Photographing Your Child’s First Year | Part VII: 12 Months + Cake Smash

This is the final part of a seven part series on photographing your child’s first year. This series is meant to be a guideline and give you suggestions. Keep your child’s safety a top priority throughout any photo session.

I hope something within this series was useful to you as a new idea, or a reminder of a few things to try. I welcome feedback in the way of comments or an email if you have any specific questions. The first year of your baby’s life is an amazing one. I never understood it as much as I do now, with a son almost two the days get even more exciting (and exhausting, I won’t lie!). It’s time for the final piece to the puzzle… 12 months!

By 12 months, a whole host of changes have happened or are about to happen. Your baby guy or gal might be walking, talking, crawling, eating everything, or just chillin’. Every little one is different. The big thing about 12 months is the ability to eat more solid foods and be a lot more mobile, as well as understand a bit more of what’s happening.

Let’s review some top suggestions from past months to carry forward this month and beyond:

Get down low. 
Look them in the eye. 
Use a faster shutter speed to freeze movement.

Get in close.
Those eyes, that smile, it all counts. Get in close to them with a wider lens and capture their curiosity. Or their budding teeth.

You, in the photo. 
Don’t forget that mom and dad have had a special place the past 12 months. They deserve a few moments to remember the love, friendship, and happiness that has grown.

Don’t forget a little dirt doesn’t hurt. 

Dress-up pretty (or handsome), they’ll only be one… once!

Stumbles and falls, nothing’s too small to remember.

These two shots are my favorite. We had a one-year session with Nicolina and she was exhausted by the end. Tons of running around and I bet she napped really well after!

So even when they are wiped out, remember it.

Set the scene. Use natural lighting. Invite them to play.
Abe was awesome to photograph all year. By the time he was one, he was no longer sleeping in daddy’s guitar case, but playing the guitar with his daddy! They aren’t strong enough to break things just yet, so let them touch your most prized possessions and setup the scene.

Or use your flash. Cake Smash time…

Smash the cake ahead of time. 
Before you sit your baby down to enjoy their first piece of cake (or cupcake or cookie) for their birthday, setup your equipment, your lighting, and your focus. The moment happens rather quickly, so if you aren’t prepared ahead of time, you might miss their reaction.

Sometimes it might be useful to setup a doll or toy in their chair to practice your lighting before the big moment. Then, before giving them their cake, take a few photos of them sitting there to make sure all is just right.

Let them play away, smush it all over, and enjoy!
Since your camera is set, you can sit back and relax. Let them make the biggest mess ever and then photograph bath-time, too.

One thing that worked for us was to shoot these images on Monkey’s actual birthday. This way, it was quiet, we were at home just us, and we could capture his reaction without the crowd. Then again, we were able to get another several images with different cupcakes on the day of his birthday party with all the excitement around.

If I had just waited until his birthday party, we would have a bunch of images with people walking past him while he took his first few bites. This way, I have this to remember, and the rest to enjoy.

Now, go out there and capture some amazing images of your child’s first year and share them with me! There are tons of resources online for learning more about the exposure triangle (shutter speed, aperture, ISO) as well as lighting using a flash, or a mobile camera.

Send me any questions you may have or suggestions: kate [at]!


Photographing Your Child’s First Year Series:
Part I: Newborn to First Month
Part II: 2-3 Months
Part III: 4-5 Months
Part IV: 6-7 Months
Part V: 8-9 Months
Part VI: 10-11 Months
Part VII: 12 Months + Cake Smash