20 March 2013

The Making of a Cake Smash

So you want to have your little one smash a cake? Are you sure

Last month we celebrated J's first birthday with a cake smash photo shoot and I was surprised at how much thought and planning went into it. For me I wanted J to have a fun experience (it WAS his birthday) but I also wanted to use it as a chance for me to put my photography skills to the test. I mean, an energized little boy covered in cake making messes on brand new carpet, who could resist! 

These are some of the things I considered while planning our cake smash session:
Location: My location needed to have great light, provide a clean background, be warm (hello nakie baby!), and be close to a clean-up station (aka bathtub). Oh, and it needed to be easily cleaned or at least unable to be damaged too extensively by little frosting hands.

My first choice was to set up outside in the open shade of a nearby building, but then the thought of trying to carry a half-naked boy with frosting everywhere AND my camera back to the apartment scared me straight.

My second choice was suggested by my husband (who has a knack for simplifying what I insist on making complicated), "Why don't we just do it in the living room?" I went through my checklist and sure enough, it met all the criteria!  

We are blessed to have huge south facing windows in the living room that let in lovely natural light. The only thing that worried me was the (gulp!)... new carpet. Simple solution, a white plastic tablecloth from the dollar store that doubled as a reflector and bounced white light onto precious J's face.

Cake: When deciding on a cake I knew that dark colors would contrast with his light skin and would make it easy to capture on camera. After the flavor was decided (chocolate, surprise!) I needed to decide how to best to make a small cake for J to smash.

I initially liked Janssen's mini cake in a mug, but I didn't have an oven-safe mug with straight sides. AND when I tried to look online I ran into stories of mugs shattering in the oven... Being my overly-cautious self I settled for two bread pans (9x5-inch) and a round cake pan. Result: One cake to be cut in half and stacked for J's cake smash, one cake to be saved in the freezer for later (which didn't last long), and one round cake for an actual birthday cake for us to share as a family.

Camera Settings: Because I knew for a fact that my little guy wouldn't sit still and wait for me to play with camera settings, I made sure to set up the scene and check my lighting.  

In Manual mode I set my camera to the lowest ISO (ISO 100), aperture f/3.5 (making J and the cake in focus, blurring the balloons), and shutter speed to 1/250 of a second (to freeze the movement that was sure to ensue). After snapping one shot, it was underexposed to my liking and so I moved my ISO to 200 and shot again, perfect!

Thanks to having a husband on hand to keep J on the tablecloth, our cake smash session was a success! There is nothing like an hour or two of planning and pinning for something that takes 15 minutes to be destroyed.


  1. This is the cutest post ever with the cutest pics of little J!

  2. Thanks Heather! We sure had a lot of fun, especially after he let me finish the cake.

  3. Thanks for sharing your blog with us at RS tonight!


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