I love photographing fresh 1-year-old babes for their birthdays with a smash cake. I’ve found that while it’s probably most often best to hire someone (I did Ezra’s and it was a bit chaotic for just me), sometimes our budgets don’t allow it, right?

Professional photographers will always get us better results, but I know that in reality, parents often have to take their own photos and the smash cake is a fun time for parents to capture their little ones. I wanted to share some tips for making a fun, bright and colorful smash cake session at home.

What you’ll need:

  1. A bright room with natural light. You can move furniture to allow space.
  2. A camera, preferably in manual mode.
  3. A 50 mm or 35 mm lens. If you need to use the kit lens (the one that comes with your camera most of the time), that’s fine too, but the lenses I mention are FABULOUS for details.
  4. Backdrop paper. I’ve started using these huge rolls of bulletin board paper and it’s been a game changer for set-up, tear down, cleanup and changing out colors for each shoot. Buying backdrops are expensive so these papers give me so much versatility for each shoot. I own five rolls as of now and will add as I can. These 50 foot rolls will last a while for toddler and baby sessions.
  5. Backdrop stand OR a blank wall. I use my backdrop stand because I have it and I don’t have a blank wall, but with the paper roll backdrops, you could easily just tape them to a wall and run them along the floor. Here is my setup below. I don’t have a studio so my dining room or office are always where I photograph clients. Not ideal, but it works.

  6. A cake platter or stand.
  7. Cupcake or cake
  8. Baby/Toddler and a few props. I like garlands, banners, party hats and balloons, but many people like to use more details. I prefer to focus on the child and the bright colored background.


  1. Face the child towards the window or to the side if it’s not possible.
  2. No direct sunlight, please.
  3. Go with the flow of the child. Sometimes that means a lot of moving and waiting, but a comfortable child is so much easier to photograph. We didn’t get a single smile during a session recently, but the photos are still WONDERFUL.
  4. Sit the child on the ground. High chairs are certainly more practical, but WAY less cute. Just use a paper roll as a backdrop and on the floor so cleanup is easy.
  5. Keep snapping away. I find that sometimes if I just keep going, I catch some of the best images when a child makes a certain face or does something funny or cute.
  6. Set the cupcake out last. If you want images of the child clean, start taking some photos before doing the cake smash. The cake smash should be the very last thing.

This little lady was a recent client who was such a joy to photograph. All photos taken by me (via my photography business—Yellow Door Studio) and used with parental permission.