It seems like milk bath portraits are the new black in maternity photography, and why not… they look ahh-mazing!
But how do you do them? Do you actually fill a bath tub with milk or is the water coloured? Are the flowers fresh, dried or fake? And assuming the bathroom is teeeeny like mine… how on earth do you get those amazing compositions in such a small space?!
Heidi Talic is a Click Love Grow graduate of our Enthusiast Photography Course and our Advanced Photography Course, and she’s been rocking the milk bath session! We’ve come to consider her the resident expert in our graduates community, so we asked her to share exactly how to do one.
I mostly photograph maternity, newborns and lifestyle family sessions, and I occasionally book the odd event and product session too! I really love the mix, as it means every day is different!
However, maternity milk bath sessions are my favourite! My gorgeous mummas arrive feeling shy, worried they need to look like a model in order for me to create gorgeous photos that they will love. I know first hand how we can feel about our bodies in those last months (I felt like a whale!), so I understand encouragement and reassurance is key to helping them relax.
Then all the elements of the milk, flowers and gown marry together to capture her so beautifully, they are always surprised at how stunning they look and it gives so much back to them.
This is why I love these sessions so much.
Using an indoor bath would be problematic in most bathrooms due to lighting and space issues. You’d be really limited in your compositions too unless you have a mansion sized bathroom with a tub in the centre of the room!
So I bought a second hand tub which I placed on my back porch, essentially creating an outdoor bathroom. I can take advantage of the soft light fond there, and it gives me the space I need to compose any way I like.
I half fill my bath with water, using around 10 jugs of boiled water to warm it up (no hot running water on my porch!). I then add around 3 litres of milk which creates the white I need, but my bath is white so that helps. Also, the ratio of water to milk will vary if you have a larger than average bath, so you may need to experiment.
I always use fresh flowers in the bath. I find dahlias and chrysanthemums float really nicely because they’re large, then I add a mixture of smaller blooms and some greenery.
Some flowers will sink quickly so get your model in first! Make sure she is posed, comfortable, and take your test shots all before you throw in the flowers… then be quick!
I have flower crowns made by a florist but if you are just experimenting and want to keep it simple and inexpensive you could easily make your own basic crowns with some greenery/vines and add a few flowers on one side. It only needs to last for the length of the shoot, so it doesn’t need to be super sturdy!
Also, think beyond flowers… glitter and fruit loops are other options I’ve tried and they give such a fun end result!
Aside from personal taste, one aspect of editing that would be universal in this style of photography is ensuring the bath looks crisp white and not grey. I find the best way to do this is to simply increase the exposure and whites a little.
I have also started doing milk bath sessions with mumma and her bub, which are an absolutely gorgeous way to capture that special connection.
Also super cute is when their baby can sit on their own and play with the flowers!
My top tip: When I’m photographing multiple arrangements in the same session, I use a net goldfish scoop to remove the flowers!
I shoot in natural light, in open shade as mentioned above. I do plan to experiment soon with some video lights to use as a fill indoors, but I haven’t had a chance to play around with them yet. If you have a speedlight and know how to use it as fill flash, I’d suggest taking it along.
I have some gowns and other items for clients to wear, however they’re also welcome to bring their own. Fabrics such as fine tulle, chiffon work well too.
In this image the mumma was wearing a lace maternity gown and these can be sourced from photography prop shops, or even Ebay.
Underwear under the gown is optional, but if wearing it is your subject’s preference, ask her to bring nude coloured strapless bra and underwear.
The shots look best if the fabric is wet as it sticks to the skin and better shows of their baby bump, so for that reason thin fabrics work best.
I always encourage them to have their hair and make up done professionally as the images are quite close up and I want them to love their photos! So once they’re in the bath, I have them positioned high enough to avoid wetting their hair, and I’ll literally sprinkle some water over their chest and arrange the bodice of whatever they’re wearing so that it sticks to their chest. There’s a lot of getting to know you conversation before this happens!
I use a 24-70 f/2.8 lens. I have previously used my 50mm f/1.8 as it’s a good sharp lens, but the fixed length is limiting as it makes it difficult to get shots look straight down unless I can get up higher! I have my eye on the Sigma Art 35mm, I’m thinking this will be perfect.
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