10 Expert Tips for the Best First Birthday Cake Smash Photos

By Ramina Magid – Newborn Photography Studio in Los Angeles, CA

cake smash photos

10 Expert Tips for the Best First Birthday Cake Smash Photos

Your baby’s first birthday is a huge milestone—a full year of giggles, cuddles, and many sweet little moments that deserve to be celebrated! Capturing this precious time with cake smash photography is always a great idea, as it adds a sprinkle of joy to your one-year-old’s big day. As a newborn and cake smash photographer, my goal is to provide families with a fun and stress-free session in my Los Angeles photo studio where we can bring the playful charm of an outdoor shoot indoors.

From setting up the perfect themed cake smash to capturing the cutest messy faces, there’s so much to think about. If you don’t want to get overwhelmed with all the options on Pinterest, I’m here to share some tips. Whether you’re looking for creative cake smash photos, ideas or tips for choosing the right cake (no red icing or chocolate cake, please!), this guide will help you get the most out of your baby’s first birthday session.

Tip #1: Timing is Everything

Plan the Cake Smash Session at the Perfect Time

Let me tell you, when it comes to a successful cake smash, timing is everything. You want your little one to be happy and full of energy, so book the session shortly after their first nap. Typically, mid-morning sessions work best, ensuring your baby is well-rested, content, and ready to dive headfirst into their smash cake.

I always recommend scheduling the birthday cake smash about a month before the actual birthday. At this age, babies are usually not walking yet, so you’re less likely to have a runner who’s eager to explore every nook and cranny of the studio. They’re more likely to sit still for those precious portraits that come before the cake smash and will be more focused on the exciting treat that’s waiting for them.

Tip #2: Familiarize Your Baby with Their First Birthday Cake

Let Them Play with Cake Ahead of the Photoshoot

The first time a baby sees a cake, they might be puzzled. What’s this odd, sticky, colorful thing? Is it a toy? Something to eat? Their little minds might be racing, and not every baby immediately warms up to the texture and taste. So, introducing them to cake ahead of time is a great idea.

Get a second similar cake and let them touch and taste the small cake at home so they’ll be more comfortable and familiar during the session. Test out textures: buttercream vs. fondant. I’ve seen buttercream work best—it’s soft, easy to chew, and doesn’t present a choking hazard. Fondant can look pretty, but it’s tricky for babies to break down and chew, often resulting in frustration and confusion.

I’ve seen all sorts of reactions from babies, and most of them are delightful and endearing. Some babies cautiously poke at the frosting before gleefully tasting it, while others dive face-first into their smash cake like it’s their birthday party mission. Others hesitate, preferring to inspect the cake with skeptical eyes, or completely ignore it in favor of exploring props or interacting with mom and dad. Whatever the case, these precious moments reflect your baby’s personality, and that’s what makes each cake smash session so wonderfully unique!

Tip #3: Choose the Right Cake for the Cake Smash Photos

Order the Ideal Smash Cake for Your Little One

When it comes to picking the smash cake, you want to strike a balance between adorable aesthetics and practicality. Simple flavors are your best bet since you don’t want to risk any choking hazards or tummy troubles. A light vanilla or fruit flavor works well and is usually well-accepted by babies.

Let’s talk about frosting. As tempting as it might be to go for bright, fun colors, you’ll want to avoid red icing—it stains everything, doesn’t look great in photos and makes for tricky clean-ups. Chocolate, while delicious, isn’t very photogenic either. Too much fondant is another no-no, as it can be tough to chew for your little one and isn’t the easiest for them to navigate.

My advice is to opt for a bakery that understands the nuances of baby-friendly cakes. They can whip up a delicious, fluffy cake with buttercream frosting that’s just right for little hands and mouths. Make sure to confirm the ingredients so your baby’s cake smash remains safe and allergen-free. The perfect cake will be as cute as it is tasty, leading to delightful birthday cake smash photos.

Tip #4: Pick a Theme That Reflects Their Personality

Tailor the Session’s Theme to Celebrate Your Baby

Choosing the right theme for your cake smash photoshoot is half the fun and a great opportunity to showcase your baby’s unique personality! Incorporate themed props, outfits, and backgrounds to create an immersive environment that’s both colorful and engaging. Whether it’s a nautical theme complete with sailor hats and ship wheels or a whimsical bohemian vibe with flowers and feathers, your theme sets the stage for a memorable first birthday photo session.

Read my article on 12 creative cake smash photoshoot ideas for your baby’s first birthday.

Take inspiration from your baby’s interests, like their favorite animals or toys. If they’re all about dinosaurs, let them roar in a dino-themed smash, or if they’re into princesses, adorn them in a regal tutu skirt for a fairytale touch. With some creative thinking and Pinterest-worthy ideas about cake smash themes, you can make this occasion as unique as your little one.

Remember to keep the focus on your baby’s personality, so don’t overload the set with props or costumes. Instead, opt for subtle accents that highlight your baby’s interests and bring out their natural charm. 

Tip #5: Picking the Right Outfit

Dress Your Baby in a Comfortable, Adorable Outfit

When it comes to dressing your baby for their first birthday cake smash photos, I can’t say this enough, comfort is key. You want them to look cute, but if they’re squirming or irritated, those happy smiles may quickly turn into grumpy frowns. Opt for breathable and comfy fabrics like soft cotton or muslin. Tutu skirts, rompers, and simple onesies are all excellent choices.

Always bring a backup outfit or two in case of any accidents (let’s face it, things are bound to get a bit messy). If your baby is sensitive to certain fabrics, stick to materials they’re already used to and avoid anything itchy or restrictive. The goal is to keep them happy and free to explore the cake without any fuss.

I often recommend looking at these shops for finding that perfect outfit:

Little Me: They offer a wide range of newborn essentials including bodysuits, footed one-pieces, sleeper gowns, and more, all designed with comfort and style in mind for your little one. You can explore their collection at Little Me.


The Children’s Place: This store is known for its extensive collection of baby clothes, including pajamas, bodysuits, and adorable dresses. They offer a mix of seasonal options and essential items perfect for newborns. Check out their offerings at The Children’s Place.


Posh Peanut: Specializing in cute baby clothes, kids, and matching family outfits, Posh Peanut offers a range of stylish and comfortable clothing for newborns, made with quality fabrics. Discover their trendy styles at Posh Peanut.


Bitsy Bug Boutique: If you’re looking for trendy baby girl clothes, Bitsy Bug Boutique is a great place to shop. They have a curated collection of fashionable outfits for newborn girls, including onesies, rompers, and more. Visit their online boutique at Bitsy Bug Boutique.


Janie and Jack: This store offers classic, designer children’s clothing with a rich fabric, design, and detail. They have a lovely selection of newborn clothing that’s perfect for special occasions or everyday wear. You can find their collection at Janie and Jack.

Tip #6: Use Props to Make It Fun

Add Adorable Props to Make the Photos Pop

Themed props are the cherry on top of a fantastic cake smash photoshoot. They add layers of fun, color, and personality to the scene. Some of the most popular props include brightly colored balloons, charming banners, and rubber ducks that will make your little one giggle during their makeshift bubble bath. Props like these can be a big hit when it comes to capturing your baby’s curiosity and playfulness.

That said, it’s best to keep things simple while making sure the props tie into the theme. This helps your baby stand out in each photo, without the frame feeling cluttered or overwhelming. Whether it’s a cute backdrop that matches the smash cake or a few props your baby loves, a thoughtful touch makes the images even more adorable.

Tip #7: Bubble Bath

End the Session with a Makeshift Bubble Bath

There’s something irresistibly charming about ending the cake smash session with a makeshift bubble bath. I’ll let you in on a little secret: the “bath” is more of a prop than an actual tub. There’s no running water, it’s all about creating that whimsical mini-bathtub scene! For the best photos, bring along some fun bath accessories. Rubber ducks, floating toys, or even a mini sailboat can capture your baby’s playful personality. 

The combination of bubbly fun and adorable bath toys will produce images that will make you smile long after the photoshoot ends. Ending the session on this cheerful note ensures that your baby leaves the studio giggling, while you have a fresh set of joyful memories to celebrate this one-year milestone.

Tip #8: Be Ready for Anything

Prepare for Unexpected Reactions

If there’s one thing that makes cake smash sessions so exciting, it’s the unpredictability! You never quite know how your baby will react to their smash cake. Like I mentioned above, some little ones will gleefully dive face-first into the frosting, while others might cautiously poke at the cake or ignore it altogether.

That’s why it’s important to be prepared for a range of reactions. Remain patient and positive no matter what happens. If your baby isn’t immediately enamored with the cake, don’t worry, sometimes they need a little encouragement or reassurance to warm up to it. And if they don’t touch the cake at all, just remember that these photos will still capture their unique personality and add to the story of this milestone.

There are a few ways you can help your baby feel comfortable and confident during the session:

Play Familiar Music: Bring their favorite nursery rhymes or gentle tunes to keep them relaxed and entertained. If they recognize a song, they’ll likely be happier and more inclined to participate in the fun.

Bring Comfort Items: Familiar toys, stuffed animals, or blankets can help your baby feel secure and at ease in the photography studio. Let them keep these comfort items nearby during the cake smash photoshoot.

Be Supportive: Be close by and show encouragement with smiles, gentle words, and a guiding hand. Babies often look to their parents for reassurance, so your calm and positive presence will help them relax.

In the end, the best photos come from genuine, spontaneous moments—whether it’s a face full of frosting or a skeptical poke at the cake. Every baby’s reaction is special, and it’s these unpredictable, messy, and joyful moments that make the first birthday cake smash session truly unforgettable.

Tip #9: Involve the Family in Baby's First Birthday Photos

Include Special Family Moments

While the spotlight is on your baby during the cake smash photoshoot, it’s also an ideal opportunity to include some special family moments. If you’ve booked a Cake Smash + Family session with me at Ramina Magid photography in Los Angeles, I encourage you to capture a few portraits together before the cake makes its big entrance. These are the moments that celebrate not just your baby’s milestone, but also your family’s love and joy.

Start by dressing everyone in coordinated outfits that are simple and comfortable. You’ll all look lovely together in one unified color palette without overwhelming the scene. Aim for one look, focusing on capturing quick, candid moments as you play, cuddle, and laugh together. The best family portraits happen when you’re interacting naturally, so share jokes, tell stories, or even play peek-a-boo with your little one.

If your baby has older siblings, this is a perfect time to photograph them all together. Brothers and sisters love being part of the celebration, and the sheer excitement of this birthday party makes for some truly joyful images. Whether it’s siblings sharing giggles or parents beaming with pride, these portraits will show the bond that makes your family unique. See my full guide on what to wear for family portraits.

The key is to keep things relaxed and let the session unfold naturally. By allowing everyone to focus on the joy of the occasion, you’ll capture genuine smiles and the love that makes your family special. 

Tip #10: Trust Your Photographer 

Let Your Cake Smash Photographer Lead the Session

After months of planning and anticipation for your baby’s cake smash photoshoot, it’s normal to feel a little anxious on the big day. But here’s one of my most important pieces of advice: trust your photographer! Let them guide the session and handle those unpredictable moments so you can relax and soak in the joy of your little one’s celebration.

As a professional newborn, baby and cake smash photographer, I know just how essential it is to create a stress-free, comforting atmosphere. Your baby picks up on the energy around them, so if you’re calm and upbeat, they’re more likely to feel safe and excited. Here’s how to help create that perfect environment:

Give Space and Support: Sometimes, parents are so excited they crowd around the cake, but it’s best to step back just enough to give your baby some space. Provide gentle encouragement and familiar smiles, while letting your photographer capture those candid moments.

Embrace the Mess: Cake smashes are meant to be messy! Your photographer has seen it all and will be ready for frosting-covered fingers, faces, and clothing. Don’t worry if your baby gets sticky and coated in buttercream—this is part of the fun! Every giggle and smear makes for adorable photos.

 

Be Flexible: Every baby’s reaction is unique. While you might have a vision of the perfect cake smash photos, sometimes things don’t go exactly as planned. If your baby refuses to touch the cake or simply wants to play with the balloons instead, that’s okay. Your baby photographer will adapt and capture beautiful moments that reflect your baby’s personality, whether or not they dig into the cake.

Trust in Experience: A professional cake smash photographer has plenty of tips up their sleeve to encourage your little one to interact with the cake and props. We often use fun sounds, familiar music, or silly games to bring out those adorable smiles. If the baby needs a quick cuddle with mom or dad to feel reassured, we’re patient and flexible with breaks.

Ask Questions: If there’s something specific you want captured, let the photographer know before or during the session. Open communication is key to making sure all your favorite moments and family dynamics are highlighted.

In the end, trusting your photographer to lead the session ensures that your baby’s first birthday photo session will be captured in all its adorable glory. We’re here to celebrate this milestone in your baby’s life and provide you with a wonderful set of cake smash photos that you can treasure for years to come.

Ramina Magid - Newborn Photographer Los Angeles

If you’re in the Los Angeles area, my newborn photography studio also specializes in family photography, cake smash photography and baby photographyI am fully licensed, insured, trained on newborn safety and would be honored to capture your baby’s first birthday!

See my reviews here and contact me today to schedule your shoot and begin the journey of capturing your family’s precious story in the most beautiful way possible. My Los Angeles photography studio is located in Beverly Hills at 1010 S Robertson Blvd Suite E, Los Angeles, CA 90035.

Conclusion

By the end of your baby’s 1st birthday session, you’ll have a gallery full of playful, messy, and joyful memories that perfectly capture their one year old personality. Whether they explore the cake by touch, take small nibbles as a snack, or dive right in, each reaction reflects their adorable spirit and will bring smiles to your family for years to come.

Keep these tips in mind when planning your cake smash session: timing is crucial, cake texture matters, and the right props and theme can make a world of difference. Also, trust in your photographer, embrace the spontaneity, and remember to have fun! Following these tips will ensure that your themed cake smash session is full of creativity, laughter, and beautiful portraits of this milestone in your baby’s life.

It’s a privilege to celebrate with you and to provide treasured memories of your little one’s very first birthday celebration! 

Contact me here to schedule your session. 

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Ramina Magid Photography is a family, maternity, and newborn photography studio located in Los Angeles, CA, minutes away from Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and West LA. Ramina is a Los Angeles newborn photographer, baby photographer, and family photographer. Serving Los Angeles and surrounding cities including Burbank, Brentwood, Pasadena, La Canada, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Pacific Palisades, Santa Clarita, Van Nuys, West Hollywood, San Marino, Calabasas, San Bernardino, Malibu, Altadena, Covina, Alhambra, Granada Hills, Marina Del Rey, Manhattan Beach, Rancho Palos Verdes, and all other communities in Southern California.