Cake smash sessions are so much fun! From brainstorming the set to choosing the cake and watching your baby interact with it, it’s a grand time and I highly recommend it for any birthday (Not just first birthdays). At the moment, all of my cake smashes take place in my studio at Tanger 2.


As with any photography session, the first step is to get it on the schedule. Each photographer is different, but I like to schedule cake smashes about 3 weeks before their birthday or party (whichever one comes first). This ensures you have your images back in plenty of time and you’re able to order prints and have them in time as well. Some moms want to have prints framed to be on display at the party, while other moms just want to have pictures to post on social media the day of the birthday. Either way, 3 weeks is my magic number.

The good thing about scheduling a cake smash is that I have a lot more availability. We aren’t limited to an evening session because of the sunset. When planning the time of your session, be sure to take into account when your baby has a nap. Also, consider their personality. Are they the type of baby who is happiest or crankiest right after they wake up?  Is their temperament better later in the morning? Or earlier in the evening. These are the kinds of things I don’t know so I need you to tell me! I may throw a time out there, but it is up to you when we do this.

The Cake

Once we have a date on the calendar, reach out to a baker (or Publix because their cakes are the actual bomb) and make sure they can have a cake ready for you by our session date. I recommend keeping the cake simple, that way the focus can be on your baby and the details behind them. A 6″ round cake with 2 or 3 layers is perfect. Try to stay away from icing that is heavily dyed (especially red). There’s nothing wrong with a simple white cake with white frosting. You can even spruce it up by adding sprinkles inside the cake mix (rainbow, pink, or blue) and also by adding a texture the icing.

I swear I didn’t do it on purpose, but guess what happens to be right next to my studio in Tanger… Meg’s Sweet Treats. She has made a handful of cakes for my sessions, and they’ve all been equally beautiful as they are delicious. If you pick the cake up a day or two before the session, make sure you keep it refrigerated so it doesn’t get saggy. I know that juggling a cake on top of anything else you’re bringing to the session might be a bit much, so if the cake is local I don’t mind picking it up for you – I just need you to let me know ahead of time so I can plan on it. If you are bringing the cake yourself, make sure you take it out of the fridge an hour or so before you leave for the session so it has time to get a little soft. This will make it much easier for your little one to dig in.

Of course, we can’t forget the cake topper! I have a wooden topper that has a cursive one on it, but you are more than welcome to bring your own topper. Look at this cute bee one from Amazon. The only reason I don’t provide the cake for these sessions is because I don’t know what allergies your little one might have, so I leave it up to you to decide where and how you want to get the cake done.

Designing the Set

I have sooooo many props from past cake smashes I’ve done. Rodeo, Outerspace, Under the Sea, you name it. I like to design the set around the theme of their birthday party (if you’re having one). If you aren’t interested in doing a theme, we can stick with simple decorations, A few florals, greenery, etc. If there are any decorations from the party you want included you can drop them off at the studio ahead of time or you can bring them with you when you come and I will work them in.

You have access to my whole stash of props that include baskets, balloons, garlands, poofs, marquee lights, and so much more. I will send you a preference sheet so you can make selections of the things you want me to have ready for the session. You also get to choose the color of the backdrop. I have a few solid colors (white, gray, beige, black) in addition to some backdrops (wood, brick)

What To Wear

For the milestone pictures in the beginning of the session, I suggest bringing a cute but simple outfit. For the smash, it’s up to you what they wear. Some of my babies have only worn a diaper cover, while some wear a dress or keep their outfit on. The choice is totally up to you!

Some of my parents even join in on the cake smash. Whether you plan on it or not I would come to the session ready for a few pictures just in case.

The Session

Once we have brainstormed the things you want included in the set up, it’s finally time for the session! As with anything involving kids, I tell parents to not go in with too many expectations. You never know if they’ll love it or not. Sometimes the messiest of kids don’t go ham on the cake like you’d want.

I start all cake smash sessions by capturing a few milestone images. Details of their hands, feet, eyelashes, their little nose – all the things you’ll want to cherish when they hit those teenage years and are driving you up a wall. I have baskets and bowls and chairs we can use to get a good variety (this usually takes 10 minutes).

When we’re ready to bring in the cake (yayyy, the moment we’ve been waiting for!) I like to take a detail shot of just the cake in front of the backdrop, then a few of the baby with the cake topper, and once the baby is ready to start digging in, we can take the cake topper away so they don’t hurt themselves with it.

From here on out, the baby controls the session. Sometimes they crawl off the set every minute and a half and you need to keep putting them back. Sometimes they cry the entire time and want nothing to do with the cake. There’s really no way of knowing which direction it will go, so we just go with the flow! Having fun with it is the most important thing. If there’s a certain show or song that they like, we can have it playing on repeat. Whatever it takes to get them to have a good time.

I also recommend bringing some puffs or cheerios for bribery. Sometimes we have to hide them in and around the cake to get trick them into digging into it.

Once they’ve had their fun with the cake (or your session time is up) all you have to do is wipe them down, get them changed, and you’re good to head out! I take care of all the clean up around the studio. I have a bathroom in the studio with a changing station for you to get them cleaned up.

Gallery Delivery

After the session, I get to work culling and editing your final gallery. I choose the best images from the session, do some basic edits, and upload them to a digital gallery and mobile app for you to share with all your family! Grandparents are a huge fan of the app (they can even order prints from it that will be delivered right to their door). Speaking of prints, your session with me comes with a print release so you are able to download your images and print them yourself (cheaper, but usually not good quality) or you can order prints right through your gallery (slightly more expensive but MUCH better quality). The choice is up to you!

I want a cake smash session to be as easy, and simple as possible for you and your family! If you have any questions about my process or want to book your session, fill out my contact form!

xoxo, Elle

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Cake smash sessions are so much fun! From brainstorming the set to choosing the cake and watching your baby interact with it, it’s a grand time and I highly recommend it for any birthday (Not just first birthdays). At the moment, all of my cake smashes take place in my studio at Tanger 2. Scheduling […]


... and everything in between! Fueled by equal parts coffee and chickfila, I spend my days capturing the kinds of images that make you stop, smile and ask time to please slow down. Your story, your love, is beautiful and I can't wait to capture it in images you will treasure for years to come. 

I believe in real moments and heartfelt conversations on the front porch. In the kinds of images that remind you of the joy that can be found in the simplest of moments together. Keep reading to see how I became the Hilton Head Photographer

I’m Elle. Elementary teacher turned lifestyle photographer...


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