Flying Tea Food Shoot

In this food photography class Karl and Anna create a flying tea image using a little ingenuity, combined with creativity and knowledge.

You’ll see exactly how they created this explosive image as they walk you through each stage of the planning, preparation and lighting. 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.

Course objectives:

  • 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 see the post production for this image, click here.

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

Have you ever had a creative concept for an image but not known how to bring it to life? This is exactly what Karl and Anna found when they set out to create this flying food shot. The answer? Ingenuity and creativity.

Food photography setup and preparation

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

Their vision was 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, and
  • 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 they overcame each of these problems through a combination of DIY, acrylic rods and fast flash duration. 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. Hi Carl. Love this one so much!! Can you recommend a place that has props similar to what you were using to suspend the cubes in the air?


    1. Hi GDN, in the UK this is called clear acrylic, in other countries it is known as Plexiglass, Makralon, Perspex. It’s available in larger orders from Plastic manufactures or supply companies but the easiest place to get it from is Sign Service companies as many signs for companies door plates etc are made of this stuff and they have the cutting devices to cut to your size shape etc. I cover it and mention it in many of the other courses and all of the ones I’ve got are just cut to order. Cheers Karl.

  2. Another fabulous tutorial. I watched the shoot and post processing and it is very inspiring.

    My photography is improving with every tutorial. The next big step is to tackle photoshop. My PS skills are quite limited so I know how I will be spending my March and April lockdown time.

    Thanks for another terrific session.

    1. Thanks Derrick, my Photoshop for Photographers course is the place to start and nice and easy to follow. There are also some workalong files available to download to practise some elements simultaneously. After that course then move on to the ‘individual photoshop tools’ classes. Do not attempt the class with Viktor and I until you’ve completed the others and feel comfortable with PS. Cheers Karl.

  3. Well… i ended this tutorial with a smile.
    yes, the end was funny – when the all set messed. but later i was translate to my self in the head – what made me really enjoy this tutorial – it’s you Karl Taylor. you and your staff.
    your abilty to explain everything in aunderstandable, clear, simple and pleasant way.
    your patience and culm during all the process, and the good collaboration with other people surround you – makes the learning a good experience.
    I just love watching your tutorials !!!
    thank you very much.

  4. I love the end results but I am surprised you use too many types of equipment. As beginner, I don’t have them. how I manage to control lights. please share your thoughts

    1. Hi Muhammad, some shots do require a lot of kit and as you will see in many of our other food tutorials sometimes they only need one light. Many of our product tutorials where we use multiple lights I also try and explain how it can be simplified.

  5. Very informative video. Thanks a lot

  6. Hello Karl,

    I think the picture is really fantastic. I liked it so much that I tried to imitate it. I learned a lot from it. Thanks for that. You only realize what an enormous effort it is when you do it yourself.
    Well, I don’t know about copyright law. Now I want to ask you if I can also publish my flying tea picture on my website, Instagram, etc.?

    Best Regards.


    1. Hi Devron, you can publish it on Instagram if you state it was inspired by ‘…………’ etc etc. Cheers.

  7. Classic Karl. Simple clear step by step instruction. Really love this tutorial. Great to see the problem solving. I often use a compressor with a sound trigger, find this works for me to make small incremental changes to the shutter release with my speed stuff. Beautifully elegant end image.

  8. Hallo Karl, ich bin seit 1 Monate Mitglied bei Euch. Die Kurse sind einfach nur genial gemacht.Hier sieht man wirklich, dass alles sehr gut durchdacht und geplant ist.
    Ich werde bei freier Zeit, mal versuchen dies nachzustellen.

    Es ist sehr Schade, dass es keine deutschen Untertitel gibt.ich weiß das diese Extrem teuer sind, aber wenn ich alles verstehen würde, wäre es noch effektiver.

    Ich freue mich auf jeden Fall, dass ich diese Plattform durch Zufall im Internet gefunden habe und jetzt dabei sein kann.

    Ein rießiges Daumen hoch an dich und dein Team und natürlich auch an Anna, ihr seit Klasse.

    Beste Grüße Maik

  9. You guys must just have the best job ever over there at KTE. Thanks to everyone there for making this possible for us. This is just getting better and better.

  10. hi karl,

    thank you for this very well made and really inspiring video! i will try to do a similar project soon. one question (as i can’t find those items in germany) : those white “studio blocks” where can you get them? selfmade or bought? and the t-shaped acrylic glass rod which holds the jug?

    looking forward to more content like this, especially post in photoshop, too. thank you !

    1. Hi, the blocks are selfmade (by a carpenter) from MDF and are painted. Some studio suppliers sell something similar. Acrylic rods made by plastic sign service company.

  11. Great shoot and excellent team work. I enjoyed the step by step process of how this was done. if a scuba air tank cannot be accessed any other way of getting a blast of air or controlled air to do what was done?
    Also since I use Profoto I’m assuming I would need to turn on HSS to increase the flash duration, is this correct?

    1. Hi, thank you. Your first question has already been answered below in one of the other comments. For your second question yes you would need to switch to whichever mode gave you the fastest exposure time.

    1. Hi Yechiel, I would suggest a small 2 or 3 litre scuba tank known also as a pony bottle and then a wip line that fits on to the tank. Other options would be an air compressor or simply a can of air that is used for cleaning cameras.

  12. Hey Karl what type of bid for cutting the glass ?

    and also can you elaborate a bit more on the cutting process, whats the water doing

    1. Hi Yechiel, I think we explained in the video that the water was simply cooling the drill piece and material. The same diamond edged drill cutter would be needed for glass but i’d suggest taking glass objects to glass cutters and letting them do it for safety reasons. I get my bottles etc cut at glass cutters, they have all the right tools.

  13. Karl

    I only have two Godox light SK300ii, I need a third one for the globe of light in the background and create this beautiful gradient.

    what kind of light or what minimum power requirement should I need to do recreate this gradient of light for backgrounds in general ?

    Thanks in advance for your help.

    Maria Angelica

    1. Hi Maria, I wouldn’t buy anything less than 300J and you’ll need an approximate 70 degree reflector (usually the standard one)

  14. Very interesting, specially the preparation before the shoot the concept or idea behind the shoot, I love the action (milk pouring , roses flying, sugar cubes..etc) in the photo as well as the delicate touch of the roses and the turkish delight suits next to the cup.

    I was wondering why you chose to blow the roses from the cup instead of throwing them from the top.


    Congrats Anna & Karl.

    1. Hi Maria, the natural shape created by them coming out of the cup is much better than them falling. Also shooting them falling would have needed lots of shots to choose and comp from.

  15. As others noted, I really appreciated seeing this from conception to execution. And I’m eager to see the post-processing as well. Thanks for always being instructive and inspirational, Karl.

    I’m morphing from an enthusiast to paid photographer (not nearly a professional yet), with just a couple finished projects so far. I’m grateful to have come across your work, and especially your educational material. I’m keen to try my hand and some more involved projects like this.

  16. Just when you think you have everything you could possibly need, I have to go shopping for a scuba rig!

    Awesome work!

    1. Hi John, if you are interested in that then just so you know your best option would be a smaller more manageable 3L bottle (often used as a back up bottle in diving) and then a connector called a whip. Cheers Karl.

  17. hello, i haven’t seen the video yet, but i wanted to know , how you guys created that illustration of this shot? was that made before the shot or after it, cause it also has lighting effect in it , Thank you so much in advance…. love what you do

    1. Hi, this is something called Pre-visualisation and it’s covered in a lot of our courses. The process of creating the shot is all about solving problems first and figuring out how you are going to make that shot a reality, this is best done by sketching things out to work out your lighting and composition and the position of your objects. And yes the drawing was produced first.

  18. Great video !

    Quick question : Which glue and glue gun are you using ? Mine doesn’t hold anything !!

    Thank you


    1. Hi Gaelle, a Stanley one but to be honest I’ve never looked for a special one? I’ve only ever grabbed what’s on the shelf at the DIY store.

  19. Amazing – love how you put these projects together. I read somewhere you used to work with Elinchrom strobes, which is what we have. How do you think their slower flash duration would work on the rosebuds?

    1. Hi Neil, you’d have to check their t0.1 durations. Keep in mind though that you don’t always need to freeze everything, sometimes a little motion blur can actually add to the shot. I actually added some motion blur to three of the buds in photoshop as they all looked too static together.

      1. Thanks Karl,

        Elinchrom quote these at 1/5260 seconds but that of course is at T0.5

        Still feel like giving this a go, particularly as I have a full scuba tank sitting around that needs emptying!

  20. Awesome! Will you please tell me where I can learn about flash duration. I’m not sure if that’s different than shutter speed. I use Paul Buff lights. I don’t believe that’s an option. I can only change intensity of the strobe and model lamp. Additionally, I have watched the technical videos. I do understand aperture and shutter changes in relation to stops but I seem to have missed ISO. When you increase the ISO from 100 to 200, it’s a 1 stop increase? Thank you. This school is changing my work. Oh, and I rented a X1DII last week. AMAZING qualitative shift from my Canon 5D Mark IV.

    1. djl… I have several Paul Buff lights as well. If you have the Einsteins you can get up to 1/13,500 sec. (t.1). They have lots of duration information on their website.

      1. Thanks John! I just want to clarify, the “flash duration” has to do with a setting on the light, not the shutter speed, correct? And I’ll check their website! Also, do you know the answer to the ISO question? Appreciate it!!

          1. I just found that last night! Thanks for your patience. I somehow missed one of the initial sections. Thank you Karl!

        1. djl…

          Yes, “flash duration” has to do with the capabilities of and setting on the light, not the shutter speed. Karl addresses this is great detail throughout several of his videos on this site. I am sure either he or his staff will chime in with a more concise reply when they get time.

          Yes changing ISO from 100 to 200 equals 1-Stop difference?

          1. AWESOME! I REALLY appreciate the reply. Hmm, not sure how I missed the flash duration. I’ll start reviewing. Thanks again!

  21. NICE .. NICE Setup . , But this workshop need really professional gear such as lighting in good time duration , and more things , we need one workshop for who dont have such these level of pro.

    1. Hi Mohafattal, at some point on any photoshoot or anything you need to have the right tools for the job. A dentist, a carpenter, a plumber etc none of them will be able to do their job properly. But there are different level of tools if you think about what you really need. For example in this shoot I was using the very best broncolor lighting but I could have also been using Siros lighting or even Godox lighting but to do this particular job I would have at least needed lighting with a fast flash duration otherwise it would not have been possible to freeze the action in the same way, although it could have still been a pleasing shot. If you watch some of my earlier paint splash product shoots you will see that some of those I managed to achieve with just speed-lites.

  22. could you put English subtitles please?


  23. Woooowwww!!!! What a show!! I loved the whole thing. The editing made it easier to watch and follow (well done Ben).
    The final shot is superb.

    Cheers from Buenos Aires.


  24. Quite brilliant! From Anna’s concept to Karl’s rig and lighting design; Tim’s hole cutting expertise (and always his camerawork) and with everyone else chipping in working to make a stunning shot. As I say. Quite brilliant!

  25. That was just out standing set up . lots of info and the final shot was great
    thanks so much to you and your team very well done
    looking forward to photoshop section

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