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It is safe to say that I am still crushin’ over all the photos I took for Memphis’s smash cake photo shoot. I am just so grateful that I could do this to celebrate his first birthday. But to get those “Instagram worthy” pictures, there was a lot of planning behind the scenes. So today I will be sharing with you some tips and tricks on how you can execute an awesome smash cake photoshoot and keep your sanity too!
#1 Plan, plan, and (you guessed it) plan some more
I am one of the BIGGEST procrastinators, so this step is never easy for me. Planning out your smash cake photo shoot a couple of weeks in advance will save your life. TRUST ME.
The key to a great smash cake photo shoot is to TRY and keep things simple. When you are deciding on décor, pick two to three colors to work with and prevent yourself from adding too much in the background. An important factor to remember, is that you want the viewers’ eyes to focus on two things: your child and the cake. And if you are having trouble deciding on what colors to go with, find one focal piece of décor (banner, wooden letter, favorite stuffed animal/toy, etc.) and work around that!
Plan out what your little one will wear during the shoot. I chose to have Memphis in a simple bow tie, suspenders, and a jean diaper cover. Him getting very messy was inevitable, so I figured this would be easier to work with when it came time to clean up.
Speaking of cleanup, do not forget to plan how you will dispose of all the mess afterwards. I decided to purchase a roll of white seamless paper that is frequently used by many photographers as a backdrop. It really was a no brainer once I realized that after the pictures were done, all we would have to do is cut the used portions off the roll and toss it into the trash. Awesome, right?! It totally saved our carpet and floors from being a hot mess! But of course, you can choose to take photos of your little one directly on the floor. Just be ready with all the cleaning items you need close by if you choose to go this route.
Now you are probably wondering, ‘Why on earth would she do this on carpet?’ The truth is that I would have loved to have it anywhere else, but sometimes you just have to work with what you have and see where the best lighting is. One of the most important aspects of taking photos that you are happy with has nothing to do with the editing software you have or the type of camera you choose. It does have everything to do with favorable lighting. When you choose a photoshoot location, look for the spot in your house that has the BEST natural light. For me, the light is best in our dining room that is adjacent to the kitchen. How do you know where that is? Take pictures of your kids in different spots around the house at different times during the day. Do a few trial runs and test photos. For our dining room, the light was always the best at around 7:30 am or 5 pm. So I knew that this would later be an important factor to consider when scheduling his photo shoot.
#2 If you can afford it, hire someone to make the smash cake
So I tend to overdo it sometimes and this is the area I totally did. I really wanted to make his cake super special and use those cake decorating skills I learned 6 years ago, but it ended up being more trouble than it was truly worth. Piping out all that frosting to make the cake look like it had fur did a number on my hands and I was completely exhausted when I was finally finished. The cake ended up turning out beautifully but to save my sanity and time, it would have been a much better idea to just have hired someone to make it. Save your sanity. Either hire someone to do the cake or the photos, not both.
#3 Timing is EVERYTHING
This has got to be one of the most important factors to consider. You not only want to take the photos when the lighting is the best in your house, but you also want your precious little one to be in his/her happiest mood. So for pete’s sake…do not (and I meant DO NOT) take your smash cake photos during your child’s birthday party. During a birthday party, there are way too many things that could go awry that you just simply cannot control. For starter’s, your little one may be too distracted, too overwhelmed, or just too tired to even want to stay still to take pictures. Pick a day during the week that your house is quiet and free from guests.
Another important timing consideration is to plan the photo shoot around your child’s nap time. Since the lighting was best in the late afternoon, I made sure that I timed my kiddo’s nap time correctly so that he would wake up at just the right time for me to get him ready. BEST DECISION. The little one was a super happy camper which made my life so much easier.
#4 Having another adult to help is essential
I would like to actually say that I did this ALL BY MYSELF, but that would be a straight up lie. I actually recruited a ton of help from both the hubby and our daughter for this photo shoot. Because let me tell you…trying to keep a very squirmy one year old to sit still is never easy. By recruiting some assistance, I could focus solely on taking the photos. The hubby’s job was to keep placing Memphis back on the seamless paper backdrop when he crawled away. My daughter’s duty was solely just to act silly and do what she does best which is making her little brother smile.
The hubby also helped by having a few toys around to entertain the little one when the cake was not present. So we actually had photos where Memphis was holding his bath toy and the hubby’s duck calls. I was leery about them at first, but the “duck call” photo ended up being one of my favorites. Since Marc likes to hunt, this was a great as it displayed our little one enjoying something that daddy loves too. Be sure to have fun and incorporate your family’s personality in the photos too! It is what will make your photos unique and appealing.
You will also want to keep a spoon within arm’s reach. ‘What is the spoon for?’ Some kids will tend to just look at the cake and are not sure what you want them to do with it. You can help them out by using the spoon to get the smashing fun started. Memphis seemed to just be interested in his monster cake’s fondant antennae, so we did use this technique to help him along a little bit. After we took out that first chunk, he knew exactly what to do and the rest was all him.
#5 Take a TON of photos to edit through later
I don’t know how many times I heard the hubby say to me, “Did you get enough photos” but I know it had to be a lot. Be sure to take a ton of photos from different angles. It is always a much safer idea to take “too many” photos first and then sift through the one’s you don’t want later. I used my Nikon camera to take all the photos during the shoot but then did all my editing with an app called Snapseed. It has definitely been my “go to” for editing all my photos that go on my Instagram feed. Also, remember to take photos of just the cake and the backdrop first before adding your child. Because once you put your child down, whatever happens next is going to be both pure chaos and pure photography magic.
#6 Remember that NOTHING is going to go as planned, so enjoy the memories and throw out perfection
And lastly, enjoy the moment. Do not get caught in the misguided illusion of perfection. Nothing will ever turn out perfectly or the way you planned. Most of my most favorite photos from this smash cake photo shoot were complete candid shots. They were shots I couldn’t have planned up if I tried to.
If the only thing you can control is how much you appreciate the moment, then please do so. What I realized during this shoot was how quickly the first year of our last baby flew by. I remember taking a moment to move my eyes away from behind the camera to find both my husband grabbing Memphis’s leg and my daughter laughing hysterically as the little stinker tried desperately to crawl onto the carpet with his frosting covered body. Moments such as these are fleeting. You will never regret that you forgot to take a certain photo or add a certain piece of décor as much as you would if you did not sit back and enjoy the love and laughter from that amazing little person you created.
There were a bunch of photos that were my favorite from the shoot. They may have not been “Instagram Perfect” but they always bring a smile to my face when I saw them. Those are the moments you want to remember. Those are the pictures that mean the most.
In the end, I could not have been happier with how we handled this special milestone in our little one’s life. For your viewing enjoyment, here are a some additional photos from the shoot and the ones that made the final Instagram feed.
So what did y’all think? Let me know down on the comments below!