A Guide for Better Milk Bath Photography
Updated: Dec 1, 2020
Hey there everyone! Thank you for joining me to learn a bit about the behind the scenes of a milk bath photo shoot. If you are new to the site my name is Alexander Nava. I am a photographer specializing in wedding & portraiture based in Milwaukee, WI. Today, I will be going over what you need to know to have a successeful milk bath photo shoot. This article is based on my YouTube video "Milk Bath Photography Photo Shoot | Behind The Scenes Tips For Better Photos“. Click the preview above to watch the full video!
When planning your milk bath photo shoot you will need a few things to get started. I will share my tips on making sure you are well prepared for your shoot.
Location is key and you will want to have a bathtub that can be used by you and your model. While we would all love to have the beautiful free standing tub with modern wooden floors beneath for a dramatic overhead shot, this is not something we all have access to. Your normal bathtub will do just fine. I recommend one that is as close to pure white as possible to avoid coloring your bath. Alternatively, if you have room in your client’s budget, you can also find a great location that you can rent out for the shoot.
When choosing what milk to use you have several options. Some photographers use whole milk right out of the carton, however, I prefer to use non-fat powdered dry milk. You can find this in your local grocery store. I prefer this over the real milk because I think it has less of a sticky feeling for your client and has little to no odor. I used one and a half packets of a single box that I purchased for under $4.
Here’s a helpful tip for where to get your flowers for the shoot. I originally went to a florist and while they provided great insight on choosing the right flowers and had more variety they were expensive and I don’t visit the florist usually. On the same day, when I went to pick up the dry milk at the grocery store, I looked at their floral section and they had roses that were the exact colors I had planned to use for the shoot. The grocery store flowers were a much better deal than the florist and they were convenient to pick up. The florist did offer more variety, but most of my flowers for the shoot were bought from my local grocery store. It is also important to note that you want to use real flowers for this shoot. Synthetic flowers won’t float right if at all, so save the time and hassle and use natural flowers.
Also, make sure you have a great pair of kitchen scissors to cut the stems off your flowers. Any pair of scissors will work and if you arent able to find any you can also rip the stems off if needed. Another tip is that if you happen to be on the shorter side, you may also want to consider bringing a step stool to your shoot to get that extra reach for nice aerial and overhead shots.
In order to be properly prepared start by doing a deep cleaning and sanitization of your bathtub. Because a client is paying you, it’s important to ensure that there is a clean tub for them to use. You will also want to have clean towels available for your client when they step out of the tub after the shoot. Also, it’s important to remind your client to bring an extra set of clothes to change into once the shoot is over. It is also currteous to tell your client to bring any preferred shower essentials to wash themselves after the shoot. Soap, shampoo, conditioner and a place to shower are great amenities to offer your clients after the photoshoot, however, most clients will probably prefer to use their own soaps from home.
The first step of preparing for the photoshoot is getting the supplies ready including cutting and arranging the fresh flowers and drawing the warm milk bath. I begin by cutting the stems off of the flowers with the kitchen scissors leaving me with just the flower heads. Once the flowers are ready, I run the warm water in the tib, so that the milk powder can be easily mixed in. You will want to run the water in your tub until it is about 70% filled. How filled the tub is will vary based on the depth of your tub, the size of your client (due to water displacement) and the style you are going for. I added 1.5 packets of milk powder to the water so that the water in the tub was somewhat clear. You will want to experiement with the water to milk ratio until it’s just right.
Once you have the milk prepared,ask your client to get into the tub. After your client has found a comfortable positon in the bath for the shoot, arrange the flowers around their head and body. Placing the flowers after your client is in the tub helps prevent milk from getting inside your flowers or tipping them over as much. Once the client is in the water and you have the flowers arranged, it’s time to shoot.
For lighting I prefer to use off camera flash, however, this is completely up to your style and availability. For the best results, I prefer to bounce the flash from a diffuser into a white ceiling to achieve an even glow across the room. This helps minimize reflections, as the ceiling is providing most of the lighting. If you choose to shoot with natural light, it may also help to use a bathroom near a window where more natural light can come in.
Ideally, you will want your ISO to be as low as possible to allow for a clean and crisp image of the flowers. You can achieve this by opening up your aperture and lowering your shutter speed. For my aperture, I shot around a 2.8, however, you can use the lowest your lens offers. I also used a shutter speed of around 1/200, however, if your hands aren't as shaky as mine you may be able to get away with 1/160. Make sure your shutter speed isn't too low as this could introduce unwanted camera shake leading to a blurry image.
If you haven't tried a milk bath photo shoot I would definitely recommend it! Not knly is it a great addition to your portfolio, but it’s also
super fun to do, doesn't cost a lot of money to set up, and will provide you with awesome photos. If you have any questions, feel free to comment and I will get back to you as soon as I can. Also, share your photos with me, I’d love to see the results! Happy Shooting!