One of the many reasons that I love my work as a professional newborn baby and child photographer is the satisfaction I get from helping my clients to document their family's special moments.
When a family visit my photography studio with their new baby, innocently sleeping, curled up as if they were in the womb, they know all too well that so much will change in such a short amount of time. Parents want to capture those precious first days in their child's life and have photographs to look back on - something they'll treasure for the rest of their lives.
By the time clients come back to me for commemorative first birthday photo shoots, the baby has transformed into a bundle of fun and is literally bursting with personality! It's genuinely an absolute thrill to have them return to me and for me to see how much the baby has changed in that first year.
Cake smash time!
First birthday cake smash photo shoots are so hot right now. For the uninitiated, a cake smash session literally involves the baby 'smashing up' a beautifully iced, giant birthday cake in celebration of this all-important milestone.
The magic happens when the child gets well and truly stuck into the cake. I snap away, taking photographs to record the fun... and the chaos!
The concept of cake smashes originated in the USA, as did the trend for sleeping baby-style newborn photography.
It has proven to be extremely popular here in the UK in recent years as parents love the opportunity to do something fun to celebrate their child's first birthday. After all, it's a time full of memories, when they are often reflecting on the year just passed.
And people seem to love cake smashes! A video I made of a typical cake smash shoot at my studio recently went viral online, and to date, has been viewed more than 5 million times.
What to expect during a cake smash photo shoot
Rather than digging straight into the cake, a first birthday session usually starts with me photographing the baby dressed in a cute outfit. Parents either bring their own or I have lots of options to choose from on the day.
I will have selected a colourful backdrop and created accessories for the shoot, such as bunting, balloons or paper flowers. I often work to a theme that the child will enjoy and usually dig out teddies, toys or other props to accessorise the shoot as well.
To get the baby used to me, and the flashing of the camera, I'll allow them to settle in before the cake smash fun starts.
One of the first shots I tend to setup is one incorporating large letters that spell out the word 'ONE'. I'll get the baby to sit or stand near the letters, some babies even pick those up and try to eat them!
After that, the cake is revealed. Made to order and to cater for any allergies the child may have, the cake is a giant iced cupcake, usually sat upon a cake stand.
More often than not, the baby is a little reluctant at first. After all, they're not usually encouraged to make a mess with food. But anyone who has weaned a baby will know that they're certainly capable!
Messy fun for everyone!
With a little encouragement from the parents and I, it's usually not long before my studio is smattered with sponge and icing and the cake smash is underway!
A cake smash session often requires the parent's involvement too, so I'll also advise parents to come in clothing that they don't mind getting covered in cake.
Once the cake shots are done, baby is then placed in a warm miniature bath and they are able to splish and splash about in the bubbles. This creates more great photo opportunities for me, whilst also being a practical way of cleaning them up after the cake smash fun.
A cake smash photoshoot is definitely a multi-sensory experience!
The arrival of a newborn, the first time a baby sits up independently or a first birthday celebration - these are all special moments in a child's life that parents love to capture through photography.
Perhaps if you have a baby under one, you'll consider a cake smash for their first birthday? It'll certainly be a birthday celebration to remember!
Karen Wiltshire is a multi-award winning photography specialist in maternity, newborn and baby, children and family portrait photography, as well as a professional newborn photography trainer.
She was the very first certified 'Craftsman' in the genre of Studio Children's Portraiture and the Guild of Photographers' 'Photographer of the Year 2013'.
She works from her photography studo in Poole, Dorset as well as on-location. She is mother to two children, Tom, 12, and Lizzie, 9. Find out more about Karen and her work here, or check out her Facebook page.