Preparing for your milk bath photos
Milk Bath photos are an absolutely GLORIOUS way to document the tender moments of motherhood you are going through and I. LOVE. THEM!!!! I have written this blog post specifically to help you with preparing for one if you choose to have one (which you should!)
Step 1: Pick an awesome photographer who has a bath tub if you don’t. An ideal tub will be in a bathroom with lots of window light, and has plenty of room for you to settle into and mostly submerge your body up to your shoulder blades without spilling the water. If you are pregnant, keep in mind that changes things for the way submersion looks! If you will have a baby in person at this session, keep in mind their need for submersion too!! Cold babies don’t like to take photos.
Step 2: Get some ideas for your floral arrangement! Consider your skin tone and what flower colors will look good with your skin. This is something your photographer can usually help with. Typically, I recommend thinking of what colors you like to wear normally and choose your variations in flowers from there. Keep in mind mood too. I once had a friend plan a milk bath session with a dark feel- dark make up, black dress, deep maroon flowers that were close to black, etc. The colors will convey feeling, so just make sure your photographer knows what style you want and is good with conveying it!
Step 3: Attire! Milk Baths lend themselves to a feminine, and even boudoir feel so I personally love to see mamas in white lacey dresses or draped in tulle to create the textured contrast against the smoothness of the milk and mom’s body. Where you are comfortable, you can even pose nude for milk baths. But like I mentioned above, colors convey mood, so the colors and fabric choices for your attire should reflect that. TALK TO YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER ABOUT THESE THINGS!
Step 4: You’ll need roughly 2 gallons of milk. The rest of the tub will be full of water. It is usually best to fill the tub with water first and then add the milk. I have had best results by having everyone get into the water before filling it too much so I could tell if we still had room for the milk before things start overflowing. If you only bring 2 gallons of milk, you don’t want to waste any if possible (plus it gets stinky).
Step 5: Get real flowers. Fake flowers WILL sink. If you really don’t want to use real flowers, you might try taping or gluing some bubble wrap sheets to the bottom of your flowers to help them float. I have even done this with real plants because some greenery is hard to keep afloat. For the most part, the space your body takes up in the tub will help prevent most real flowers from sinking too much, plus they naturally float better than fake flowers, but just be prepared to trouble shoot flower placement and floating for most of the session.
*NOTE: flower placement is THE LONGEST part of the session. Chances are, there won’t be a SUPER ton of images from this kind of session like a normal session might yield because of how much time arranging the flowers will take. Every new pose requires flower movement.
NOTE TO PHOTOGRAPHERS: Bring a hand towel or something to keep your fingers dry as you keep dipping your fingers into milky-water to move flowers and then touch your camera. Also, make sure your gear is SECURE! Many of the best milk bath shots are taken from directly above the client and if you lose your grip, you DO NOT want to also lose your gear!!
Other considerations: If baby will be in the bath, consider warming the house up. Depending on the size of your bathtub, your baby may sit slightly above the water line enough to get a little chilly if the air in the bathroom is not warm enough. Consider using a space heater if the main heater won’t be strong enough! The fact is, the length of time these sessions take with floral movement make it nearly impossible to expect that the water will stay warm long enough for babies in the water. They WILL need extra help to stay warm because they can’t regulate their body temps like adults.
MORE FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS:
CAMERA BODY: I shoot with full frame bodies and I feel like they are great for these types of sessions where you might need to really get good wide angels without stressing about too much warping on the corners and edges!
LENS CHOICES: I have been a 50mm type of woman for a long time. But for my wider angles, I like to shoot with my 24mm. For images where I want to show the entire tub, I pick the 24mm. The 50mm is great for the shots where I want more crop and it’s ok to cut off parts of the entire scene and just focus on special details.
SETTINGS: Yep. I’ll give you some of the juicy bits. My work lends itself to the light/ airy feel. I work a lot with natural light so I prefer that with milk baths, my subject be right next to a nice large window with diffused (typically not direct) sunlight coming through. That way the light is big and soft. I keep my aperture fairly wide (3.2 and below) to create soft focus except for exactly what I want in focus, like mom’s face, baby’s face or other details and features. I usually like to shoot in aperture priority but set my ISO to be as low as I can and still get a correctly exposed image.
CLIENT POSING: To me, milk baths are sort of like creating a canvas for yourself and bringing the art to life on it. Where babies come in to play, there is obviously a lot less control over posing, but where you can create leading lines with mom’s body, shoot from creative angles to highlight her soft, beautiful skin, or focus on her precious baby bump floating peacefully in the water, DO IT! In some milk bath sessions, you can even have your client lay all the way in the water and float with her hair floating around her and place her hands and flowers all around in unique and dazzling ways. I can’t tell you exactly what to do, but hopefully some of these ideas get your juices flowing so you can pull off the amazingness in your sessions!