I always knew that I wanted to have cake smash photos taken of my daughter for her first birthday. I toyed back and forth with the idea of doing them myself, but felt very very nervous. I reached out to a handful of photographers and ultimately realized that professional photos just weren’t in my budget.
However, I still wanted cake smash photos done, so back to my DIY idea I went. And honestly, I’m so glad I did! For about $55, my husband and I did our own cake smash photos for our daughter. It was fun, it was a chance for us to be creative, and it saved us a ton of money. So I decided to compose a blog on how we did it for any other moms out there who might be in our same boat that we were.
Step 1: Get a backdrop
Our backdrop was $21 at Hobby Lobby. I honestly just browsed through their fabric section and found a thick, vinyl-ish material that was $10 a yard and 30% off. I got 3 yards worth, so $21 invested. There were definitely cheaper options, but I didn’t want any backdrop wrinkles in the photos so this material felt heavy enough to prevent that.
I will say that when picking out the backdrop fabric, be sure to think about how you’re going to hang it up. In my mind, painter’s tape was going to hold this up, but it definitely didn’t. We ended up using nails to hold it in place, (just two–one on each corner). If using nails is something that you’re not interested in doing, definitely go for a more lightweight fabric that tape could hold up.
Also! If you have a summer baby or live in a warm area, think about doing it outside! Then you don’t have to invest in a backdrop or anything. Just be sure the area is well-lit and isn’t too busy behind the cake smash and you’re all set!
Step 2: Choose your color scheme / theme
Kensington’s first birthday party is going to be a “Stay Wild Moon Child” theme and I’m doing a lot of very earthy/floral decorations. So, for her cake smash I decided to do the same thing. While the cake smash wasn’t moon themed, it was still very florally and had the same color scheme as her party will. I definitely recommend reusing decorations so keep that in mind!
For Kensington, I did just a simple flower arch with some mini balloons taped into it. It sounds way more complicated than it was. The flowers I chose at Hobby Lobby already had an arch-like position, so I just used floral wire to tie them together and nails to hold them up. (Yes, that is now four nails in our wall for this cake smash. My husband was not incredibly happy.) But a banner or just balloons would not require any more nails! I’m just a bit crazy I think. 🙂
All the decorations for the cake smash cost me $14
Step 3: Plan the baby’s outfit
We were given the “one” onesie so I based it around there. I found the pink skirt on Black Friday at OshKosh B’gosh and the headband came from amazon. If you’re on a tight budget, I wouldn’t stress out too much the outfit. I’ve seen so many adorable cake smash photos done on Pinterest where the babies are in very simple onesies or even just a diaper. Just keep in mind, they’re going to (hopefully) smash cake into it. So don’t overthink this part. (I know I know it’s easier said than done–and if you’re one to spend money, check out Etsy! So many adorable outfits on there!)
The skirt and headband put me back about $13.
Step 4: Bake the cake
Now, I already happened to have a 6-inch cake pan that I used. But if all you have is a cupcake pan or 9-inch pan–I think that’s completely okay! Kensington did not eat very much of the cake at all (honestly, most of it ended up on her and the floor) so if it’s a full size cake or just one cupcake then it will still get the idea across.
I used a cake box from the grocery store and store bought icing. I had leftover flowers from the decorations and I purchased a super simple “1” candle from Party City.
The cake cost me $7.
Step 5: Set it up
You want to find the room in your home that has the most natural light. This is going to allow your photos to be bright and clear. We were able to do it right in front of a big window, so light was coming in directly facing Kensington, but if you aren’t able to have that, then you could easily make reflectors. All you need is foam boards covered with aluminum foil.
But be sure you do a few test shots a few days before to see what time of day the light is best and not harsh. I take a lot of photos in Kensington’s bedroom, so I knew that was the best place in our home.
Also, be sure to take a few pictures of the set up before you bring in the baby. It’s nice to have a starting image before the cake monster comes through and wrecks it.
Step 6: Ask for help & bring in the baby
Of course, I recruited my husband to help me get the baby to smile as I would be spending time behind the camera. But in retrospect, there’s no way I could’ve done it without him. He got so incredibly covered in cake as he was putting Kensington back into position over and over again. And while we only got a few really good smiles out of her, I would’ve had a camera covered in cake and ZERO smiling photos if it wasn’t for him.
Going off that note, don’t be upset if the baby doesn’t sit down and smile. This was something I was kind of frustrated with as Kensie has always been such a smiley babe, but I think she was so curious with it all. She started pointing at the balloons and the flowers before she even noticed the cake, and from then on it was her trying to figure out what a cake is and how to eat it. The curious photos make me just as happy and emotional as any of the smiling ones. And all the weird noises, clapping, singing, and arm waving were probably just time wasters. Haha.
What I Would’ve Done Differently
Different Color Icing
While a part of me loves how clean and crisp the whole cake smash looked, I wish I had thought about a white cake on a white backdrop. In fact, in all of my planning (aka my cake smash Pinterest board) the cake I planned to make was going to be pink. But for some reason when I picked up the supplies, I bought white. But hey, I’m not bothered by it enough to redo it. So that’s good. 🙂
More Backdrop on the Floor
So our backdrop was 9 foot long. I would say we probably had 5 feet up on the wall and only 4 feet on the floor. Since Kensington is walking, I wish we had thought about giving her a little extra backdrop on the floor so she didn’t get cake all over our carpet. Luckily, it cleaned up really easily but she kept walking to us and since there was more backdrop on the wall than on the floor, she brought a lot of cake with her onto the carpet. So stressful.
And that’s that!
I was so incredibly nervous that I would regret doing them myself, but I absolutely do not! I think I realized that I’d rather have more lifestyle family photos done professionally than pictures of her smashing a cake. These kind of photo shoots are meant to be more fun and doing them as a family project was such a great way to bond and celebrate our baby girl turning one!