By Melanie Padgett Powers
Photo by Kara Tippins/Justin Schuble
Justin Schuble (B'17) does not crave cheese for every meal or obsess over his next dessert. But you might think otherwise if you looked at his Instagram account, @dcfoodporn, which showcases photo after photo of mouthwatering food.
“I’m actually a very healthy eater,” Schuble says. “For me, it’s a combination of recommending the best places [to eat] and also the art of beautiful cheesy burgers or drippy ice cream.”
In less than four years, Schuble has amassed 190,000 Instagram followers. After graduating in May with a finance and marketing double major, he is now a full-time Instagram influencer — someone who has clout and whom brands seek out as a partner.
Schuble created his account during his freshman year and originally adopted the apt name @freshman_foodie. His following grew organically, but when he hit 5,000 followers, then 10,000, he knew his photos were resonating.
He upgraded from his iPhone to a better camera — first a Nikon DSLR, later a Sony Alpha a6000. He began to plan out his meals, set up his shots, and respond to comments more deliberately. But he wasn’t getting paid until brands started reaching out, asking, “What do you charge?”
One of the first to hire him was Sweetgreen, a salad chain created by fellow Georgetown McDonough undergraduate alumni. Since then, he’s taken photos for dozens of restaurants and brands, including Modelo beer at D.C.’s H Street Festival and Barefoot Wine at the Giant National Capital Barbecue Battle in D.C.
Despite the “DC” in @dcfoodporn, Schuble’s photographic food voyages have extended beyond the city. Last year, McDonald’s flew him and five other Instagrammers to its Chicago-area headquarters to promote the company’s approach to healthier menu options. “That was a cool experience, and I hope to be able to do more of that kind of thing,” he says.
Schuble does turn down offers from companies if he doesn’t like their food or their goals or if they won’t give him creative freedom. “That’s not the kind of partnership I’m looking for,” he says. “For me it’s about both sides getting what they want, being able to throw ideas off of each other.”
He plans ahead of time which dish he wants to photograph. On-site, he shoots about 100 photos, rapid-fire, quickly moving around, changing the angle and lighting. “You have about two minutes before the food starts to look gross,” he says. He selects a handful of images to edit on his phone before posting one.
Despite his experience, he never truly knows what will take off. In June, he posted a video of what he calls a CaliBurger double burger “squared” as it was being made. It received more than 2 million views on @dcfoodporn — not including the millions more after other accounts shared his video. That video gained him 15,000 new followers in two days.
“I know I’m not going to be an Instagrammer for the rest of my life,” he says. “I’m always looking for opportunities to branch off of this. I think it’s cool that I ended up doing something creative and business-related — that was always something I wanted to do.”