A Birmingham, AL Portrait Photographer’s Advice on How to Win at Smash Cake Sessions

I can’t remember a time throughout my last six plus years as a photographer that I didn’t love shooting smash cake sessions. There’s something about this silly tradition that has stolen my heart. It’s definitely in my top five favorite things to shoot. My heart flutters capturing the joy of this right of passage for those sweet babies’ first birthdays. There’s something so much fun about watching your baby taste cake for the first time, or anything sweet for that matter! Here are my favorite tips for nailing your baby’s smash cake session with Leigh Ann Goodin Photography:

The Cake

Brexton’s red and blue cake matched his party colors and his outfit!

When it comes to the cake, simplicity is best. These are about to get demolished, so there’s no need to break the bank either. I love these cakes from Publix! Side note: If you love free stuff as much as I do, when it’s time for the party, they do a free smash cake with a sheet cake for first birthday parties! Buttercream frosting will do just fine, and no fondant or candles are necessary because they just aren’t functional here. My recommendation is to steer clear of chocolate cake and/or chocolate frosting. White cakes with additional light colors or cakes that match the theme of your baby’s first birthday party are a popular choice. Be sure not to let the baby touch it until I capture the cake by itself. It’s no secret I love shooting details, and this cake will be no exception! The cake will also serve as a backdrop for the sweet up close images of those icing-covered fingers and toes.

Look at sweet Tucker concentrating hard on digging in!


Stealth’s mom brought along a chair to keep him contained!

Should I bring props? This is one of my top questions as a smash cake photographer. It’s up to you, honestly. My favorite prop so far has been a color coordinated antique wooden high chair, but if you don’t have access to one, a blanket will be just fine! If your baby doesn’t mind the grass, sometimes he or she will sit straight on the ground! Small cake stands can be fun for the ground or blanket setups, especially if they belonged to a loved one or match the overall color scheme and/or theme.

Margaret’s beautiful blue eyes really popped in front of those pink and gold balloons!

Some parents opt for balloons, but don’t be disappointed if the wind doesn’t cooperate with them! Several balloons can be bunched for fun backdrops for up close images, but often times we end up not using them very much at these sessions. Some parents choose to forego props and just enjoy the simplicity of their sweet baby with the cake which photographs just as well.


Like the props, This one is up to you! Whether it’s simple, like a white diaper cover, or a custom “one-sie” and fluffy tutu with matching sparkle bow headband, you can’t go wrong. If you do choose a more elaborate outfit, try to keep the overall theme and color palette in mind.  Try to avoid small print on shirts or onesies, as they will be hard to read.

Anna Kate’s sweet smile and plain diaper cover were all the accessories she needed!


Jennifer + Chad jumped in to celebrate with Reagan!

Most of the time, the parents haven’t had any pictures with their baby since birth, so now is the perfect time to get those updated! Opt for a longer session and start with some updated family photos or photos of just the three of you to celebrate making it through that first year. Pat yourself on the back, get dressed up, and let’s have some fun all together before we smash that cake.

Don’t feel like joining in on the session? Spend some time before the cake having some portraits done of your special little guy or girl in an alternate outfit or with some different props!

Tucker’s mom chose the letters his big brother used at his smash cake session!


Lily didn’t want anything to do with that icing but her session was still beautiful!

What if my baby doesn’t like the cake or won’t eat it?

No worries! This actually happens more frequently than you would expect. We will do our best, help baby smash, and capture the memories regardless of how they’re feeling about the cake! We will STILL get great images that you can treasure for a lifetime., especially extra images of their tiny fingers, toes, and more covered in icing. It’s OK if you have to help your baby understand what to do too!

When should I have my baby’s pictures done?

Most people like to display their pictures at their baby’s first birthday party, so I recommend subtracting a week off your party time to allow for printing, plus at least two-three weeks to allow for image delivery. So this actually puts you having the pictures done at roughly 11 months old instead of a full year. Don’t worry, people won’t know the difference! I schedule all of my portrait sessions in the golden hour, or the hour before sunset. If you’re worried about a late sunset and baby’s bedtime or extreme heat during warm weather months, we can always opt for a sunrise session in the hour just after sunrise instead!


ALL THE BABY WIPES and a fresh outfit. Maybe a hose. Or a water gun. Or we can shoot next to a car wash. JK ;). But for real, your baby with more than likely be a BIG MESS so prepare to have to clean up after the session. You may or may not find icing hiding somewhere for days to come. Bring another outfit to go home in, lots of baby wipes, and a couple grocery bags for the dirty clothes and/or blanket.

Interested in a smash cake session for your little one? Contact me today!

Love + Blessings,


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