It’s no secret that the best part of any birthday party is usually the cake. And not just eating it: Seeing baby covered head to toe in the sweet confection also makes for some super cute photos. The cake smash trend that’s taken over social media is a fun way to commemorate baby’s first birthday, and for good reason—there’s something seriously adorable about little kids making a complete mess. But there’s more to celebrating this special moment than just letting baby go to town on a pint-size cake—you’ll want to get good pictures of the occasion too. We asked Texas-based photographer Iliasis Muniz to share her best tips to help you set the scene and make baby’s photo op a piece of cake.
Do a Practice Run
You might expect baby will be eager to get messy, but Muniz says most kids need a little extra coaxing to know what to do. “Letting the baby get comfortable and explore on their own takes time,” she says. She suggests giving baby a cupcake to practice with before the big day. Having a chance to feel the different textures and see bright colors ahead of time can lead to fewer surprises and a smoother experience when all eyes (and the camera) are on them.
Pick the Right Cake
Is there really such a thing as a “wrong cake”? Well, maybe not when it comes to dessert, but for the best mess at a cake smash, go with buttercream or whipped cream frosting over fondant. Soft icing is easier for baby to grasp and squeeze, not to mention eat. Bright colors, sprinkles or a favorite character can also catch baby’s curious eye and make him want to reach out and touch. If that’s not enough, “put something on top of or near the cake to gain the child’s attention at first sight,” Muniz says. Hiding a favorite, familiar snack behind the cake could encourage baby to dig in.
The key to a stress-free session is proper preparation. Set up a large area, maybe even on the floor, where baby will be free to move around and make a mess. Of course, make sure it’s a spot that’s easy to clean—professional photographers often tape down large pieces of paper—or simply take it outside. And don’t forget a change of clothes—for both of you. “Everyone will get dirty in this eventful experience,” she says. “Babies love to crawl (to their parents) after they’ve had enough of the cake.”
Become a Master of Distraction
Want to get baby laughing and smiling for the camera? Be prepared to get a little silly. Have someone baby trusts stand nearby to make silly faces or play peekaboo to get baby’s attention. Playing a favorite song from your phone or singing a nursery rhyme helps as well. And in the event of a meltdown, have a comfort item on hand (like a pacifier or security blanket) to keep baby calm. If that doesn’t work, food is always a good fallback. “I hand them a little snack to gain their confidence and once they trust me enough, they’ll throw in those giggles. Tickling feet works wonders too,” Muniz says.
Be Patient and Have Fun
It might take a little while to get baby comfortable in front of the camera, but Muniz says patience is the most important factor. “Be open to the unexpected,” she says. It’s not uncommon for children to cry (they are babies after all!), but sometimes those moments make for the most memorable shots. And once baby warms up to the situation, there will be plenty of smiles and laughter. Go in with an open mind and a playful attitude, and baby will follow suit. After all, they only turn one once and making it through that first year is definitely cause for celebration.