José and I are so excited to share our DIY photoshoot experience! Ever since I found out about the #milkbath phenomenon, I have been looking forward to trying it out for ourselves. The project was a lot more work than I imagined. In this blog post I will share our process of preparing and executing on the day of the photoshoot @ 37 weeks.
On Friday, my husband José picked up some professional photography equipment from one of our local libraries, library 21c. I have to credit my friend Katrina here because she is the one who told me about milk bath maternity photos, and about the equipment at the library. Thanks Katrina!
José and I had to attend an orientation and sign some paperwork, but once we got that squared away it was only a couple weeks before I came home to a set of lights and a DLSR camera sitting in our dining room.
It was exciting knowing that we were on the verge of “doing the thing” we’d been preparing for already for several weeks.
On our eighth marriage anniversary, January 14 2019, José and I started off our day by going to a Goodwill five minutes away from our house. I know this sounds kind of funny, but it was an outing I was very much looking forward to. José had discovered this Goodwill only recently, and told me about it. We had been going to thrift stores much further away from our house, so this was the discovery of a secret shop hidden in a plaza behind other stores, and not at all visible from the main road.
I was immediately impressed when we walked in. It is the cleanest, tidiest Goodwill I have ever set foot in in my life. We had no problem finding a perfect white lace dress we could cut the lining out of for my photoshoot.
After lunch we went to Claires to pick out some jewelry and a headpiece I could wear with the outfit. I loved the idea of a headpiece that made me feel like I was wearing a crown. It made me feel like a Queen.
Pregnancy is a time in a woman’s life when she is incredibly beautiful, sexy, and powerful. Many ancient cultures and traditions have honored pregnant women and considered the four trimesters of pregnancy a sacred time in her life. The headpiece we picked out might seem like just a pretty little detail, but to me it signifies all of this ancient respect and power.
The whole time we were preparing for the photoshoot, I just kept channeling this energy and reminding myself that for all intents and purposes, this was a sexy, boudoir shoot. More than anything, I wanted the sacred, sexual nature of pregnancy to show up in these pictures when all was said and done.
Now it was Saturday January 26th, and we needed to follow through with our photoshoot plans before the rented equipment was due back on Monday. So first thing after a breakfast of blackstrap molasses waffles with cinnamon pears, we packed up our children into the jeep, still in their full-suit unicorn pajamas, and went as a family to pick out flowers from King Soopers.
José went kind of crazy and ended up buying $95 worth of flowers, but he later returned $55 of them that we didn’t use. I trust his aesthetic taste for visual things much more than my own, so I gave him full reign to choose what he thought we would need and which bouquets he thought would look pretty together. I cannot take credit for a single flower!
When we got home he made up the gorgeous header arrangement entirely on his own, while I put on my makeup and jewelry and the altered dress. It was fun getting dressed up! I did have a really hard time with my hair though. I couldn’t decide if it looked better up or down. I couldn’t do a pretty updo on myself to save my life, and kept getting frustrated and yanking out all the bobby pins.
I decided to try some shots with my hair down, but I ended up being way too paranoid about my hair getting wet. Then my hair did get wet and I felt that that would ruin the shot, so I had to put it up anyway. In the end I just had it pulled back in a bun and it didn’t show in the pictures.
We had a hard time with the milk bath part too because initially I had bought nonfat dry milk powder. I read somewhere that nondairy creamer worked in lieu of real milk, so I had picked up this box in the baking aisle just because I happened to pass by and see it. I thought it would work well, but it ended up making the water super marbly and weird-looking. And kind of blue. Do not use dry milk powder.
So José ended up draining that first attempt. We refilled the tub with unfortunately much cooler water since our water heater is stupid-tiny, then poured in the rest of our carton of almond milk, so about half of a half gallon. The water was not quite as milky as we wanted it, but we didn’t have any more milk so it would have to do.
At this point I was realizing that I had not mentally prepared myself for how uncomfortable this experience was going to be. I was wet, cold, and uncomfortable the entire time. My dress itched and I had to prop myself up in awkward positions for over an hour. After 176 photos, I was so ready to get out of the damn tub!
It made me reflect though on how perhaps I am not as mentally prepared as I could be for the actual labor and birth of our baby. In the same way that I took great pains to do research and gather supplies and prepare for the photoshoot, I have prepared for the birth. But am I really, truly mentally prepared for how uncomfortable the experience might be?
I am so fortunate to have a husband who has a natural eye for lighting and composition and even setting up props. He really did all the work – I just lay there complaining! Actually at the beginning of the shoot we exchanged quite a few not very nice words which I will surmise by quoting José who said, “If you talked like that to a real photographer he would have walked out on you.” Well, probably.
But things settled down after about the 80th photo and we finally started getting some good shots. It took about that long for José to adjust the lighting until he was happy with it, and about that long for us both to figure out what position I looked best in. I had a really hard time getting to the right facial expressions. I’m really not a very good model, at least not naturally. On top of my anxiety over my unnatural face in almost every shot, the water kept getting colder and colder, and we had to keep replacing flowers because after ten minutes or so they would start to sink.
On one hand we had all the time in the world we needed to keep adjusting the lighting and the position and my hair and the flowers and keep taking shots. On the other hand, we were in a race against the sinking flowers and my ability to tolerate my cold, wet, itchy dress!
In the end though we got a few good shots and had fun DIYing this milk bath photoshoot. I know that José has wanted to take a lot of pictures of me pregnant, and in the beginning of my pregnancy I wanted nothing to do with a camera at all. So this coming to the end of my pregnancy and his desire to photograph me finally coming to fruition felt like a sweet bonding experience for the three of us: mama, papa, and baby.
In total we spent about $65 on this photoshoot:
$15 – dress from Goodwill
$40 – flowers from the supermarket
$20 – jewelry from Claires (returned)
$8 – gas driving around to get things
$2 – milk
If you decide to DIY your own milk bath photoshoot, here is a list of things I would recommend:
1. Find out if you can rent professional lights and a camera.
2. Do a search for #milkbathmaternity on Instagram and Google to find images you like. Save them to your desktop and then look at them all again. Decide which colors and elements you like most and think about how your can incorporate them into your shoot.
3. Decide on black lace or white lace. I like the shoots I’ve seen with black lace and red roses, but I feel like this looks best on women with dark hair, so we went with the more traditional white lace. Some women look amazing in their shots wearing what looks like pieces of white cloth draped across their bodies. A sheer white curtain from Goodwill could achieve this look very well.
4. Figure out your budget beforehand and make a list of what you’ll need to buy: dress, flowers, milk, candles etc. Can you spend $100 on flowers, or $7 on one bouquet?
5. Envision what your setup and finished photos are going to look like. How milky do you want the water? How will you be laying? What will your facial expression look like? If you can practice this ahead of time you might save yourself a lot of wasted time and discomfort in the water!
6. Mentally prepare yourself to be uncomfortable, wet, and cold!
There is not enough information on the internet about how to DIY this, so I really hope this post will help some mamas out. Thanks so much for reading and sharing ❤ Let me know what you think in the comments! How could we have made our photoshoot even more epic? I’m not getting back in a cold, wet dress anytime soon, but you never know, there might be a next time in our future 😉