Thursday, March 24, 2011

How to... Cake Smash!

My first introduction into cake smash photography came when I wanted to make first birthday invites for my son. I thought it would be super adorable to make his whole party theme around the idea of colorful sprinkles and I knew I wanted pictures of him eating sprinkles to be on the invitation, I had it all visioned in my mind and it would take no time what-so-ever to do, right?

Two attempts later, I was staring at a mediocre collection of images. Sure the pictures were cute, but not what I visioned. I studied the pictures, asking myself why I was not happy and it came to me. He was sitting in his boring highchair and as he ate the sprinkles, he was clean…. Who wants that? So I dressed him down to little man jeans, took away the high chair, dipped his chunky little hand in a bowl of water and then straight into a bowl of sprinkles completely covering his tiny fingers… the rest was nothing short of adorable as his curious little mind tried all creative angles to eat the sprinkles off his hand making for some perfect party invite photos.. it was so much a hit, that I had 3 other friends ask to borrow the idea that same year.

Cake smash photography has become a bit hit and I’ve picked up some helpful hints about not only helping parents get those photos that they dream about, but also how to make it enjoyable for baby as well…

This really is easy… you can put as much effort or as little effort as you want into this. Not much spare time? just pick up a simple cake at your local bakery. I recommend getting classic white icing. Decorations on the cake are optional, but a personal recommendation from me since I feel it adds to the fun of the pictures. If you do colored icing decoration, avoid red. All other colors are great and especially green and blue icings for boys. My personal preference is multi-colored sprinkles because everyone loves them and the colors keep the baby interested. You can usually find extra large tubs of sprinkles in the baking aisle.. grab it!
Have more time on your hands… make the cake yourself… when my second son’s first birthday rolled around, I borrowed one of those giant cupcake makers from a friend, chocolate cake, LOTS of white icing and sprinkles galore!

Make sure you have everything already lined up before you allow baby to even SEE the cake. Is the camera ready? Are you video taping too? Is the area cleaned and cleared of distracting elements to your pictures and to baby? Maybe you want balloons in the background?
Do you have your cleanup plan???? Never start a cake smash without having your cleanup plan ready… How and where will you clean the birthday boy/girl? Be prepared to give an impromptu bath! And before little hands find their way back into the mess they have created, have your cake cleaning supplies ready to go, last thing you want is your newly clean pride and joy making icing footprints down the hallway…

My favorite look is the baby on the floor with a fun cake right in front of them, just inches away from a fist-full of icing. If your little one is more independent and demands to be on their own two feet, try to put the cake on a small pedestal or stand and let them pick at it while they walk around it.
Don’t be discouraged if your child is not flashing you giant smiles during the session, they may be so curious and intent on exploring. Give them a chance to discover the cake, take detail photos like just their hand as they grab a handful of the sweet stuff. Maybe sing their favorite song to them so they look up at your and you can grab that smile that melts your heart… If all else fails, put a dollop of icing on their nose!

And lastly, my final suggestions…
Prepare the cake… don’t bring the cake straight from the fridge and set it in front of baby, the icing and cold cake may make it too hard for baby to grab and they may lose interest, a room temperature cake is best.

Make sure to have extra sprinkles (or cake topper elements) ready to add if needed.

Keep cake cutter handy (in case you need to help baby dig past the frosting and get a handful of cake)

If you are doing the cake smash outside of the comfort of your own home, such as a photographer’s studio, or outside, be sure to pack a special bag just to put baby’s icing covered clothes in, and a fresh set of clothes for them to wear until they can be properly cleaned up.

Make the session about the kids and don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Maybe you want to do a simple cupcake instead of a whole cake… or maybe you really want to think outside the box… what if it wasn’t cake… maybe you do a donut smash session or an ice cream sundae dig-in?


Jessica Dunn is the owner of Jessica Jill Photography, specializing in newborn and children’s photography in the Chicago area. Her love for photography and inspiration for all elements of her creative style come from her two boys, Scott & Levi and her supportive husband, Ryan. She is very excited for her first watermelon smash this summer!

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