first birthday photoshoot baby girl flower crown shiplap iphone photography naked cake smash cake

Life & Style

First Birthday Photography Using Your iPhone: Claire Turns One!

How To: Take Milestone Photos with an iPhone

I’ve been avoiding this post. Primarily because I’m absolutely devastated that my last baby is no longer a “baby,” and taking first birthday pictures memorializes that truth. I know, I know, she’ll always be my baby, but you get my drift.

Also, because I recorded 20 minutes of the best tips and tricks for an IGTV on how to DIY a milestone session with the fabulously talented Lauren Carnes, only to realize that the audio didn’t come through. After picking up the pieces of my broken heart over that technology fail, I’m finally ready to dive right in.

First Birthday Photography smash cake flower crown baby

COVID Can’t Take Away Our Photos!

Does anyone else feel like the current COVID-19 situation has thrown a wrench in to your plans for the celebrations in your life? It’s been hard to navigate the passing of so many milestones – graduations, anniversaries, weddings (oh my gosh, can’t imagine), and birthdays. Although we couldn’t have a big party for Claire-Bear, I still wanted to capture her on her first birthday, to really commemorate the passing of a big milestone. Since having a photographer come in to my home was not an option at the time, I tried to do my best to create a birthday photoshoot that felt professional, and allowed me to capture photos of this season I’ll cherish forever.

Whether you are finding yourself in a similar situation or simply looking to save money, I hope these tips to creating your first birthday photoshoot will be helpful!

Side note: I chose to use my iPhone instead of my DSLR camera, mostly because with a squirmy baby and not a lot of time, I’m just more comfortable with a phone in my hand. Of course, you could structure a similar shoot using your fancy camera ;).

Step 1: Find Inspiration

Find inspiration! I went to Pinterest and googled First Birthday Photos to get an idea of what I was going for. Here’s what I came up with that became my main source of inspiration!

Photo Courtesy of DeLovely Details Etsy Shop

At first glance, the things I loved the most were the naked cake, flower crown, and botanical wreaths in the background. When taking a closer look; however, I realized that what I really loved here was the overall feel of it. The brightness of it. The white walls, and the white floor, give it a bright and airy – studio like – feel, and Lauren reminds me that the white on the floor also reflects the light back on to baby’s face for a better photo. Oh, having a pro weigh in is such a luxury!

Step 2: Identify Where You’re Going to Take the Photos

I have shiplap in several rooms in my house, so I knew finding the wall wouldn’t be difficult. The most important thing was finding the space with the most natural light. Rule #1 – lights off, window blinds open! Give me all the natural light!

We settled on my bathroom as the location, because the morning sun pours in the windows against a white shiplap wall. Unconventional, but you’d never know it was a bathroom looking at the photos!

Also, while the floor in my bathroom is also white, the tile gave too much of a reflection so I ended up using a white blanket on the floor to soften the look of the photo. This would be useful if you were trying to achieve a similar look over hardwood or carpet.

Step 3: Gather Your Props

Things needed for this shoot: cake, wreaths, flowers, outfit for Claire.

I literally borrowed some wreaths from my friend Neely’s gorgeous nursery for this little shoot and used command hooks to hang them on my bathroom wall! They turned out perfectly.

*Pro tip: When hanging the wreaths, use a stuffed animal as a place holder so you can stand back with a camera/phone and make sure they’re spatially where you want them before affixing the command hook.

Claire’s flower crown was from my friend Stacie at Boxwoods and Blooms, LLC, and it was truly everything I hoped it would be and more.

The naked smash cake was from Sweet Peach Confections (and boy am I ever glad we ordered an extra so we could eat it ourselves, because YUM!).

All the inspiration pictures I chose had babies in beautiful birthday dresses, and I’ve linked a few of my favorites here. However, when it came down to it and I physically got Claire to her photo shoot, I took off all her clothes and landed with just a hand-me-down diaper cover because her chunky rolls are my favorite thing about her during this season and I wanted those to be front and center.

first birthday smash cake first birthday photography baby flower crown naked cake shipalap

Step 4: Picture Time!

Once everything is in place, grab a helper (one year olds like to MOVE and it’s good to have someone putting them back in place so you can focus on snapping photos!), bring baby to your “studio” and be ready to go, FAST.

Photography tips from Lauren:

  1. In addition to taking the normal straight on photos, constantly move around baby. Step forward, step backward, to the left and right. Take photos from all angles, including above! That sweet little view looking down at baby’s eyelashes, so sweet!
  2. Get close enough to get a photo of just their hands and the cake! These detail shots are the ones that us non-professionals always forget, and they’re just so precious.
  3. Don’t worry about making them smile or cooperate, just go with the flow and let this be a candid photo-session. Your baby may end up being more interested in eating flowers than the cake, but you’ll get priceless photos to remember it.
  4. It may be time for a bath after a messy photo shoot, and don’t forget photos of this part, either! A cake-covered face peeking beyond a bath tub, oh my heavens. Swoon!
  5. Go pour yourself a glass of wine (or fine, a mimosa if it’s morning, but let’s be honest, it’s 5:00 somewhere) because that was stressful. Professional photographers are worth their weight in gold, because that was a LOT to take in.

Step 5: Editing & Printing

If you’re like me and took these photos on your iPhone, there are several apps you can utilize to edit and get the desired look you’re going for! I personally use presets in the Lightroom App for most of my Instagram & blog content taken from my phone. Look at the difference in the original vs. the edited one! Gorgeous edits at the click of a button! Would love to share more about these presets with you if you’re interested!

Or, maybe you’re lucky enough to have professionals you can call friends… who may be willing to give you a first birthday present and apply some of their favorite edits to your semi-pro photos. Thanks, Lauren. Love ya, mean it.

In fact, I hear from so many of you all every week wondering what kind of presets or editing tools I use for my iPhone photos… so Lauren & I might be working on a little something for you!

Think: offering up my presets to you that are custom made for the Casey Rutherford style paired with Lauren’s signature editing style. Dream! Let us know if you’d love that!

Don’t forget to print these for yourself and family! Our favorite source for printed photos is mpix. The quality is awesome and they are fairly affordable. You’ll be happy you have physical copies of your hard work!

Happy Birthday to Your Baby

If you’re not able to get professional photography for your baby’s milestone, I hope these tips help give you the confidence to put together a semi-pro photo shoot that will still give you memories to last a lifetime.


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