Justin Schuble (MSB ’17) never planned to become “Insta-famous.”
His Instagram account — @DCFoodPorn — has over 56,000 followers and has been featured in Thrillist, USA Today College, Huffington Post, Elite Daily and Yahoo News. The account’s more than 1,000 posts feature colorful macaroons, cheesy burgers and decadent s’mores pancakes from restaurants in the District. “Everyone was saying I was posting too many food pictures on my personal account,” Schuble said.
So Schuble decided to take his food photography to a new Instagram account during his freshman year, and DCFoodPorn was born.
“I had no intention of it being anything,” Schuble said. “It was more just for fun and for me.”
Schuble hasn’t always had a refined palate. As a child, he was a self-professed picky eater, rarely straying far from chicken tenders. But now Schuble avoids fried foods and tries to eat healthily. Though he is lactose intolerant and gluten-free, he often posts pictures of ice cream and bread-based foods such as cinnamon rolls and pizzas, relying on food from friends or vegan and gluten-free recipes.
Schuble’s epicurean adventure began freshman year after his Georgetown friends began asking him for restaurant suggestions, because Schuble is from Potomac, Md., and knows his way around the District’s food scene.
“I wanted to take advantage of that, to be able to share my favorite places with people,” Schuble said.
The account started out as @FreshmanFoodie, and it matured as Schuble’s college career moved ahead. When Schuble finished freshman year, he changed the name of the account to DCFoodPorn and became more serious about his Instagram presence.
“I was eating out a lot, and I had a new camera, so I really upped my game in terms of what I was posting,” Schuble said.
After the name change, DCFoodPorn’s follower count began to grow.
Over the course of two years, the page went from 50 to 56,000 followers. Schuble said that reposts and mentions from popular Instagram accounts helped him gain followers. He also posts his photos at strategic times and tags the restaurants where he finds each meal.
“I try to post like two or three times a day,” Schuble said. “I like to post around meal times. I’ll post dessert at night or oatmeal in the morning.”
The account has become something of a full-time job for Schuble.
When he is not working on homework, he is probably working on DCFoodPorn. Restaurants, like Sweetgreen and &pizza, often invite him to events or ask him to review their new menu items, usually in exchange for money, food credit, free food or VIP access.
Once Schuble chooses a restaurant and finds an “Insta-worthy” food, he takes a series of pictures and then edits a few photos in Photoshop before deciding on the perfect image. Although Schuble has no formal photography training, he said his photography skills improved with trial and error.
“My goal is to make food look how it actually looks in person,” Schuble said.
The time commitment is not limited to the meal itself or the photography, Schuble said. He also dedicates a significant amount of time to interacting with his followers either by replying to comments or reposting.
“I’m always commenting,” Schuble said. “I’m always liking. I’m tagging, I’m hashtagging. If I’m walking to class or I’m in an elevator, I’m just trying to engage with people.”
Schuble’s recent Instagram posts average more than 1,500 likes and dozens of comments each.
“I unfollowed this account … I’ll probably lose 15 lbs by not seeing the pics anymore,” an Instragram user jokingly commented on one of Schuble’s re-posts this week.
“This account makes the freshman 15 look VERY real,” another Instagram user commented two months ago.
Schuble has also tried to use his “Insta-fame” to do good. Last week, he posted about Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Schuble’s efforts in the fight against cancer are personal, as his mother battled breast cancer and became cancer-free a few months ago.
“It’s nice to be able to help,” Schuble said. “This was definitely very personal, and I really, really wanted to be able to do that.”
Despite the press coverage and constant event invites, Schuble is not planning on turning DCFoodPorn into a job after graduation — at least for now. Though Schuble is interested in food marketing, he is also interested in real estate and other sectors.
“I feel like my ultimate goal is to do something in business that’s creative,” Schuble says. “It’d be great if it was in food, but if not, it’s not like I have my heart set on it.”
Regardless of DCFoodPorn’s future, Schuble urges those interested in pursuing food photography to get started.
“If you have a vision and if you have a passion, if you aren’t all over the place with what you’re trying to do, people will get on board,” Schuble said.