My Top 8 Tips For A Birthday Cake Smash Photography Session (AKA, How To Make A Smash Cake Mess-terpiece!)

One of the best things about a first birthday is…that first birthday cake, of course! Messy little fingers, bright smiles, the joy of indulging in a sweet treat—that’s what makes cake smash photography so special. At the one-year mark, toddlers are really coming into their personalities and every day brings new opportunities for curiosity and delight! It’s the perfect time for a smash cake portrait photography session!

Here are my best tips from my natural light photography studio in Wayne, New Jersey!

The Best Tips For A Birthday Cake Smash Photography Session For Your One-Year-Old

Early birds get the cake. I like to schedule cake smash photography sessions for mid-morning—because who doesn’t want cake for breakfast!?! One-year-olds tend to be pretty alert and happy at this time, before the day exhausts them (and before the Murphy’s Law of Naptime Dynamics means your tot will almost certainly skip the nap on the day you reeeeallly need them to take it). Bonus if you bring your kiddo to cake smash a little bit hungry!

Bring extra clothes…for yourself. Parents, unless you’re planning to head straight home after your cake smash photography session, consider bringing a change of clothes. When baby revs up the water works and is elbow-deep in birthday cake, somebody has to swoop in for the save (and it can’t really be your photographer, who is going to have her hands full of expensive equipment!). Thus, Mommy and Daddy sometimes become a lovely human towel during cake smash sessions. Cake snuggles….yum!

Hat tricks. Little party hats and crowns are so adorable in the boxes (love them!) But they don’t always work in portraits for cake smash photography sessions. Some party hats can “disappear” when they blend in against your cake smash background. (Banners and garlands behind baby’s head can also make hats disappear or can clutter a key area of the frame—right where baby’s head will be!)  Finally, some babies just don’t like wearing hats, especially ones with bands around the chin (hint: Find ones that clip in the hair or add clips yourself). If you’re really hoping for an adorable party hat or crown for your baby’s smash cake photography session, do a test run to make sure your little ones are comfortable in their party hats and are actually willing to wear them! Check in with your photographer to see if the backdrop will coordinate. Or just say—Screw it! I love the hat, so let’s just give it a try, backdrop be darned! (Because it’s your cake smash, really, and hats rock).

Girls and modesty. If you’re concerned about your baby girl’s modesty, consider dressing your little girl in cute onesie for her big smash cake photo debut! Or consider a big chunky statement necklace and fluffy tutu. Even though a necklace doesn’t give full coverage, it gives an impression of modesty and actually confuses the eye by drawing attention to the necklace, instead of to the body under it. Also, talk to your photographer about whether or not you’d like nipples to be airbrushed (or partly airbrushed, or not airbrushed at all) should a necklace not cover them.

Send in the clowns (aka, the parents). Nobody can get a better smile out of baby than mom or dad (okay, maybe grandma or grandpa). Sing songs, make silly faces, and be sure to stand close to your photographer. Also, have baby’s favorite songs ready to play on your smart phone for an extra good time. Ask your photographer if he/she has any props for catching baby’s attention (but be aware that baby might want the props more than the cake, so use as a last resort).

Let kids do their thing. Encouragement is wonderful—and important! Kids need to be reassured that all is well in an unusual situation. And parents are excellent smile-inducers! But if a toddler starts to sense that a cake smash photography session is about “performing” or following orders or being scrutinized, then she/he is less likely to relax and have authentic fun. Some babies don’t actually like all the attention that gets laser-focused on them during smash cake photography sessions. So easing off the encouragement (and even acting like you’re not paying attention to baby at all) can actually help. Personally, I would say a few frames with parent-encouraged smiles are a great way to start a session—but from there, the rest should be candid, authentic photos that capture your kid’s personality!

Red-alert meltdowns. One-year-old attention spans go only so far. There will be a meltdown. That doesn’t make cake smash is over! Take a break, then see if baby wants to go back to it.


Packanack Portraits – Wayne, New Jersey Photography – Cake Smash

I’m a family photographer in Wayne, New Jersey. Though photography is not my “day job” and I was not formally trained at a school, I’m very passionate about the craft and I hope my portraits speak to my love of capturing special moments on (digital) film. I have a natural light home studio in Wayne, New Jersey, Passaic County, for all of my birthday cake smash (smash cake) photography sessions. I am also a newborn photographer and maternity photographer, and I offer family portrait photography sessions in the vicinity of Wayne, New Jersey. I often run photography mini session throughout the year to celebrate that seasons, holidays, and back-to-school. Thanks for checking me out!