How to DIY a First Birthday Photoshoot

A first birthday photoshoot is not something I did with my first two sons. My first son got an intimate music themed party and all the attention being the only kid there. My second son got a full blown wild one birthday party that we all loved.  They both had a cake smash at their parties, but not great pictures of it because they were shot in the midst of the festivities.

first birthday photoshoot, DIY 5 Steps

I always saw cake smash photos on Pinterest and loved them, but assumed they had to be professionally shot. While many are, it is actually pretty easy to set up your own! With my third son, I knew that this was something special he could have that his brothers didn’t. That has been my theme with my third, make sure he doesn’t look back and think he got nothing special being a third baby. 

Even writing this post and looking at these pictures again, it reminds me how truly fast this time goes. So enjoy the photoshoot and the time with your baby. They will soon be running around (if not already) and getting into full toddler mode. 

Related Posts: Daily 12-18 Month Schedule for a Happy Toddler, 10 Simple Finger Food Meals for One Year Olds

1 year old photoshoot background and props

Gather Inspiration

Decide what kind of look you are going for. Browse Pinterest for ideas. There are tons of great cake smash photos out there. Pin all of the ones you like to a board and then look at them collectively. Choose the features you want to use in your own session. Pick a color scheme or theme and work from there to plan your adorable one year old photo shoot. 

What day are you planning on having your cake smash session? If you are also having a birthday party, consider having the cake smash on a day prior. Having multiple events can be overwhelming and lots of people around may make it difficult to take all of your shots. 

one year old photo shoot cake smash

Plan and Shop

After you have an idea of what you want, start planning and gathering materials. I knew I wanted a blue and silver theme with a touch of royal. I looked around for what I could put in the background and found this balloon arch on Amazon. It was a perfect background, as it filled up the space and I didn’t need anything else. Balloons are inexpensive and can be find in any color combinations you want. Other cute ideas I have seen are “Happy Birthday” banners, or just a decorative banner with paper triangles or pompoms. I’ve also seen some beautiful flower backgrounds you could make with some silk flowers.

After I chose the balloon arch, I decided I wanted to make him an easy felt crown that I had made my other son for his first birthday and got a cute outfit to round it out. Finally, I found the “One” sign prop on Etsy and cut up some paper circles for the floor. 

first birthday photoshoot set up

Background and Location

Decide where in your house, yard or other location you are going to have your one year old photo shoot. You want a place with as much light as possible. Rhys’ birthday is in February and we live in Chicago. Outside is not an option so I cleared the space in front of our sunniest window and set up on the floor. The background is a long white paper roll from Michaels. I taped it down to the wall and the floor. Then we taped the already assembled balloon arch to the area around the paper, because we didn’t want it to accidentally tear.

Only downside with the paper is that when it gets dirty with cake you can see the paper color getting darker. Putting a piece of glass or clear vinyl on top would have been a good way to avoid this, but I did not have one on hand! Other options could be a long white tablecloth that you clamp down over furniture. I’ve also seen someone hang fabric off their kitchen island and put their baby on the floor in front of the fabric. 

Props and Decor

The focus of a 1st birthday photoshoot is of course your baby. Props and decor can be minimal. Also, consider if items will be distracting and take their attention away from the cake that you want to be the highlight of the show. I liked the pictures when Rhys was messing with his “one” sign so I let him go for it. He ended up being into smashing the cake with the sign. You never know how they’ll be! 

We set up the balloon arch with the background and then I played with the position of the “one” sign and decorated the floor with paper circles that I had cut out ahead of time and some silver confetti that came with our balloon arch. 

1st birthday photoshoot cake smash


The cake should be small and basic for a first birthday photoshoot. You can bake it yourself or buy one almost anywhere. We ordered ours at our supermarket bakery, where I’ve gotten most of my boys’ birthday cakes. They are delicious and a good price. It is an 8 inch round cake and I matched the frosting to the theme. I got vanilla because I thought chocolate would be too much in this whole scene, but it would probably pop really nicely in photos. We also got a slightly bigger cake for his big brothers and family to enjoy. 

Outfit and Accessories

There are lots of cute outfits out there for first birthday cake smash sessions. Some dress their babies up a lot, and others go bare bones with just a diaper. There are tons of cute dresses or shorts with bowtie combos.  We’ve done a lot with bowties so I was looking for something different. I instantly fell in love with these overalls, they were minimal but added a cute look to his day. 

Just remember that whatever they wear will be filled and covered with cake. You’ll have to get all of that out somehow.  I was also filled with cake afterward from interacting with him and picking him up after. So keep your outfit in mind as well! 

Day of your First Birthday Photoshoot

Set everything up ahead of time. Make sure you take some test shots of the scene before you bring out your baby and the cake. Adjust any decor or props as needed.

Check your camera or phone to ensure the battery is fully charged and you have enough memory to take tons of photos!

Dress your baby shortly before, but maybe give them 30 minutes to get used to any accessories that they may not be used to. I love the felt crown because it is one of the only things any of them would keep on their head as one year olds.

Finally, remember it’s a 1 year baby photoshoot. They do not always know what is going on and can get easily overwhelmed. Give it time, take lots of pictures, make them laugh, and put on their favorite music. We had a lot of family around and in retrospect I would have take some just me and him and then brought them out for the end, because he kept looking at all of them instead of looking into the camera.

Don’t worry. He did cry, but he also laughed and had fun. he actually did not like the cake! We ended up putting strawberries and these organic baby puffs he likes so he would try it. Lol. I guess we don’t have a sweets guy on our hands. But that could all change.

1 year baby photoshoot angle cake smash

Get down to the floor to get eye level action but also move around. You can get lots of vantage points and decide after which were your favorite. Take some shots from overhead, zoom in on their face or their hands or feet. Let them play with props or make funny faces to get new reactions. 

We got lots of fun active shots and I’m so glad we planned out a cake smash session at home. Would 100% do it again, except I’m done having babies so maybe I’ll just help a friend out with theirs. 🙂

1 year old photoshoot birthday cake smash

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One thought on “How to DIY a First Birthday Photoshoot

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