So as you guys know, I enjoy taking photos, I work hard on them, and I also have plenty of room for improvement. I’m in that in-between stage of photography. I just did a smash cake for Roman’s first birthday, and I have to say… it was the absolute worst photo session ever. Seriously, everything went wrong. But I am here to encourage you parent-photographers out there: if I could make this work, you can too. Remember, if you take 100 photos, you have room for 99 of them to be awful. You only need one gem. If you only have time to take 40 of them, well, you can only afford 39 bad ones, but that’s probably still workable. I’ve got a few tips for you today, a bonus story of the cake fail, AND a great giveaway for a free 11×14 canvas from Easy Canvas Prints. They were generous enough to sponsor this project of mine by sending me a canvas of my one good shot!
So. I get the crazy idea in my head that I can do a cake smash for my son about 2 weeks before his birthday after talking to Melanie over at It Happens In A Blink. I didn’t do one for Raya, and I didn’t think they were all THAT great (until Pinterest convinced me otherwise. At which point, I was obviously convinced that my son would end up socially stunted if I didn’t allow him to get covered in cake at age 1). I know this isn’t true – but Pinterest has that effect sometimes. Ahem. :P In fact, Melanie just posted some great tips for making your own smash cake, if you’re so inclined.
The short version of the story goes like this:
- Decide to make smash cake after being inspired by It Happens In A Blink.
- Discover weather forecast is 90 F. Screw the idea of turning on the oven. Buy cake from bakery.
- Bring home cake and discover that it’s pre-smashed.
- Cover up messy top with fluffy whipped cream.
- Take cake outside to have said whipped cream commence melting before shoot is even set up.
- Have baby plopped in front of cake before camera settings can be reviewed.
- Shoot photos like a madwoman while baby is interested.
- Attempt to elicit smile from child who has no idea what a cake is, and scowls enthusiastically at it.
- Twist ankle in haste to get photos as it becomes evident that child is about to crawl away.
- Try not to get frosting on camera as sticky child must now be collected and all assistance has wandered away.
I’m not saying all this to discourage you from doing a smash cake for your kids. Quite the opposite, actually! I am trying to share that even if you’re as frustrated as I was, you can still get that one great shot that makes the whole thing totally worth it. A few things I want to suggest for your shoot:
- Take it outside if you can. Less cleanup = thank goodness.
- Note your background. You want something non-distracting.
- Put the cake up on a pedestal to get it closer to your kiddo. Plus it’s way cuter when it tips over that way.
- Snap fast. Lots of kids aren’t interested in smashing.
- Have help at the ready, if possible.
- Don’t freak out if your photos aren’t fantastic. Mine weren’t. There are always editing miracles you can perform.
Most of my better photos looked like this:
And yes. Note the weed in the background, ugh. Had I the time to check out my area before Roman was delivered to the cake, I would have cut it down, and actually put the balloons I went and bought *into* the photos, but hey – you work with what you’ve got! I was able to edit that out from my one good shot – the one of him actually smiling.
While I was happy to have gotten one I could use, one that looked good (once I edited the color balance), I still was a little bummed that it wasn’t the photographer-quality shot I was chasing. But hey – that happens sometime when you have a 3-minute photo shoot without years of experience under your belt. :P Here’s how it turned out:
Fortunately, there are still some artistic things you can do to put a spin on even ho-hum shots. I went with the black & white with a pop of color approach for the birthday canvas – to help it match the birthday party decor. You can do this right in PicMonkey – for free!
Under “effects”, you can choose Black & White. That will turn the whole photo black & white. Then, in the “paint” tool window that opens up, you can change the size of your eraser to whatever suits the area, and erase away the black and white effect from the spots you want to re-colorize. I pulled out just the blue items from the photo, and left the rest black & white. Once I had re-colorized the blue areas, I bumped the “fade” slider to about 10% to add just a tiny bit of color back to the photo – enough to distinguish the grass from the fence a little better.
Now that I finally had my shot, the one that embodies “first birthday!” – all that was left was to order my beautiful canvas. (And I want to point out, if you’re not a savvy photo editor, Easy Canvas Prints can help you with both light and heavy photo editing options.) I am really happy with the quality, and I’d definitely use them again. For those of you who do take your own family photos (or landscape, or artisitic – whatever your passion) – Easy Canvas Prints is a great option for ordering your canvas prints. I paid WAY more for one of Raya a few years back, and the quality is just the same.
We put the canvas up at Roman’s party as cute table decor, and we’re still debating where to put our canvas gallery up in the house. Because yes, it takes me forever to decide where these things should go in the house, haha. Right now I’ve got it in my studio with Raya’s 2-year canvas.
I hope these tips and suggestions were helpful to you, and that you are encouraged by my experience. Even if it all goes badly – you can still manage gorgeous canvas decor. Your models will do most of the work – catching the great moments in your sweet kiddos’ lives is the main thing! And Easy Canvas Prints can turn them into beautiful keepsakes.
One lucky reader can even WIN a free 11×14 canvas today from Easy Canvas Prints! Rafflecopter will walk you through how to get your entries in. U.S. readers can enter now through August 14th, 2014 at 11:59pm EST. Good luck!