4 Tips to a Capture Your One-year-old's Messy Cake Smashing

What's good about being a wedding photographer is, you get to witness the upcoming precious life events of your clients after the wedding (if they still want to hire you)--Pregnancy, having a new born, cake smashing when the child turns one, and more family photos follow by.

Your child is turning one next week and you are going to get him/her a beautiful cake for smashing. The photographers around you are fully booked and you have to do the cake-smash photos yourself.

I'm going to share 3 tips that help you photoshoot the moment like a pro! (I might risk losing potential clients if they can do it themselves, but I believe even though you learn all these tips, it still worths paying a professional photographer for the expertise they have).

#1 Lighting

Lighting, lighting, lighting! Lighting matters a lot in photography... we paint our canvas with light. If you are shooting the photos in an outdoor settling, try to do it in the afternoon (around 4pm) if you can and position your child behind sunlight (not facing the sun). Backlight outlines the baby's delicate figure and highlights his/her hair without causing discomfort in the eyes. I love photographing in backlight as it naturally creates mood in the photo. As soon as you set the babe in the backlight condition, place the cake in front and let him/her smash, and you will begin the photoshoot! You might have to use continuous mode of shooting (burst mode) to capture the baby's fast changing expressions.

#2 Choose a Clean Background

Avoid distractions such as poles, trash cans and other objects, choose a clean and uncluttered background. Open up the aperture to blur the background and make the subject stands out. Ideally, choosing a clean background under backlight condition will give you 90% chance of success, but what if one factor is missing? Say you find a clean background but it is not under backlight condition? For me, I would prioritise light condition to background. It is the backlight that creates mood in the photos, and you can always open up the aperture to blur the background to make it cleaner.

#3 The Backdrop and the Cake

While you want to keep the background simple, you might as well include one or two props or backdrops that would add fun to your work. The whole idea of having backdrops is to add joyful elements and colors to the photos. Try to add banners, paper arts, cake stands, balloons to your settings, Hobby Lobby is where photographers and artists find their inspirations! Make sure the backdrops match the colors of the cake. Typically, light blue, purple, light green, pink, white, red and orange look good in photos. Designing a nice cake (although it will ultimately be smashed) that matches with the colors of the backdrops and the baby's outfit is crucial. Avoid using pure white colored cakes as it will definitely be overexposed and ended up looking like a huge white ball instead of a cake in the photos. If you are in a studio setting, try to avoid bright colored backdrop sheets such yellow and green.

#4 Shoot Modes

Use "M" (Manual) Mode and burst mode. If the baby is the only subject in the photos, open up your aperture (typically F2.8, F4) while using high shutter speed to "freeze" and capture his/her expressions. In the above photos, I use a Canon 70-200 F2.8 telephoto lens, exposure values are F2.8, 1/250s, ISO 200.

If you are a beginner and want to learn all the basics in photography, I would recommend you enrol the classes offered by Photosprouts, which is a photography school that provides DSLRs and lenses during class.

Good luck with your photo sessions!

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@Christina Szeto Photography, all rights reserved | Exquisite Family Photographer | San Francisco Bay Area | christina@christina-photo.com | 535 Mission St, 14th Fl, San Francisco CA 94105 | M-F 9am-5pm, Sat 10am-3pm