Milk Bath 101
I have had many people ask about how I do my milk bath sessions and today I thought I would give a little peak into how I do mine! In this I will go over my setup and my techniques that leads to the final product. With that said, there is no "wrong way" so altering the methods to reflect more your style is highly recommended!
When I began doing these it was out of pure curiosity and something outside the box to try. I had only been doing sessions professionally for 8 months. Never in a million years did I think it would become one of my most sought after sessions! So know that no matter if you have been behind the camera for a short time or for years, you too can create these beautiful sessions with a little bit of practice!
Pick your location: Personally, I prefer them done in a garden tub, but all may not have access to one. Keeping your baths at the same location will help you deliver similar results in your final galleries as well as keeping any surprises arising with conditions to work in. If you do not have access to something steady, maybe check out your local hotels and rent the room for the session. I prefer use my own garden tub which helps because I can prep prior to my client's arrival.
Lighting: I am a natural light photographer so I do sessions in a garden tub that offers a lot of natural light. Using natural lighting, you will need to pay attention to the time of day that will work best for your tubs location. You do not want direct sunlight on your client or even reflecting off your bath. Remember to turn off your bathroom lighting for natural light sessions! If you are a fan of using flash, I recommend bouncing your light source versus directly on your subject to help alleviate any harsh shadows. You want your baths to be bright but not overexposed.
Bath Prep: Online they have tons of methods on how to prep your baths. Powdered milk, real milk, scotch guard, real flowers, fake flowers, blah, blah, blah. As I mentioned before there is no wrong way, just your way. I use real milk, whole milk, and depending on your bathtub size that will determine how much you will need. I love my baths to be bright white and rich so I use two gallons for my tub. I do keep handy some powdered milk for a richer color if needed but rarely have I used it. Note that when adding the milk it will bubble so it will need to relax for about 10 minutes or so before shooting. Usually I fill the tub just prior to my client arriving and by the time they are dressed the bath is settled. Adjustments will be needed once the subject is in the bath. After the final water level adjustment is when I add the flowers to the bath water which allows time for the milk to settle again.
Decorations: Since I do this from home my decor for the outside of the tub is already completed. I have imitation flowers for the outside tub decor and offer a couple setups for clients to choose from. As far as the floating flowers I add fresh and dried. Here comes the fun part! I use bubble wrap.......yes, you read right.......bubble wrap. Prior to my client's arrival I cut my fresh flowers that I want to use, leaving 1-2 inches of stem depending on flower size. I then cut bubble wrap into circles of a similar diameter of the flower. In the center of that I then cut a hole just large enough for my flower's stem to push though and sliding the bubble wrap up to just underneath the flower bloom. This allows the flowers to float in the upright position and not begin to sink. (Roses and greenery are different. I just add them in with no prep) Then I select the dried flowers I may want to add and just add them with no prep. These are typically tiny bunched flowers and only a few selected to add accent color. They tend to float with minimal sinking for the duration of my sessions.
Shooting: Hope you are wearing something comfortable and you don't mind possibly getting wet because now it's time to shoot. In my baths I am everywhere. Not only will you change your client's position in the bath, but you will be changing your own. I have balanced on ledges, I have stood in the water for overhead shots, and I have even sat in them. It is all about your creativity at this point and getting different angles!
Once your session is over it is then down to your editing style and creativity! If these intimidate you but you still want to try them, practice! Buy milk, buy flowers, and do a dry run. Maybe use your kids, your niece, the neighbor, or just any object to place in the bath. Practice lighting, setting up, and edit until your are comfortable!