DIY Pennant Banner


Owen’s birthday is in 2 months, so today I finally started working on some birthday party planning! We have known for awhile that we want to do a Lorax themed party, which makes picking out the decorations, plates, and whatnots needed for the party pretty straight forward. The Lorax is a furry bright orange talking animal thing, with a bright yellow mustache. So the main colors are orange and yellow. If you have ever seen the movie its actually really visually stimulating, bright awesome colors throughout the whole thing.

But anyways, in my search to buy already made decorations I found that pricing is ridiculous, not to mention I couldn’t find anything in store that fit my color scheme. A plain solid orange pennant banner is $3.00 plus tax from Party City. That is boring… No thank you. Custom pennant banners from are anywhere from $8.00 to $25.00+! Okay, no.

Well, at Micheal’s they have open stock paper (1’x1′) for a quarter a sheet in every color and design EVER. I went with that. I bought 8 sheets ($2.00 TOTAL) and was able to make two 6 foot long banners. So, if you have a birthday party you are planning for coming up, or do birthday pictures, cake smashes, really anything that could use a little pennant banner touch… Keep reading.

What you need:

1. Open stock paper. Like I said, I bought 8 sheets of Michael’s 12″ by 12″ paper. It was with all the scrapbooking stuff and took up a whole side of the isle because there are THAT MANY colors and designs. If you are planning to hang the banners up against the wall you can go for really any of them, double or single sided. If you are hanging it from the ceiling or out in the open, you should stick to the double sided sheets.

2. Scissors.

3. Pencil or pen. Pencil is safer, no ink blotches. Learned that lesson.

4. Hole puncher. These are also at Michael’s, I have the super cheap one. I think it is normally $4, but they always have a 40% off digital coupon on their website you can to drop that even more;)

5. Ribbon or string.

6. Tape (optional).

7. A ruler.

I like to do my pennants 5″ x 7″ and I can get 4 out of each sheet at that size. So I line my ruler (well, my tape measure because we don’t have an actual ruler) with the corner of the sheet and across the top put a little mark at 2.5″, 5″, 7.5″ and at 10″. That measures out the length of two pennants and their centers. Next I measure down the page and make a mark at 7″… Not going to go too far in depth here, I’m sure you get where I’m going lol. If your sheets are one sided, do the marking on the back white side, just in case.



Once the first three pennants are outlined, cut them out! To save time and sanity I will stack up two or three sheets and cut them at the same time. Then you will still have room left for one more along the side. Here I just take one of thepennant that are already cut out and trace it.Image

Next, hole punch the top corners of the pennants. Again, here I stack up to 4 pennants, that’s about as many sheets my dinky hole puncher can take without having a seizure.Image

And now it’s time to string/ribbon them together! I measure out 10 feet of ribbon, because I like the slack at the ends to tie to whatever. I’m probably going to use these in Owen’s cake smash photos, so I will need to tie them to my backdrop stand. Get them all strung on, and then I like to tape the end pennants to the ribbon. It stores a little nicer without them all sliding out of the center.Image


And once I got through all my pennants I ended up with 2 banners that measure out to be roughly 6 feet long, considering the overlapping corners.Image

And of course I had to try them out for some photos!:D


Easy as that, and so affordable!


Cake Smash Editing

I am sure this is going to turn out harder to explain than I want, but I am going to try this anyway. You saw the set up, you know what you need to get the cute, messy, cake smash pictures. But if you want them to look REALLY nice, then you are going to need to spend a little time on them after the shoot is over. Honestly, I think this is where photographers can get away with charging so much money. Once you have your camera settings and lighting figured out, it only takes maybe 15 minutes to take these pictures. Post processing, on the other hand, can take 15 min PER PHOTO! Now that I am comfortable with Lightroom and Photoshop it doesn’t take that long anymore, but it is still a good amount of time and work. If you have the patience for this, it can really be worth it.

It is probably best to start at the beginning with this tutorial, so camera settings! For pretty much the whole shoot I left my camera set at ISO 800, 50mm, f2.5, 1/400s (shutter speed changed a little here and there) and shot in RAW format for the highest quality and detail capture. It was (of course) a little cloudy so my lighting wasn’t ideal and that pushed my ISO up to 800, which I don’t particularly like. It left the pictures grainier than I prefer, but hey I worked with what I had! I underexposed the entire shoot so that I could get the shutter speed up to 1/400s. Most of you reading probably know how hard it is to get a one year old to sit still. If my shutter was any slower the pictures would have been blurry so I underexposed, knowing I could fix the exposure in Lightroom. Fixing exposer issues is easier than fixing a blurry picture… Mostly because you can’t really fix a blurry picture. If you saw my last post, with all the pretty edited pictures, this next picture might be shocking;) Here is the example photo I am going to use throughout the tutorial, straight out of my camera it looked like this:

SOOC (1 of 1)It is very dark, grainy, not really that pretty, besides Summer looking adorable. There is definitely much to be desired, so take it to Lightroom. Lightroom actually comes with a set of General Presets that can sometimes be a helpful start. I usually use Auto Tone and Medium Contrast Curve on my pictures and then make adjustments from there. Once I had it looking nice my LR settings were: Exposure +1.05, Contrast -15, Highlights -6, Shadows +37, Whites +24, Blacks -12, Clarity +10, Vibrance +15, Medium Contrast Curve, Sharpening 25, and Luminance 20 (to help with the graininess). With those setting I then had this:

Lightroom (1 of 1)Ahhh, much better! Now, you can’t just take those adjustment settings and throw them on any picture, the adjustments will be different for different photos. That is there just to give you an idea. And that is all I do in Lightroom! You can crop and make other adjustments in LR, but from here I like to take my pictures to Photoshop for the rest of the work. First off, it needs to be cropped, as you can see the backdrop stand and my baby gates in the right side of the photo! In this step I also did a slight color adjustment because Summer was looking a little yellow (added blue). Here:

1cropandcolorI wanted to keep the cake centered, and even though you can see that dark reflection bottom right, I didn’t want to close in on her anymore. That dark corner is easily edited out. Use the rectangular marquee tool to select an area of the background that matches what you want the darker spot to be. Copy and paste, and then drag that pasted piece to the bottom corner (or wherever you need it). Flatten image. Next I used the heal brush to smooth out the visible outer edge of the plexiglass. I used the background just above the edge as my sample, and painted with a hard brush (not too much bigger than the visible edge) over the edge. Do one side at a time and resample when you switch sides. Now we have this:

2cloneandhealIt is subtle and looks a little cleaner, easy work for a nice effect. And now it looks pretty great! I make simple, unnecessary adjustments from here but I will explain those too;) I’m not going to lie, I use some Photoshop Actions created by others and that is what I did in my next step. I am specifically using an action set called The Picture Perfect Mega Set, by Paint the Moon. There are lots of sets that basically do all of the same things, but this set is my favorite. You can do eye pops, skin smoothing, color adjustments, and so on. They are kind of expensive though, so if you are interested in free action sets let me know and I can help you find some good ones. So I used an action to brighten and smooth her skin just a tad, and to lightly highlight her hair.

3skinandhairAnd then last I just added some final touches: increased sharpness, increased brightness juuuuuust a tad, and same for the contrast. Final product:

4sharpenbcViola! And questions, again let me know. Hope this helps!

(Considering making a video tutorial for anyone who thinks that would be easier to follow along with…)

DIY Cake Smash!


This post is really for anyone out there wanting to save some money and do their baby’s first birthday pictures themselves! That being said, I am really trying to look out for my November BBC and IG mamas who have babies turning one in the next couple months;) If you didn’t read my last blog post, I recommend you do. A lot of the set up for this cake smash is actually really similar, but I will do some recapping too.

First off, what is a cake smash photoshoot? The basic idea is to celebrate your child’s first year by giving them their first taste of CAKE while taking beautiful pictures of it! Some probably think this is silly, and yeah maybe it is, but its also adorable and creates lasting memories you will love. 

Here’s what you will need for this:

1. Backdrop stand. In my last post I shared a link to the one my fiance made for me. It is made out of PVC pipe and cost about $20. Very useful, and you can easily store it for later use!

2. Backdrop. I have recently discovered seamless paper. For $25 I got a roll that is 52″ wide and it is 107′ long! So it is going to last awhile, even with cutting the bottom few feet off that were covered in frosting handprints lol. There are endless color choices, for this session I used “coral.” In my last post I told you that you could use even a sheet for the backdrop and that is still true. A $7 sheet from Walmart could be clipped to your backdrop stand. You could even tape it up on the wall if you don’t want to invest in a stand. (The seamless paper saved me a lot of effort in post processing, as there weren’t all the wrinkles and folds to try editing out!)

3. Decorations (Optional). I made a pennant banner out of scrapbook paper and ribbon, and we also had a bouquet of balloons. I wouldn’t go too crazy, you want the focus to be on the baby and the cake!

4. Plexiglass sheet. I used this again to help keep the paper from getting wrinkled under Summers wiggly butt. Plus, I like the reflection!

5. Camera.

6. Good lighting. I prefer natural light to flash. So again I set up next to our big glass sliding door in our kitchen. 

6. A soon-to-be one-year-old. Summer’s mom volunteered her to go first!

8. A cake!

Here are a couple pull back shots of my set up! The first is the set up for a couple pre-cake photos, and the second is how I set up for the cake shots:


Image(In the end I actually pulled the pennant banner down more, because that high they weren’t making it into the photos!)

After a little editing in Lightroom and Photoshop, here are examples of the photos I got with those set-ups:

ImageImageImageNow, for some tips!

You are going to need backup. That means dad or a friend needs to be there so you can focus on taking LOTS of pictures, and your backup helper can focus on snatching up the squirmy baby and placing them back with the cake. And just in case your baby doesn’t seem to interested, they can also be there to help them with that first taste, etc.

Keep shooting. I took about 200 pictures of Summer and ended up with about 15 really good pictures.

Take before and after pictures of the cake. Take pictures from different angles. Take distanced photos, up close photos. Change up the focus, instead of just focusing on her face, focus on the cake, messy fingers, toes and tummies! Take pictures of the grumpy faces too, they can be just as cute!

Have a bath ready. This IS going to get messy. Somehow I even had pink frosting on my own face.



Of course, these wouldn’t look nearly as nice without a little help from Photoshop. Up next I am planning a DETAILED Photoshop editing tutorial specifically around cake smash photos. So watch for it!

Thanks so much for reading, and I hope I helped out with your own at-home, DIY cake smash shoot. If you have any questions, leave me a comment:)