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…)


21 thoughts on “Cake Smash Editing

  1. Hey… I came across this blog when searching tips for doing diy cake smash photo shoot for my son’s 1st birthday. I am trying to learn as much photography as possible coz im very new to this. I was wondering why you had to compromise on ISO to get a faster shutter speed if you were shooting in manual mode and high aperture?

    • Without photography lighting and really great natural light it can be pretty dark inside a home. With constantly moving kids I want to keep my shutter speed at 1/250s or faster to avoid blurry photos. To get it that fast I had to turn up the ISO, the pictures were just too dark or not sharp enough otherwise. In your particular situation you might have enough light to turn down your ISO! Good luck:)

  2. Thank you this is a great tutorial. I have a d7100 and the same 50mm lens so I’m looking forward to getting some great shots of my boy soon. I have all the ptm actions so I was happy to see you use these. Can you tell me the idea behind using the plexi glass? Is it so baby doesn’t move the floor drop?

  3. This was so helpful! I am just starting to get into photography and would like to do a cake smash for my son’s first birthday in November. I may buy a photo set in the near future but could you recommend a good free set for portraits so I can get a feel lfor what them? I particularly love the dewey, soft finish types of baby photos.

  4. I love your site, i just stumbled across it looking for tips on DIY cake smash. i know little to nothing about photography and editing other than a few basic things i have learned online, and this has really helped me!! thank you! and if you have made or plan to make a video on this i would love to see it, thanks again 🙂

  5. Where can I get Photoshop and Lightroom? I would really like to do my son’s pictures for his first birthday and this has just helped me ten fold!

  6. I just came across your blog when looking up tips for doing my daughter’s cake smash pictures myself. Thanks for the great tutorial and tips!

  7. I came across your blog when looking for cake smash diy tips. Thanks for the great tutorial and tips to get the perfect picture! I especially appreciate you describing what you did in Lightroom and Photoshop.

  8. This has become one of my favorite blogs! Especially since I love taking pictures of my littles and I’m very hands on. I’m new to the whole photoshop, so it might sound like a silly question, but do I need to download it?

  9. This has become one of my favorite blogs! Being that I love taking pictures of my littles and very hands on. Now I’m new to the photoshop world. And this might sound like a silly questions, but do I need to download photoshop? Which do you use?

  10. The can you please make a video tutorial and i would love to know how can I get free actions and how to use them. please 🙂

  11. Thank u thank u this article is awesome i was searching for articles like this as my baby is turnnig one after few days and i want to save money … Unfortunetly i dont have LR… Can i use vasco or after life , face tune on my phone to adjust the photos and get satisfied results ?

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