Influencer Spotlight

Artist Influencer Spotlight: Designer & Photographer Dan Rubin

By Editorial Staff

Last March, photographer Dan Rubin hopped on a plane from the United Kingdom to Ft. Lauderdale to visit home, only to find himself stuck in the States when COVID-19 lockdown orders went into place. Though currently in Ft. Lauderdale, Rubin was based in the UK for ten years and is hoping to be back around August. As it has with everyone, the pandemic has created a bit of a standstill for Rubin. “Sitting around doing nothing was not really the kind of concept I could understand,” Rubin says on a walk around his neighborhood. Thankfully, Rubin is getting back into the groove of things, recently having gotten back to work with a project in New York. 

How He Got Started

Dan Rubin got into photography almost by accident. He started off as a designer, working as early as his teens in print and digital design. “Photography, for some reason, never seemed like a thing I could do. My dad had a camera growing up and I had friends with cameras. I knew people who were photographers and who worked magic with cameras, but it always seemed like something you needed to have some special skill set for, not just the right gear.”


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A post shared by Dan Rubin (@danrubin)

During his design career, he worked with many photographers and felt that photography was an important part of design as a storytelling element. As a designer, he was always looking at interesting objects and elements in a way a lot of people didn’t. One of these things was a folding Polaroid camera, a brown leather, and chrome thing he’d never seen before. Polaroid had just announced it was discontinuing its film and he had friends who bought cameras and were shooting while they still could. “It was totally a fear of missing out that got me into it. I saw the camera and thought ‘that would look good on my shelf.’ I didn’t think I might love using it and fall in love with a new medium.”

He found the camera for cheap on eBay, bought a couple of packs of film, and began shooting with the sole purpose of being able to tell his grandkids one day that he shot Polaroid. With only ten images per pack of film, he had to be really careful with the framing and composition of his shots. He was in love with almost every image that came out in an instant. And that was what the camera was built to do. It was designed to make you fall in love with photography and to make it immediate. “It was really that moment, those two packs of film, that changed my entire life, because I suddenly realized photography was something I could do. It was this other way of seeing the world, of capturing the world, that I had never had access to before.” 


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A post shared by Dan Rubin (@danrubin)

As a painter in his early teens, he would often see a scene and wish he had a canvas and paints, never making the connection that he could just have a camera to capture the moment. So, he bought a digital single-lens reflex camera, or DSLR, then a Canon 35 mm film camera. As a designer, he had the skillset around photography, he understood framing and composition, but didn’t yet have the skills with the camera itself, so he began playing around with light and camera settings, and it all unraveled from there. “After I had built this career as a designer, I kind of fell into it by accident.” 

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How He Started His Commercial Career

After buying his first non-point and shoot camera, it took around four to five years before Rubin did any commercial work. As a designer, he was mostly working with tech companies and start-ups in Silicon Valley. Late in the summer of 2010, Rubin and around 40 others were invited to Beta Test a new photography app, which turned out to be Instagram. Rubin was one of the only people with any sort of photograph background, though at this point it was just a hobby. At the time, you could only upload photos taken with the Instagram camera, which was perfect, as he’d already been playing around with the smartphone camera. 


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A post shared by Dan Rubin (@danrubin)

People seemed to like the images he was uploading, and when Instagram became open to the public, Dan Rubin was a suggested follow. With close to 700K followers now, Rubin feels he built his following by being in the right place at the right time. When he first started posting, nothing was commercial; he just posted what he saw.

He had been trying to figure out how to incorporate his own photography into his design work when he was approached by a big mobile phone company in the UK wanting to send him on a four-day trip in Europe to promote their roaming data plans. Having already planned a holiday in the south of France, he asked them to contribute to the cost of the trip and they ended up paying for the whole trip. All he had to do was post photos of his trip and tag them. This was his first big commercial project, what we now know as an influencer brand deal. 


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He then moved full-time to London and threw himself into photography. “I kind of threw myself into the photography world and said ‘Hey, I’m here. I have a lot of travel already on my calendar and I have an Instagram. Who wants to work with me?’” He knew how to work w agencies and brands bc of work as a designer, which made him all the more successful.

At this time, the word influencer wasn’t even being thrown around yet, but you could say Dan Rubin was one of Instagram’s first influencers. “I was just being a photographer who had a big audience.” Brands knew they could hire him to do a shoot where they would get assets from it, as a photographer, but they would also get social coverage. Very quickly, he was doing shoots for big brands. “It went from zero to about one hundred percent in about a six-month time span.”


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But despite his large following, Rubin doesn’t consider himself to be your typical influencer. “I’ve never referred to myself as an influencer. I know I have influence, but I have influencers in a way that’s slightly different from what we call influencers. And it’s all the same thing: people listen to what I have to say, but the way I like to approach it is that I’m a photographer who also has this big social following, rather than the other way around.”

So, he got his following from being an Instagram Beta Tester, but the reason it continued to grow was consistency. A year in, Instagram allowed you to start uploading images rather than taking them on the Instagram camera, but he never did that. He’d shoot on a camera for clients, whether film or digital, but for Instagram, he always shot a second image on his phone. For him, it was part of the fun. So many others had begun uploading fancy images with shallow depth of field, and he knew he could do that, but he wanted to see how far he could push the smartphone camera. 


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A post shared by Dan Rubin (@danrubin)

His feed and style have evolved over time, but it changed at a very steady pace. When someone followed him for what he was posting at the time, they stayed because his content remained consistent. He recommends this same consistency for anyone trying to grow and keep a following today. “if you’re not making good work, or consistent work, people aren’t going to stick around.” 

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His Favorite Parts About Photography 

When asked what he likes to shoot – portraits, people, landscapes, products, etc. – he answered all of the above, although he noted that he doesn’t tend to do studio work. “I like natural light. I like the challenge of using the light that you have. What I really love is the light: what it does at a specific time of day and how it changes everywhere you go.” 


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A post shared by Dan Rubin (@danrubin)

He flips his Zoom camera to show a white house shrouded in golden hour light. It’s having its roof redone and there’s a red fire hydrant out front contrasting against the blue of the sky. He doesn’t take a picture of it because he has black and white film in his camera, but says it catches his eye. “If I’m just on my own somewhere, I like capturing things people will miss. I think that’s what it comes down to; I like the things that show little moments that are fleeting that most people would ignore. I’m interested in people, whether it’s the absence of them or the sign of them having been there or the people themselves. I take it as a compliment if people stop and ask me what I’m taking a picture of because that means I’ve seen something that they haven’t.”

You can follow Dan Rubin’s Instagram journey here!

This article was written by Brittany Files

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