Cake Smash Photos | Raleigh’s Birthday Photographer

Tips to help you plan your cake smash session

Who doesn’t love cake? First Birthday Cake Smash photo sessions are more popular than ever. Websites are full of themes, smash outfits and cake ideas. Etsy vendors provide entire coordinating sets and Pinterest is overflowing with ideas. Parents are letting their little ones celebrate a big milestone in a big way – with a tiny cake all of their own. Allowed to dive in, eat up and spread the joy (and icing) as far and wide as possible, the messier the better! A Bubble Bath at the end of your session for a squeaky clean baby and some precious bath time memories. This photographer FAQ page will help you prepare for these special photos (or click here to see Pricing or here to see Raleigh studio cake smash photo session availability OR how to choose a cake smash theme!).

It’s 2021, and things are a little different. Parents, you have homework:

I have had the pleasure of working with babies and children for many years, but deep into quarantine things are looking a lot different. Many babies have not left their house…in their entire little life. Most have not met new people outside of family and the experience of walking into the studio can be overwhelming and scary for your little one. This often comes as a surprise to parents who know them as happy, smiley babies at home but trust me – this is uncharted territory.

Parents, your homework is to take your baby some new places in the days and weeks before your session. I know that is not easy to do, but take them to a grocery store, a park to see kids running around, let neighbors greet them – however you can let them experience new places/people for the best chance at a successful photoshoot. If they are used to going out but never leaving your arms this is also a problem. Can you set your baby down and walk a few feet away without tears? You may also want to come prepared to be in some photos as a last resort; sometimes we just can’t peel them from mom’s arms these days. Hopefully soon we will start to see some bit of normal again!

So what exactly goes into the perfect first birthday session?

You bring the baby and the baked goods (or tacos, or waffles, or skip the food all together!), we will provide a set that coordinates with your theme and matching balloons – and clean up the mess when it’s all said and done! When your session is booked we will discuss your vision for the celebration. Whether you have a specific theme in mind or just a general idea, we will create something special and unique to your child. We start with a 5-10 minute session before introducing the treats (if you have a first birthday outfit that you do not want messy, this is the time to pull it out!) and then we bring out the goodies.  When it’s all said and done you take home your sugary baby and leave the mess to us!

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What to Wear

So many options! I recommend nor more than two outfits per shoot. Too many changes turn a happy baby grumpy really quick. Keep in mind that these clothes will get messy, so inexpensive clothing works well. We have a page of tips for choosing your cake smash outfits here.

What to Expect

Well, you just never know! Some babies dive right in and chow down and others take one look at that cake and burst into tears. Most babies fall somewhere in the middle; a little hesitant but with some coaching from Mom or Dad learn to enjoy their new treat. The actual cake portion of the session is typically short, 5 minutes or so, but these session times will vary. Whatever your child’s level of interest in their cake, the results will be priceless. If sticky babies isn’t your scene, we can build a set and shoot the entire session without the mess.

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The Cake:

There are some things you can do in advance to ensure adorable smash memories. The cake takes center stage in these photos so have a professional baker make something beautiful. While grocery store bakeries do sometimes offer free 1st year birthday cakes keep in mind that this “prop” will be the main theme of the photos and choose accordingly. The design should be fun, creative and very decorated – stripes, dots, sprinkles, rosettes, unicorns – the more the better! And new for 2021, faux cakes! All the cute, none of the mess. If you don’t want to deal with cake ordering, this option works well. A few helpful cake tips:

  • White cake is a better option than chocolate
  • Light/bright colors work better than darker/saturated colors (which will often stain the skin). If there is a dot of black icing on the cake, your baby will have black lips for their photos!
  • Choose a buttercream style icing vs. fondant or whipped cream.
  • I have cake stands available for you to choose from in studio so no need to bring one unless you have something specific in mind (and often do a few photos with the stand and then remove it since they do tip easily).
  • Have your baby try icing before the session in the weeks before the session – that is the only way you can anticipate how your little one will react to a sweet, new texture (and ensure that there are no allergies!)
  • Bring along baby’s favorite bite sized treats; hiding a cheerio/puff/etc. in the icing can mimic “grabbing” shots even if your little one is less than thrilled with the sticky situation
  • Please remember to take the cake out of the refrigerator a few hours in advance so that the icing can soften.
  • A 6″ cake with 1-3 tiers is ideal. Any larger and it will hide your baby. Have the baker use a cardboard base not much larger than the cake.
  • We have faux cakes available in studio if you want to skip the mess. Bring along snacks for eating photos, or even icing for some messy face shots.
  • See my local bakery recommendations here.
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Can We Take Family/Sibling Photos as Well?

These sessions are intended for the birthday boy/girl only. We recommend leaving siblings at home if possible, and only bringing two adults per session. Try as you might, siblings just can’t staying out of the mix so they will be in the cake smash room and it does cause distractions for the baby. The more people the more chaos and the less time your baby will stay focused and happy at the shoot. The sets are small, baby sized, so we can grab a quick shot with mom and dad but they will be cropped very closely. Toddlers are sensitive and we want to do all we can for a perfect shoot!

What the best way to wash off cake? A Bubble Bath of course!

We end your shoot with an (optional) warm bubble bath for a squeaky clean baby and some adorable bath time photos. While some babies may not love cake, almost all babies love bubbles and splashing – the results are precious!

This is Going to be Messy

Bring along extra clothes for you AND baby, and bags to take home messy clothing and toys.

The Studio Not Your Style?

Smash Sessions can also take place at area parks. These sessions take a bit more planning on your part but the results are precious and can be added to a half or full family photo session.

outdoor cake smash session garden park raleigh

How to Schedule your Session:

Our online booking calendar will show you upcoming availability. We prefer at least two week’s notice to plan and design (and purchase supplies for) your customized birthday set. We will discuss your ideas (if you don’t have any ideas, leave it up to us!) and would love to see a photo of your cake design in advance to make sure we match just perfectly!

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