Ansel’s Smash Cake

For months now, my wife has been looking forward to this moment. Sure, it’s a huge milestone that our little person has turned a year old. But I know what she was really looking forward to: a smash cake for Ansel! What’s a smash cake, you say? Well, evidently, it’s a small cake that one buys to let one’s little bundle of joy smash to pieces.


Knowing this day was coming, I had ordered my first background stand and some white seamless paper to use for the photoshoot. I had just gotten a second flash (Yongnuo 685) and Yongnuo TTL wireless triggers to replace my cumbersome (but effective) Phottix manual triggers. The good folks at Canon Professional Services timed the arrival of the evaluation 5Ds camera and Speedlight 600 flash so I could use it for this shoot. As I said in my last blog post, I’m making a conscious choice to record more videos, so I recently acquired a Rode microphone, which I used in this shoot on the 6D. I had the Canon 600 and the Yongnuo 685 speedlights controlled remotely and shot through 45″ white satin umbrellas, and the Yongnuo 568 speedlight was used as an optical slave with a small diffuser.

Anyways, here’s a low quality cell phone picture showing the set up:


The Fuji on the bottom was there for back up video, but yet again, the quality of the video it provided was subpar and I ended up discarding the entirety of it.

In case you were wondering, Elmo and Chica stood in as my models during the setup and lighting tests.


The goal here was twofold: 1) record decent quality video and audio for memory’s sake and 2) capture the actual smash fun in great detail.

My video skills are virtually non-existent, so I just set the camera on a tripod at eye level with Ansel, set to 1080p no-compression and turned on the Rode mic. I edited in Sony Vegas, with some adjustments to taste. Check it out:

Where I had a ton of control was with the photos, specially since 100% of the lighting was coming from my three speedlights. All photos were taken at f/8 1/160 and ISO 200, and adjusting the speedlights as necessary.

Once everything was set, Elmo and Chica were retired and Ansel was finally allowed on the seamless…


After that, it was just a matter of watching him and photographing the experience. It was truly adorable.




It was a great experience: Ansel had tons of fun and we ended up with several beautiful photos. The 5Ds 50mp sensor creates some beautiful files with very fine detail and excellent color reproduction. Sure, it was messy – but since we did the photoshoot on the seamless background, the clean up consisted only of cutting the used portion of the seamless paper and discarding that, and then a good bath for Ansel. Definitely worth it.


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