Tips for a cake smash shoot in a tricky venue

mrshayes

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Hi,

Our daughter's first birthday is next month, and I'd love to get a good cake smash shoot. Trouble is, the venue offers some challenges, and since she's our first baby we have no experience with cake smash shoots.

This is our venue:
Athens-Clarke County, GA - Official Website - Crow's Nest #1 Photos

As you can see, it's a woodland spot with no grassy areas and funky dappled lighting. There aren't any open grassy areas nearby; we already scouted the place out for those.

Budget is also a major issue, so we can't buy a pretty vintage wooden high chair for her to sit in and go at the cake.

I'm looking for any and all tips anyone can offer me for taking great photos there, but specifically:

- What do you suggest for a background? Not sure right now whether we can pin/nail/tack things to the structure itself, but if we can't, that rules out pinning up a sheet. I'd love to incorporate some bunting into the photo, somehow. Also note that the trees are too tall and branch-less to hang anything from!

- Uh, where do I put the cake? I know that's an odd one, but seriously? Most cake smash shoots I've seen are indoor and have the cake on the floor on a plate. What do I do if the ground is uneven?

- Can anyone think of a creative (and safe) way I can incorporate shipping pallets? I've found four shipping pallets for free on Craigslist (I was looking for a vintage high chair, but no luck). I hadn't thought of using them but now that I've seen them, is there any good way I might be able to get them in? (I'm not overly attached to this idea or anything, but it's a thought)
(Maybe if I stacked them and used them as a table to put the cake on?)

Thanks!
 

kathyt

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The lighting there is really nice.
 

Big Mike

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Who says you have to do the 'shoot' at the party location? You could just have the birthday party, then later, do a shoot at home or where ever.

Every first birthday party I've been to, the kid gets to 'smash' some cake....and it's always a good photo opportunity but it's not really a photo shoot. And if it was my kid having the party...I wouldn't want to be worried about both the party and trying to do a photo shoot at the same time. Especially a 'picnic' party at an outdoor location (away from home). In my experience, there is usually enough other stuff to worry about.
 

TimothyJinx

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Who says you have to do the 'shoot' at the party location? You could just have the birthday party, then later, do a shoot at home or where ever.

Every first birthday party I've been to, the kid gets to 'smash' some cake....and it's always a good photo opportunity but it's not really a photo shoot. And if it was my kid having the party...I wouldn't want to be worried about both the party and trying to do a photo shoot at the same time. Especially a 'picnic' party at an outdoor location (away from home). In my experience, there is usually enough other stuff to worry about.

+1

I'm shooting a cake smash next week completely separate and different day than the party.
 

OLaA

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I did my daughter's a few weeks before her birthday party and used the photos as thank you cards.
 

Light Guru

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It's a one year old smashing cake into their mouth. Get in close and use a wide aperture and you don't need to worry so much about the the background.
 

Derrel

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I agree with tirediron--please, do no let the kid go all Chris Brown on that cake!
 

slow231

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i'm kinda with bigmike on this one. there are photoshoots and then there is documentation of the party. at the party i'd just be concerned with capturing the moment in its sincerity (the kid, the crowd, etc.), a photoshoot isn't the same type of thing imo. that said, i think using wooded background in any way would be just fine. the entire thing is about the kid and the cake so i'd be bokeh-ing out the background anyways. use off camera flash to highlight the kiddo, or just put the little tyke in a patch of sunlight. that'd be an easy natural way of highlighting the subject from there rest of the shot. and then just shoot the event as it is naturally unfolds. don't forget to pay attention to the reaction of the audience. a lot of times the older kids, grandparents, your sig. other, etc have a stronger reaction to the situation since the have a better understanding of the context.
 

bunny99123

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I have only done a few, but all but one was done a day or more before the party. One taken during the party caused delay. Baby had to be washed and changed. She also was tired, so it didn't go over very well.



$image-1417828702.jpg
 

Richichi

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maybe this will help get those creative juices flowing - forget the party, make it a shoot!
 

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cynicaster

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Personally, I’m growing a little tired with the glut of super-contrived, meticulously posed and air-brushed pictures of newborns and toddlers that are flooding the internet these days via Pinterest and the like. I definitely see how these things sell like hotcakes, in this status obsessed culture where so many parents treat their children more like fashion accessories than living, breathing offspring.

I’m not insinuating the above applies to anybody in this thread, I’m just trying to raise a philosophical question.

Ask yourself this—in 10 years when you’re looking at the photos, would you rather be saying something like “ah, I remember that day we had the barbecue at Grandma’s for Little Johnny’s birthday party… oh, and there’s Aunt June, remember she got tipsy and kept playing that irritating Black Eyed Peas song on her iPod?” or would you like to be saying “ah, there’s little Johnny… uhhh… yep, that’s what he used to sort of look like… wow, what a dated looking picture, but at least he’s cute”.

My parents have “cake smash” pictures of me and my siblings from the late 70’s and early 80’s, and while not technical masterpieces, they’re priceless. Not only for my parents, but for everybody who cares enough to look at them. I look at those pictures today and, while I obviously have no recollection of those birthday parties, I get to be reminded of how the back yard used to look, I see that old tree that was chopped down in 1986, I see the wood-panel station wagon in the background, and it brings me back to a place with profound personal meaning.

I’m not suggesting one should disregard all technique; of course, you still want to have your photographer instincts working for you—be mindful of overly messy backgrounds, lighting, and all the usual stuff—but be careful not to obsess over those things at the expense of missing the chance to capture some of the best moments in their organic context.

This is my buddy’s son from a few weeks ago—the environment isn’t ideal from a technical perspective, but nonetheless the photos depict the boy sitting in his highchair in his parents’ dining room, the way it looked the day he turned 1 year old. Later that evening I took several posed shots, but the mom said, almost apologetically, that she liked the table ones best. I told her not to worry about insulting my efforts because I completely agree.

$ngm1.jpg$ngm2.jpg
 

wyogirl

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I see you are doing the cake smash a few days before the party but in the same location. I would put a table cloth on the picnic table, set the baby and cake on the table. Take dad with you to make sure baby doesn't fall off while you shoot. If you don't want the light to be speckled, then take a couple of speedlights if you have them, if not take some reflectors (or both). Shoot with a large aperture and focus on the eyes, but make sure you have enough DOF that the cake is in focus as well as baby. Most importantly, have fun because they are only little once and grow up WAY too fast.
 

Richichi

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cynicaster I agree with your comments to a degree - I think a photo-shoot in addition to his family photo's is the way to go. The opt sounds like he wanted to do a shoot which is why I gave him a creative boost as he seemed lost, what background, where to put cake & of course those photogenic shipping pallets :) At no time should family snapshots be taken lightly for the treasure memories they preserve are priceless - but then again snapshots don't get blown up and get hung on the family wall, well at least not in my small circle.
Ps: This is a photographers forum so your philosophy is a bit strange to me but hey your entitled to believe what ever you need to.
 
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cynicaster

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At no time should family snapshots be taken lightly for the treasure memories they preserve are priceless - but then again snapshots don't get blown up and get hung on the family wall, well at least not in my small circle.
Ps: This is a photographers forum so your philosophy is a bit strange to me but hey your entitled to believe what ever you need to.

I don't "need" to believe anything, and the pejorative sense of the word "snapshot" is just a game of semantics. All I'm saying is I don't see why a photo needs to be planned and staged with meticulously controlled lighting as necessary prerequisites for the noble status of "wall-hanger", and I don't understand why that makes my philosophy strange.

I never said there is a right or wrong way to approach the scenario, I was simply saying that, in my opinion, propping a kid up on the living room floor in front of a roll of paper and sticking brollies and softboxes in his face while shaking a rattle and trying to make him laugh is a pretty sterile way of capturing the memory of a special day.
 

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