Milk Bath Photography: What To Know & How To Nail It
Milk bathtub photography has become wildly popular lately as an ethereal, fairytale-like setting that you can use for all sorts of artistic effects. From fashion and modeling to showcasing pregnancies and young babies, it’s a versatile technique that catches the eye. We should also mention that milk baths have been popular well into antiquity for their proposed rejuvenating properties. According to legend, Cleopatra used to bathe in donkey-milk baths to enhance her complexion. There are a few considerations to keep in mind before starting bath photography, but we think you’ll find it a fun and fairly simple technique to master and one which yields gorgeous results.
Preparing the milk bath
Perhaps the first question on anyone’s mind is, how much milk is this going to take? Milk isn’t expensive, per se, but it seems like an awful waste. In this, luckily, we needn’t fear because the water will dilute the milk, so you’re looking at 2-4 gallons (7-15 liters) depending on the opacity that you’re aiming for. Whole cow’s milk is the best for that rich, creamy feel, and powdered milk or powdered coffee creamer can be supplemented to give the same effect. If you’re really unable to get the look you’re going for, you can even add a dash of white paint, but make sure that it’s not toxic. In lieu of real milk, you can also use milk bath soaps or bath bombs to create the same effect.
Use of props and costuming
Milk bath photography usually utilizes various props floating in the milky water to add to a ghostly or ephemeral nature of the technique. Flowers or petals (real ones, since fake ones won’t float), leaves, slices of lemon or orange, and other elements of nature are popular options. But you can really let your imagination run wild here. Many photographers recommend using flowers with long or wide petals, as they tend to float longer than their smaller counterparts.
Will your subject be nude or clothed? Both options have interesting possibilities. Lightweight, lace, or gossamer fabrics can provide interesting textures and shapes when draped across the body in water and are especially popular in milk bath photography. Experiment with fabric types and colors to see how their transparency affects the photo. The nude form is also a dynamic subject matter in milk photography, allowing an arm, leg, or face to emerge from the white surface, leaving everything else obstructed.
Photographing women with long hair in a milk bath environment can also lead to stunning results as their hair shifts and curls in the water. Of course, you can also photograph men in milk baths to interesting effect!
Setting up the bath
It is a good idea to prepare any lighting before the session begins, as the water temperature will start to decrease after you begin. Have the props on standby, but make sure to add them last, as they might become waterlogged and sink after some time. If you’re having trouble keeping something afloat, you can place something in the water underneath it to add some support. You‘ll also want to add any props after your subject has gotten in the water, as it only takes a small movement to send ripples disrupting your scene! Think about how you will stand over the bathtub when taking the photos as well, and have a chair nearby with lenses or other equipment you’ll need while shooting. Last but not least, make sure not to fall in!
Posing your subject
Be sure to pose your subject before adding props since, as we said earlier, it only takes a little movement to send your carefully placed props bobbing all over the place! Consider what you are highlighting in your photo — the curve of the hips, the texture of the hair, the drape of the fabric. Discuss ahead of time with your subject what you are aiming to capture so that the session will run more smoothly.
Maternity and baby shoots
Milk bath photography has become an increasingly popular option for expecting mothers and those with newborns. Photographing the baby bump in a milk water bath, surrounded by flowers, is a dreamy and elegant way to celebrate pregnancy. Many mothers-to-be find a lace robe or sheer dress to be the perfect choice for a maternity shoot, bringing grace and style to the shoot while still feeling soft and feminine. Many young mothers find the milk bath session to be relaxing and pampering. No doubt the reason why Cleopatra was such a fan!
Once the baby has been born, many mothers enjoy returning to the tub for a second photo session with their newborn. Something about the gentle innocence of a baby in its mother’s arms, surrounded by floating flowers in a creamy, milky bath, is rather hard to pass up. Yet another trend is to photograph the baby in a miniature milk bath of their own, once they’re old enough to keep themselves upright, or in a shallow tub where they can lie gently on their back.
The reason milk bath photography’s popularity has endured is that it’s a relatively easy type of shoot to set up, and it’s simply striking. Mysterious, sultry, and exotic all at once, it practically guarantees engaging results. After you finish your milk bath photoshoot, be sure to rinse off well and post those results for all to see! We can’t wait to see what you come up with!