Flying Tea Food Shoot

In this food photography class, Karl works with celebrated food photographer Anna Pustynnikova to create an eye-catching flying tea image. All it takes is a dash of knowledge, a pinch of ingenuity, and a healthy serving of creativity!

As Anna and Karl walk you through each stage of the planning, preparation and lighting, you’ll see exactly how they created this explosive image. You’ll learn about problem solving and creative thinking, how to control lighting and why fast flash duration is a must when photographing flying objects.

In this class:

  • Learn how to photograph flying food shots
  • See how to use pre-visualisation as part of your planning
  • Demonstrate lighting setups for food photography
  • How to suspend items for photography
  • How to freeze motion using flash

To watch the retouching and editing process that followed the shoot, check out  Flying Tea Post-Production.

If you have any questions about this class, please post in the comment section below.

Food photography setup and preparation

Photography often requires creativity and problem solving to realise your creative ideas.

Anna and Karl wanted to create an image of a cup with rose bud tea and sugar cubes exploding out of it and a floating milk jug above, pouring milk. Guided by Karl’s pre-visualisation, the pair were able to identify a number of challenges that they’d have to overcome to get the final result. These included:

  • Create a realistic explosion of rose bud tea
  • Include sugar cubes to add depth to explosion
  • Create floating milk jug with pouring milk
  • A lighting setup suitable for the cup, milk jug and exploding objects
Flying food shoot

Freezing the fast moving rosebud tea was just one of the challenges Karl and Anna had to overcome.

Together, through a combination of DIY, acrylic rods and fast flash duration, they overcame each of these problems. The setup, although it looks complicated, required only four lights with simple modifiers.

In the end, this shoot proved that it is possible to bring any creative idea to life — all you need is careful planning and the right knowledge.

Flying tea photograph

The final flying tea image.


  1. Hey Karl, awesome stuff! Can i ask what thickness mdf panel you’re using? Seems like a much better alternative to paper, unless you think paper would work just as good?

    1. Hi and thank you. The MDF for the base is about 1cm, the one on the background might even be a sheet of hardboard which is like MDF but only about 3mm and it bends, it’s cheaper and flat on one side and rough on the other but the flat side is good for painting as a background. They are also good for using as a curved background because they bend. I think we show more of them in our backgrounds section.

  2. Hi Karl,

    You and your team are amazing! This is by far the best investment I have made regarding photography.

    I finished my college degree in photography, just as digital cameras were coming out . So everything I learned had to do with film cameras. Your training is helping me immensely.

    I am on a limited budget. Do you have any experience with the Westcott FJ lights? They are in my price range and offer high-speed sync as well as battery power.


    1. Hi Gary, thanks for your comments. I’m afraid I don’t know those lights, in my career I’ve used Elinchrom, Profoto, Broncolor and occasionally Godox. Cheers Karl.

  3. Enjoying the flying food talk especially as I’m shooting flying crumbs tomorrow! Thank you- very handy.

      1. Hi Karl
        In my case it is crumbed chicken flying. Would you ever consider using wire to suspend the chicken crumbs rather than trying to catch the flying bits?

        1. Hi Elizabeth, it sounds as if chicken crumbs would be a bit too small to use the technique of suspending them. I would probably throw/drop them in several shots and combine the best of each shot in layers afterwards.

          1. If you don’t have access to bron would you use speedlights. Godox Ad200

          2. Hi Elizabeth, it would depend solely on the speed of action and the speed of the studio lights you have. They may be adequate but if not then yes Speedlites can deliver very fast durations (at low powers) but you will need to modify the light for it to look more pleasing.

  4. Karl, this was a very complex setup. I really appreciated the step-by-step approach and realized how much care for details you put in your shots! A great lesson and looking forward for the post-process part.

  5. Hi Karl

    the T shaped acrylic rod you had made. what are the dimensions (the length total, the top piece width… looks like 1.5 inches wide for the top and and also for the bottom part?) also, what thickness of acrylic was used? I am hoping Santa will bring me one this year

    Thank you

    1. Hi Jacqueline, 5mm thick acrylic, 40mm wide and and the strengthening vertical part is about 30mm high glued onto the 40mm wide part. 90cm long in total to give room to grip one end.

      1. Thank you. should one also invest in just flat (not t shaped) acrylic bars as well? if so, size?

        I was also wondering, why you were using what appears to be a wooden dowel like for the flowers that will be floating and not clear acrylic?

        what size acrylic rods/bars should one consider purchasing for their studio


        1. Hi, I don’t remember any wooden dowels? At what time did you see those? I have various acrylic rods rectangle about 5mm x 6mm by 90cm and some round rods about 5mm diameter up to 15mm diameter again between 50cm and 100cm.

          1. Hi Karl,

            if you check at the 20:27 minute mark… to me, it looks like wooden skewers?

          2. Hi Jacqueline, it looks like Anna held a flower bud on a skewer just for me to check the light, as you will see from the video after that point the tea was exploded in the air it wasn’t held on anything, only the sugar cubes were held on the grip rods from the C-stands.

          3. AHhhh ok. thank you for clarifying 😉

            I am in the midst of pricing how much it would cost for one of the large T shaped brackets… pricey little buggers aren’t they! 🙂

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