How to Prepare for a Cake Smash Photo Shoot

Written by Backdrop Express Photography Team on . Posted in Baby & Child Photography, Photography Tips

How to Prepare for a Cake Smash Photo Shoot | Backdrop Express Photography Blog

“Cake smash” birthday photos have become all the rage for babies and toddlers, especially at their 1st birthday parties. (Isn’t it fun to see the words “cake” and “smash” together?!) What is a cake smash photo shoot? It involves photographing a child indulging in cake however they wish; beyond that, no two cake smash shoots are exactly alike. The session can vary quite a bit depending upon the subjects, setting, backdrops and photography techniques. (Note: While the cake smash is used mainly for kids’ 1st birthday photos, it is also becoming popular for pet birthdays, newlyweds on their 1st wedding anniversary, and babies and toddlers of any age, any time of the year.)

Want to try a cake smash? Whether you want birthday photos or just some fun images, here are the basics of a cake smash photo shoot:

1. Choose a Location

Cake smashes can be done in a studio or “in the field.” Places like the client’s yard, a park, their kitchen or rec room can work very well. Natural light is ideal, but soft studio lighting can work as well. Doing the shoot on the floor or ground may allow for easier cleanup in addition to creating some compelling angles for the birthday photos.

cake smash birthday backdropsFeaturing: Stone Gray Seamless Paper | Courtesy of Coco Captures

2. Outfit

Next, select a festive outfit for the child. Parents and photographer should talk in advance to determine the ideal look; make sure everyone is on the same page. The outfit should be easy to clean, but also coordinate well with other elements of the shoot: location, backdrop, cake, frosting color, props, etc. Some parents opt for diaper-only as the “outfit”; if so, a nice diaper cover might be considered. Check out our new Baby Birthday Hats too!

cake smash birthday backdrops Featuring: Gold Sequin Fabric Backdrop | Courtesy of Owens-Lugar Photography

3. The Cake

Set aside a generous slice of the birthday cake for the shoot, or have a separate small cake made just for the shoot. Chocolate cake with lots of white icing is a fun choice, but some photographers prefer the look of white or yellow cake. (Avoid red velvet cake or red frosting.) You can pick up some rainbow-colored sprinkles to add to the frosting, too. Big number “1” candles can be a fun prop to add. Cupcakes are also a possible option instead of birthday cake.

cake smash birthday backdropsFeaturing: True Blue Seamless Paper | Courtesy of: Angie Ochoa Photography

4. Backdrops

If your cake smash shoot is taking place in a studio, a seamless paper backdrop is your best option for this messy shoot. With seamless paper, you won’t have to worry about cleanup or scrubbing frosting from a muslin or canvas; instead, simply cut off the used portion and discard it. Seamless paper comes in 68 color choices, so photographers can choose the perfect shade of pink, baby blue purple or bright yellow for their little models. The background can be easily matched to the cake, outfit, decorations and props for a very themed, organized and complete look. Vinyl would be a suitable alternative to paper, as it’s easy to wipe clean with just a gentle hand washing.

Tip: If you must use a fabric backdrop, place a sheet of plexi-glas on the floor over it. It’s very easy to clean, and it can also add a dimension of artistic reflection to some of your shots.

cake smash birthday backdrops Featuring: Sky Blue Seamless Paper

5. Make Your Plan

Next, prep the location and formulate a cleanup plan — the little one will likely need a full bath immediately after the shoot. Remove any unnecessary distractions from the area. Keep it simple — while it may be tempting to include a banner, balloons galore, ribbons and lots of props, these can often become too distracting both at the shoot and in the final photos.

Your basic cake smash event should go something like this:


1. Choose a location, theme and outfit for the shoot

2. Choose your cake — make sure it is room temperature at the shoot

3. Have a clean-up plan ready (a large beach towel and access to a nearby tub would work)

4. Select your backdrop choice(s)

5. Decide on your camera settings

cake smash birthday backdropsFeaturing: Yellow Plaid 1st Birthday Hat

At the shoot:

6. Remove distractions and bring in the baby

7. Make sure the lighting is ideal and verify your settings — aperture, exposure, white balance, shutter speed, etc.

8. Take “cake-free” photos of the baby

9. Snap a few shots of the cake before it is smashed

10. Introduce the baby to the cake — and keep shooting!

Do you offer cake smash sessions? What are your favorite props and backdrops to use?

-Backdrop Express Photography Team

Interested in reading more about working with babies? Check out What Posing Props Can Do for Your Photo Shoot!

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Comments (4)

  • Lori


    What is the best size of paper for a cake smash???


    • Backdrop Express Photography Team


      Hi Lori!

      We would recommend using a 107″ wide roll for cake smash shoots. As we all know, babies don’t always sit still so the wider backdrop will allow more flexibility for shooting your baby model if they are moving around a lot. Let us know if you have any other questions!

      -Backdrop Express Photography Team


  • zahraa


    Thank you for this great is so helpful


  • Pretty Witty Designs


    I’m new to studio photography and have yet to buy the backdrops etc. What flashes would you recommend? Do you have any behind the scenes pics of the off camera flash setup?


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