While it’s awesome that we can digitally manipulate just about anything in post, there’s something to be said for creating practical effects in the real world. What better way to explore the architecture of the human body than by placing it in a dream-like world, all in the comforts of your own bathroom? If you’ve ever wondered how to create your own milk bath photography, we’ve got you covered.
Soft, supple skin isn’t just for the aristocracy anymore. You too can enjoy the rejuvenating benefits of a milk bath! But unlike Marie Antoinette, you get to keep your head and get a cool profile picture out of it. Here are five easy steps to get your ethereal on with milk bath photography:
Step 1: Gather your materials.
Milk — Some people will tell you that heavy cream works best, others have suggested whole milk, coconut milk, even powdered creamer. The reality is any milk will work, whether it’s part-skim, almond milk, yak milk, field mouse, feral cat — honestly anything that can be milked will do the job. We went with the cheapest 2% we found.
A camera — Obviously.
A bathtub — Obviously.
A bendy person — Not so obvious. Trust me on this one, it ain’t easy to look like an assortment of dismembered mannequin parts in such a confined space.
Step 2: Set the scene.
Fill your tub. First with water, then add the milk and watch it roll across the bottom like it’s some kind of fog rolling out over the moors of Scotland. The amount of milk you use depends on how large your tub is and how opaque you want the water. Do you want a crisp white line, or a more fog-like dreamy tone? I used about three liters/quarts of milk because I wanted to make sure the subject disappeared under the surface, while keeping a touch of opacity for a fade-like effect. Remember, it’s always easier to add more milk than to take it away (this goes for cereal too).
Step 3: Consider your lighting.
Overhead lighting will reflect in the water (gross). Unless that’s the effect you’re going for (then not gross), I suggest experimenting with natural light from a window, or somehow finding a way to create indirect lighting by using lamps that can be pointed upwards, or even using a screen to disperse and soften the overhead light. Also — and I can’t believe I’m saying this — use flash. Milk is reflective (who knew?) and it will make your bath look a whole lot whiter than it really is.
Step 4: Get in position.
I like to stand up on the tub with my feet on either side (barefoot, so I make sure not to slip!) and photograph from above. Make sure to shoot from a slight angle so that the flash doesn’t reflect on the water and ruin the shot. Plus, angles are fun and dynamic and will force you to look at shapes in a fresh way. When framing, it can help to leave some white space on all sides so you can extend the milky water in post and make your bath look like some infinity pool in LA.
Step 4: Snap the shots.
Experiment with movement and shapes and as many different poses as you can think of. Have your subjects inhale and plunge under, so you can photograph them as they rise up out of the water like the girl from “The Ring.” Play around with still water, and then make waves and splashes for a kinetic feel. Throw in some props! Rose petals, autumn leaves, or a good ol’ fashioned rubber ducky to add a touch of whimsy. Get more pictures than you think necessary, because with milk bath photography, once that tub is drained, it’s drained.
Step 5: Post production.
Editing the shots is almost as fun as taking them. I like to add exposure to brighten the whites, and deepen the shadows to add contrast. You can also play around with coloring the milk with the PicsArt photo editor — I love the Color Replace Effect! Why not make the water purple, or even black? The possibilities are endless.
So whoever you are, wherever you may be, turn on the tap and give milk bath photography a try! Photograph a friend or get a friend to photograph you, because if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that everyone looks good in a milk bath. Dark hair and dark skin play beautifully against the milky white, but a paler palette is also very interesting in a monochromatic kind of way. And whatever you do — whether you use cashew milk or soy — remember to have fun and soak it all in.
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All photos by Danny Rothschild (@dannyrothschild).