Disadvantages
    – Less flexible when your arranged date turns out to be less ideal than expected
    – Naturally the photographer needs to be paid…

Backstage helpen fotoshoot cake smash shoot taart bakken
Back stage fotoshoot cake smash jongen
Backstage jongen fotoshoot cake smash

Take the pictures yourself (DIY)

  • Advantages
    – Cheaper!
    – You can plan everything yourself, and you’re less dependent on others

  • Disadvantages
    – More stress
    – You need to arrange a suitable camera & equipment
    – You have to figure out everything by yourself (but fortunately you have this guide for that)
    – It takes more time in general
    – The pictures will probably not have the same high quality that you expect from a professional

It’s clear that going the DIY way has quite a few disadvantages attached to it, but the budget is a very important point: a photo shoot like this is never free.

The costs for a professional photographer can easily reach up to € 200,- for a Cake Smash Shoot.

For a beautiful cake from the bakery you might spend up to 30 bucks, the decorations can easily reach up to 20, and don’t forget the outfit of your little one because that might hit you for another 30-50 euro. And after all that you still have to get the pictures printed…

Luckily there are many ways to reduce the costs (for example you could bake the cake yourself, or get 2nd hand clothing for a fraction of the price), and then an experienced photographer might fit into the budget after all (fortunately I’m very affordable myself 😉 )

Choosing your photographer

If you would like to work with a professional photographer, there are a few points you should pay attention to when making your choice:

  • How much experience does your photographer have with this type of photography?
  • What are the possibilities for moving the shoot if something comes up?
  • How quickly do you get to see the unprocessed photos, and are you allowed to share them?
  • What can you do with the edited photos?
  • Do you get the photos with or without a watermark?
  • What is the expected waiting time before you receive the edited photos?
Mayera
Wanneer cake smash inplannen

Timetable

When is the best time to schedule the Cake Smash?

If you want to use the images to create an awesome invitation to the birthday party, it is useful to do this at least one month before the celebration so that there is still enough time to edit them and send out the invitations.

Most kids can also sit up straight at 10-11 months, which is clearly a plus for this type of photo shoot!

It is also helpful to consider in advance what time of day the photo shoot can best take place.

Additionally, it would be ideal if they have the most energy (right after a nap) and hunger (so don’t let them eat too much before the shoot).

Wanneer cake smash inplannen

Equipment (DIY)

If you have decided to organize the shoot all by yourself then now is the time to think about what kind of camera you want to use.

  • Smartphone – Nowadays, there are smartphones available that are equal to professional cameras, and perform even better in some areas. Should your mobile phone have a suitable camera, but the controls are not to your liking? Just install another app with better features (both free and paid alternatives available).
  • Your own camera – If you have a good camera lying around (you may be an amateur photographer yourself, or you can borrow one) then you can move straight on to the next topic.
  • Rent a camera – If your mobile phone is too old and you don’t have a suitable camera, you can always rent a professional camera. Here are a few suggestions in the Netherlands:
Cake Smash Apparatuur

Depending on the types of photos you want to take (we’ll talk more about this later) it is quite possible that you will need different settings on camera for certain shots (close-ups versus portraits for example).

So, in all cases, remember to familiarize yourself with the camera, take some test pictures and experiment with the settings.

If you rent a camera, it can’t hurt to have it a day or two before the shoot so you have plenty of time to test everything.

Would you like to use flash units? Make sure you have already practiced with them, and know how fast you can shoot (some flash units need a short charge after each photo). You can also rent them if you don’t have one at hand.

Also make sure that all equipment (cameras, smartphones, flash units) are fully charged, it would be very annoying if you can’t take any more pictures halfway through the Smash…

Inspiration & Theme

Now it’s time for some fun… the theme of the Cake Smash!

For inspiration you can of course take a look at my portfolio (and then you’ll also see some of the decorations I have available), or you can consult Google and search the websites of other photographers.

Cake Smash Fotograaf Wijk bij Duurstede - Mayera Fotografie (6)
Kind-cake-smash-vlinder-roze-scaled

Even better is to use Pinterest (a visual search engine for finding ideas), you can create a free account and start collecting creative ideas (pins) right away. These will be stored within your profile in a collection (board), so you can quickly create a large selection of exciting Cake Smash photos.

Take a look at the tutorial page of Pinterest itself, and start your board today!

Furthermore, it is good to consider in advance which photos you actually want to have. You can certainly just start the shoot and see where you’ll end up, but that seems a waste of time. Here is a list of nice ideas for pictures to start you on your way:

  • Pictures of the cake
  • Pictures of the decorations
  • Pictures of your baby in the new outfit
  • Pictures from further away (overview pictures)
  • Pictures of the first introduction to the cake
  • Pictures of the smash itself (action pictures)
  • Pictures of the small details (hands, feet, nose with whipped cream)
  • Cleaning pictures (bathing pictures)

I’m sure you can come up with other shots, depending on your chosen theme, and all the props and decorations you have available.

And that brings us straight to the next point, the theme for the Cake Smash! Of course, there are too many ideas to list them all here, but I’d like to help you out a bit:

  • Classics
    Superheroes
    Ballet
    Flowers
    Music
    Rainbow colors
    Construction / Cars
    Planes
  • Animals
    Sea creatures
    Farm
    Desert
    Fantasy
    Bees
    Bears
  • Seasons
    Winter Wonderland
    Christmas
    Summer
    Beach
    Falling leaves/Autumn
    Halloween
Cake Smash Thema Bakkerij
Bakkers-cake-smash-kind-scaled

For further inspiration you can look here for a longer list of Cake Smash Themes (link in English).

Among other things, I have decorations for the following themes and colors:

  • The bakery
  • Spring, nature
  • Black/white
  • Blue/Turquoise
  • Princess/pink
  • Forest/Green

If you book your shoot with me you can of course use all these!

The location

Both the indoor and outdoor photo shoot have advantages and disadvantages, but most people choose to do the Cake Smash indoors.

You can regulate the temperature, and you will never suffer from unexpected bad weather. Furthermore, you’re less likely to be disturbed by casual spectators from the area, and it’s usually easier to set up a nice scenery for the photo shoot.

Some of the potential advantages of an outdoor shoot are the natural light, and of course the environment itself. If you go for a nature theme then it is great to sit on real grass or among the green plants in the garden!

Make sure that you are not in direct sunlight (in order not to get overexposed photos) and are aware of potentially changing clouds.

Cake Smash Buiten
Cake Smash Buiten

Indoors you have the normal lighting at your disposal, but of course you can also use (borrow or rent) special lamps that are designed exactly for this purpose. In my studio I also use them to get the best results!

You also have to pay close attention to the underground at the location, after all, it’s going to be a mess!

If the floor is difficult to clean or does not have the right color and texture, you can use something else as a surface. A large piece of paper, canvas, or plastic would be very suitable here. You could also use a bed sheet but this can be more difficult to smooth out (and remember that the cake does not leave any permanent stains).

As background you can use a normal wall if it matches the theme in color & texture. Make sure the cake doesn’t leave any permanent stains, who knows, a few pieces might fly through the air…

Furthermore, the same materials that are suitable for the soil can also be used as background (if you can hang them up properly).

I prefer to use a white background (paper), this does not draw the attention away from the baby and fits practically every theme.

Cake Smash Taart Voorbeeld

Cake & Pie

Are you a master pastry chef? I certainly don’t qualify for that title…

If you, like me, are afraid that your kitchen creation will look like a bulldozer already had its way with your cake before the smash even started, then fortunately you have the choice to have your cake baked!

Naturally, you can go all out here, and have a fabulous cake custom made according to your chosen colors and theme… …but then the costs can be quite high, and the birthday kid will probably have just as much fun with a small cake as with a big one.

An enormous cake can also be intimidating, but of course this varies per situation. You know best how your child will react.

Do you think it is nonsense to send someone else to the kitchen, and do you know how to handle dough & deco? Then bake it yourself!

Cake Smash Taart Voorbeeld

An ice cold cake isn’t tasty

It’s convenient to bake the cake a day in advance, and take it out of the fridge 30-60 minutes before the shoot so that it has a pleasant temperature and is not too stiff/rigid due to the cooling.

Since the intention is to play with the cake, it is important to also pay attention to the texture.  

Avoid ingredients that may be difficult for your child to get through (e.g. fondant, or a photo cake), and preferably use brightly colored buttercream or whipped cream. This is a lot easier to dig into, and also gives a better mess 😉

Another important issue with the ingredients is a possible allergy. If your little one has never eaten anything like this before, it could lead to a nasty surprise during the shoot (or afterwards) when they develop a sudden rash, belly pain or other symptoms. Try the ingredients in advance with a small version of the cake, that way you’ll know if they like the taste, and the happy one will be used to the delicacy (so during the shoot they’ll know exactly what is expected of them… attack!)

The colors should of course match your theme; white, pink, yellow and light green are camera favorites. A chocolate cake can be tempting, but be careful with this. The color can be a bit too similar to what comes out at the other end (no recipe for the best photos…).

(Dark) red is also a risk because it can seem a bit macabre, however, if you go for a Halloween theme it fits perfectly!

Chocolate Cake
Apple pie with red

Be similarly cautious when it comes to decoration, sprinkles and other sweets in which they can choke are best avoided..

If you want to take a picture with a (burning) candle it is of course possible, but please do that before the actual shoot, and remove the candle before your child can get close to it.

Naturally, we can write a separate book about the recipes… There are so many possibilities, from a healthy whole wheat / yogurt cake to a cheerful vanilla smash cake that will make the average princess blink in astonishment…

Google, Bing or any other search engine will serve you a lot better here, but to help you on your way I have a few suggestions here:

In case you have a great recipe yourself, I would be more than happy to add it to the list with a link back to you. Just leave a reply at the bottom of the page (or contact me by email).

Outfit & Clothing

The outfit is almost as important as the cake, and of course it has to perfectly fit the chosen theme.

Make sure that the colors match, and avoid (too) busy prints that distract the attention from the royalty in front of the camera. It doesn’t matter how essential the decoration, cake and outfit are, your little one is and remains the star of the show!

It is certainly also important that the clothing is allowed to get dirty, either because you intent to use it only once, or because you can easily was out the cake stains afterward.

As for the mess, make sure there’s an extra set of clothes prepared for after the shoot, for your little one, and for yourself… you don’t think you’re coming out of this sweet chaos unscathed, do you? 😉

There are plenty of lovely outfits available (new or second-hand) that are especially designed for a first birthday and/or a cake smash session, and I have a couple ready for you as well:

Cake Smash kleding (2)
hoera-baby-cake-smash-scaled

Luckily you don’t have to go all out, it’s entirely up to you and your birthday child to choose the right look.

Often classically divided into boys (lots of blue) and girls (lots of pink), but you certainly can let your imagination run wild and put together a suitable combination of colors and garments yourself.

Bear in mind that your kid is probably sitting during the shoot, and that the outfit may look a little different than when they’re standing.

Take a look here for inspiration (these are Dutch websites):

Accessories & Decoration

It goes without saying that the decorations and accessories are also part of the theme, have matching colors, and finish it off beautifully.

Then again, when you fill up the shoot location with all the cute decorations you can possibly find, it might quickly become too much. The “more is less” rule is good to keep an eye on, don’t make it too busy and use only the best props to complete the setup.

Of course, a special party shop has everything you can think of, but the chances of having a Hema or Blokker nearby are a lot higher, and you’ll usually find a wide choice of garlands, balloons, and other decorations there.

If you are skilled at crafting then you can of course also create the perfect decorations yourself.

As an experienced cake smash photographer, I also have a collection of accessories that you can use during the shoot.

Cake Smash Decoratie Mayera Fotografie (2)
Cake Smash Decoratie Mayera Fotografie (1)
Cake Smash Decoratie Mayera Fotografie (4)
Cake Smash Decoratie Mayera Fotografie (3)

With your little one

Of course, I already mentioned it in the pie & cake chapter, but I would like to point it out again: It is very helpful to do a trial session with your child, just use a small version of the pie or a cupcake variation.

Apart from getting to know the taste and texture, they become familiar with the mess and know what is expected when the time comes.

You can also practice certain poses that you like to capture on camera (cheering, putting the arms up, etc.).

Chapter 3: Preparation during the shoot day

Great! You’ve prepared yourself and your kid as good as you can, and now it’s almost time for the big moment. What do you have to think about on the day itself?

Other people at the shoot

Although at some sessions it is fun when a brother or sister is also photographed (think of a pregnancy or newborn shoot), at the Cake Smash it’s really only about the birthday boy or girl.

(Too) many spectators will distract, and can cause unnecessary stress (I also don’t eat well when a group of enthusiastic people is staring at me with an expectant look…). So if possible, arrange for a babysitter for the rest of your children, and don’t invite friends, grandparents or other family.

An exception to this is one pair of extra hands (especially if you do the shoot yourself) to keep an eye on your child, to distracting them, or just encourage a bit if needed. Choose someone your little one feels comfortable with and you can focus on the camera work with a clear mind.

Baby speelgoed

To bring to the shoot

Luckily it doesn’t happen very often (especially if you’ve already done a tasting session), but every now and then your little star just doesn’t feel like eating the cake, and there’s little point in encouraging them if they don’t like the taste. Make sure you always have something extra on hand that you’re sure your child will love (fruit, cookies, etc.).

It can also help to bring their favorite toys or stuffed animals so they can get a little distracted. Just remember that they will probably get dirty too!

Furthermore, damp washcloths, towels, and the like are indispensable to keep the mess a little under control.

Baby speelgoed

Child in top condition

As adults we can, if necessary, force ourselves to do our best, despite fatigue, hunger or other unpleasant emotions, and put these kinds of worries aside for a while.

Is your little one able to do this too? Not so much…

If they don’t like something, there is often only one reaction available at that age: face at thunderstorm setting, and tears at the ready!

This can possibly lead to one or two entertaining photos, but after that the fun is quickly over for all those present, after all it is the intention that your little one enjoys the whole event.

So, make sure they are in top condition, and choose the right moment of the day for the photo shoot. Usually just after a nap is an excellent time because they are full of energy and there is no yawn in sight.

baby-child-close-up-crying-47090

Don’t give them anything to eat (too) shortly before the session, although a Cake Smash consists for a large part of smashing the cake into submission (what’s in the name…) it is of course also the intention to get a bite or two!

Building up

Waiting is never fun, not for the photographer, and certainly not for a young child. Therefore, it’s handy to build up everything well in advance of the shoot to ensure that the scene is ready when it’s time for the shoot.

If you are going to work with the camera’s yourself then this is an excellent time to take a few more test shots with the settings you have prepared, and also to capture the scenery before the little one comes any closer (talking about the silence before the storm…).

In case your little one isn’t able to sit up on their own you can just use a baby chair.  This will of course change the setup of your shoot setting because you’re not sitting on the ground as is usually the case, but that shouldn’t spoil the fun.

The Cake

It was mentioned above, but remember to take the cake out of the fridge in time.

Approximately 30 to 60 minutes before the shoot is a good period, so you can be sure it is not too cold or stiff, but don’t run the risk of it spoiling

Don’t put the cake within reach of the little one yet though!

Regenboog Cake Voorbeeld

Chapter 4: What to think of during the shoot day

The great moment has arrived! Everything is ready, the photographer has the camera at the ready, and your little one is eager to attack that sweetly goodness…

What are the important points to pay attention to during the shoot?

Which pictures

During the preparations you have already seen numerous examples of other pictures, and now hopefully you have a nice list of desired photos lined up.

Remember that some pictures can only be taken in advance (the scene with or without cake, the cake itself, the clean birthday child) so don’t forget to start with that!

Cake Smash roze goud meisje props taart taartje Utrecht
Roze-goud-cake-smash-meisje-3-scaled
Cake smash kind

Your little one

First put your child in the setup (and take a few pictures), and then add the cake.

To arouse interest, you could tell them not to touch the cake yet (forbidden fruit method).

An average shoot can take between 20 and 40 minutes, so try not to rush it, but keep in mind that it can suddenly be over if your little one gets too stressed.

Cake smash kind

Cleaning up

The moist cloths, towels and baby wipes you brought with you will come in handy when you need to clean something during the shoot, and of course afterwards.

If you have a cute little tub at your disposal, you can take some cute pictures after the cake has been expertly taken apart (this of course also works with a normal bathtub), but count on the fact that the your dirty kid will also have a great time in the warm water!

Naturally, I also have one of those tubs ready for you, look below, doesn’t it look fantastic?

badje cakesmash sessie
badje-cake-smash-baby-scaled

Chapter 6: Afterward Almost finished!

It was quite an operation, but it all worked out! Now you have a solid series of great pictures, but what can you do with them?

Editing the photographs

Did you decide to do the shoot yourself?

Then now it’s time to take a selection of these pictures to the next level. You’ve probably shot a lot more than you need, so it’s useful to choose the 20-30 best ones, and give it a final touch with photo editing software.

If you took the pictures with your smartphone then you are probably already familiar with the different filters your phone software has to offer, but these might not offer you enough flexibility.

If you have professional (paid) software such as Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom then you probably already know how to deal with this and you can get started right away. If the editing of photos is completely new for you then you can take a look at the Photoshop tutorials on the Adobe website (of course they also offer Lightroom tutorials).

Of course, there are also numerous free alternatives (Gimp is a very well-known one), take a look at this convenient page from WIX, or this list from TechRadar.

If you have had your pictures taken by a professional photographer, you don’t have to worry about this at all, the post processing is of course part of the package.

Printing the pictures

By far the majority of parents use the photos for the birthday party invitation (and you already have a lot of inspiration from your Pinterest pinboard), but of course it doesn’t have to stop there.

You can also have the photos printed on any size you can think of, from the standard 10×15 or 15×20 to huge posters where your little one is depicted life-sized.

You can also have a nice photo book made, for example at Hema, Kruitvat, one of the following providers in the Netherlands:

Or choose a beautiful professional linen photo booklet with the color of your choice (I offer these myself when you book your shoot with me).

Chapter 6: Bonus A few extras

Of course I also want to prepare you for next year, and I have several useful links for you.

2nd birthday ideas

A cake or pie is most common for an awesome smash session, but of course you can let your imagination run wild, and go for something completely different! Here are a few ideas for the 2nd birthday smash:

  • Pizza
  • Pasta
  • Ice cream
  • Donut
  • Watermelon
Cake Smash Fruit 2020
  • Seasonal fruit
  • Apple or pumpkin pie
  • Waffles
  • Cookies & milk
  • Pancakes
Pancake Smash 2020
Cake Smash Fruit 2020

To conclude... What did you think?

This article is offered to you by Yoran Heij (to the point design), in collaboration with Mayera Photography.

In addition to being a professional web designer, Yoran is also an enthusiastic photographer, and enjoys working as a guest writer for various platforms.

If you would like to share some insights and tips I would love to hear from you! Feel free to leave a message below, or get in touch through my contact page.

And naturally I’m standing at the ready to do an awesome Cake Smash Photo Shoot with you and your little one!

Love, Mayera

Gastschrijver Yoran Heij bij Mayera Fotografie

This article is offered to you by Yoran Heij (to the point design), in collaboration with Mayera Photography.

Gastschrijver Yoran Heij bij Mayera Fotografie

In addition to being a professional web designer, Yoran is also an enthusiastic photographer, and enjoys working as a guest writer for various platforms.

Do you have something to add?

If you would like to share some insights and tips I would love to hear from you! Feel free to leave a message below, or get in touch through my contact page.

And naturally I’m standing at the ready to do an awesome Cake Smash Photo Shoot with you and your little one!

Love, Mayera

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