With trial approaching, I’m stepping down from all leadership positions at DxE. Here’s why that’s a good thing.

With trial approaching, I’m stepping down from all leadership positions at DxE. Here’s why that’s a good thing.

DxE has always been about giving, not taking, power. Now is the time to prove that.

by Wayne Hsiung

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Today, I am excited to announce a new day for DxE. As of September 1, 2019, I will be stepping down as Lead Organizer of the founding SF Bay Chapter and all other leadership roles within the DxE network. Almira Tanner -- who has been on our Steering Committee for over 4 years, has led our Direct Action and Development committees, and is uniquely qualified for the job -- will be taking on the role of Lead Organizer until the next election cycle (and hopefully, if our organizers support her in the vote, beyond that). I will not be running for any office. 

What do I plan to do instead? Become a normal rank-and-file organizer. I plan to propose a new working group (“Project X”) that will focus on communications “moonshots” -- ways of scaling our message and impact exponentially. I want to focus more of my work on the Asian and Buddhist communities. Heck, I may even try to go volunteer for a political campaign -- and try to inject animal rights into the 2020 race. What I will not do is maintain any sort of formal power within DxE. And here’s why that’s good for DxE. 

1. As my trials approach, now is the time for us to transition. Since DxE’s inception, we have saved hundreds of animals from nightmarish violence and told their stories to the world. We have reached millions of people with these stories. And we’ve used their power to fuel unprecedented institutional changes -- including temporary closures of massive animal exploiting facilities, successful campaigns to end the sale of fur, and even getting animal welfare into our nation’s presidential politics. 

And it is precisely because we are effective that the industry is aiming, in their words, “to cut the head off the snake.”

What they don’t realize is that DxE has no single “head.” We are a multi-faceted, diverse, and growing community of ordinary people who are extraordinarily committed to a powerful and unified vision: a world where every animal has the legal right to live free from violence. Our informal motto is, “We make people the best activists they can be.” And our success with this motto is exactly why we embrace leadership change. When they try to throw one of us in prison, for giving aid to suffering animals, our reply is, “Bring it on! We’ve got 10 more ready to step up.”

I plan to fight each of these charges with the support of some of the best lawyers on the planet, but there is still a very real chance that I’ll be behind bars in the next few months. What will DxE do, then? The easiest way to answer that is to show that DxE will thrive without me -- even before the trials begin. 

2. There are changes that need to be made -- changes that I can more effectively understand and advocate for outside of leadership. The last few years have been the most intense of my life -- and this is coming from someone who was used to sometimes working 100+ hours a week in a corporate law firm. Building a network that has now mobilized thousands of activists, and hundreds of organizers, around the world has been all consuming. But it has also left me in the middle of the hurricane -- always swirling from one urgent initiative to the next and never having sufficient time to process how each of our tactics and strategies are being perceived by our “rank and file.” It will be extraordinarily valuable for me to see the operations of DxE from an outside view -- where I’ll be able to more effectively advocate for those (including, very soon, me!) who are not in a formal leadership position. 

My sense is that significant changes need to be made, if we are going to continue our past success. Indeed, they are the only way we can succeed. These changes will require tough structural and cultural choices, choices that need to be advocated for vigorously by unbiased advocates. If I’m going to be an unbiased advocate, I can’t be in leadership. 

3. It’s time for new voices. It’s been 6+ years, folks, and while they’ve been both the best and the worst 6 years of my life, it’s now time for a new voice to lead DxE. For my first 15 years as a community organizer, I did not see myself as a leader. I was a dorky Chinese kid in a movement that suffered from anti-Chinese racism. DxE thrust me into leadership in 2013 as an accident of fate, a viral video that forced us to organize something larger than a band of merry friends because the opportunity presenting itself to us was just too great. But I didn’t really want to be a leader. And when I’m honest with myself, I still don’t really much like being a leader today. 

That doesn’t mean, of course, that I’m not willing to lead -- if it’s needed. When I first walked into a slaughterhouse, over a decade ago, I committed to doing whatever it takes to help the animals. But leadership is not what the animals need from me, right now. To the contrary, in recent months, I’ve often felt like a coach whose words are no longer being heard. Partly this is due to the chaos and conflict of grassroots movement building. Partly this is because of the loss of specific personal relationships. But the largest part is probably simply due to my own limitations as a leader.

I need to grow. I need to rekindle the optimism and vision and fire that drove me to walk into a slaughterhouse for the first time, that drove me to start DxE with a few friends in a small Bay Area apartment and transform it into a global force. I need to learn to be more patient and empathetic and courageous and thoughtful and all the things the animals need me to be. 

But more importantly, DxE needs to grow, too. The fresh perspective offered by new voices will inject an energy into DxE’s activism that simply doesn’t exist when everyone looks to me for answers. 

If it all works out, as I expect, one day I’ll be ready to come back to leadership. But in the meantime, the DxE network is in great hands. I’ll see you in the streets!


Tips for Self-Care as an Activist

Tips for Self-Care as an Activist

Changing the world is a marathon, not a sprint and we need to plan our activism accordingly. Here are some tips to practice self-care along the road to animal liberation!

DxE activists bear witness during a vigil at a duck slaughterhouse in Sonoma County, CA.

DxE activists bear witness during a vigil at a duck slaughterhouse in Sonoma County, CA.

  1. Find a support team. Just like a support team giving marathoners water and high fives at each mile, we need support from the people around us to keep going on our activist journeys. After all, those can last a lifetime! But remember, you don’t need to change the whole world on your own — in fact, you can’t. We have the most impact when we are united and help lift each other up. So when you need help, ask for it! It’s when you ask that you get the advice, the resources, or simply the encouragement that you need. Plus, sometimes it helps just talking through how you’re feeling — and hearing that others go through similar experiences. Surround yourself with people who want to help you reach your potential as an activist. Be willing to ask them for help, and be willing to help them, too.

  2. Make time for the things that recharge you. What things help you relax or focus your mind? Is it working out? Do you need to start your day with a run? Maybe it’s meditating, reading novels, or spending time with animals. Whatever it is you enjoy, these personal activities can help you be a better activist! Just like your body needs time to sleep in order to restore all its internal systems, your mind needs time to recharge, too. Taking time to tune your mind can make you more productive when you get back to work. Ideally, the work itself also provides you with motivation if it is something you find interesting or a challenge you’re excited to tackle. But changing the world is a difficult job and even though there’s enough work to spend every minute on it, you can actually increase your effectiveness by carving out time in your schedule to step away from the work and recharge. It’s all about balance. Just like sleep, you can get too little, and you can get too much. And different people need different amounts. So find the balance that works for you and schedule in your personal needs.

  3. Do your best and be okay with failing. Activism is tiring, yes, but sometimes we make it more tiring than we have to. Have you ever put off doing something because you thought it was going to be hard or scary, and then once you did it, realized it was easier than you thought? We put a lot of pressure on ourselves as activists, sometimes feeling the weight of the world on our shoulders, and we can build things up in our minds to hold ourselves back. Remind yourself that all you can do is the best you can do, and then do it! You might be thinking, “Really? Your tip for self-care is to work?” The thing is, I know I feel the best about myself and about the world when I’m really doing my best work. And that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m successful, but it means I’m trying and learning and getting closer to success in the process. So if you’re struggling to get going, if you’re feeling mental barriers between yourself and the activist you want to be, just remember you can only do the best you can do and be okay with failing. When I get writer’s block, it helps me to tell myself, “Just write something bad.” Setting expectations that I’m going to write something bad and it’s going to be okay lets me have fun with it. It gets me to actually write. And if what I write is good, great. And if what I write is bad, at least I have something written and now I can work on making it better. If you’re worried about doing outreach, planning an event, or editing a video, just remember that you can do a bad job! So do it, have fun, and get ready to get better.

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4. Get plenty of sleep.

5. Start your day with something pleasant, even something as simple as a cup of tea or some stretching.

6. Adopt a gratitude practice, like listing three things you’re grateful every morning when you wake up.

7. Acknowledge your successes along the way, and consider writing them down in a list to remember them later when you need a reminder.

8. Have a spontaneous solo dance party (or grab a friend who’s nearby) when you need a quick pick-me-up!

Activists Return to Petaluma Slaughterhouse, Site of 79 Felony Arrests Last Month

Activists Return to Petaluma Slaughterhouse, Site of 79 Felony Arrests Last Month

Activists Return to Petaluma Slaughterhouse, Site of 79 Felony Arrests Last Month

PHOTOS - Credit Direct Action Everywhere (DxE)

An activist arrested at the farm last month ties a flower to the gate outside Reichardt Duck Farm in Petaluma

An activist arrested at the farm last month ties a flower to the gate outside Reichardt Duck Farm in Petaluma

PETALUMA, CA - As seen on Facebook livestream, around 60 activists -- including 18 in the midst of a 150-mile-march to the State Capitol Building in Sacramento -- returned to Reichardt Duck Farm outside Petaluma, the site of a June 3 protest and duck rescue.

The grassroots animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere organized the action, which included musical performances and speeches from activists who recalled their experiences inside the slaughterhouse last month. Activists left flowers at the slaughterhouse gate, paying their respects to the ducks killed inside. Sonoma county sheriff’s deputies and their vehicles were inside the property during the demonstration.

During the June 3 demonstration, 79 activists were arrested, many chaining themselves to a fence and slaughterhouse machinery. 32 baby ducklings were rescued and taken to a sanctuary.

DxE says says authorities at all levels have refused to take action, despite evidence of criminal animal abuse inside several Sonoma county farms, and are instead prosecuting whistleblowers who are exposing abuse. Currently over 100 are potentially facing charges, including six facing trial on seven felony charges each.

“Sonoma county authorities are wasting hundreds of thousands in taxpayer dollars, effectively serving as a private security force for corporate factory farming,” said Priya Sawhney, among the six facing seven felonies each. “They’re shielding the very criminal conduct they ought to be investigating and prosecuting.”

18 vigil attendees will be continuing their march, set to arrive at the State Capitol in Sacramento on July 9. They will go to the offices of Attorney General Becerra and Governor Newsom, requesting support for ordinary citizens’ legal right to rescue animals in need, as well as action to stop criminal animal cruelty and the prosecution of factory farm whistleblowers.

July 9 is also the date of the next CA senate hearing on AB-44, a statewide ban on the sale and manufacture of fur, which DxE has also organized extensively to support. Supporters can sign-up here to help pass the ban.

Investigators with Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) enter farms, slaughterhouses, and other agricultural facilities to document abuses and rescue sick and injured animals. DxE’s investigatory work has been featured in The New York Times, ABC Nightline, and a viral Glenn Greenwald exposé, and DxE activists led the 2018 effort to ban fur products in San Francisco. Visit Direct Action Everywhere on Facebook and at directactioneverywhere.com/.  Follow us on Twitter @DxEverywhere.

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I messed up. So did DxE.

I messed up. So did DxE.

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I’m writing this note to apologize to Senator Kamala Harris for a disruption that occurred on June 1 -- and to explain the efforts I plan to make to redouble DxE’s focus on ensuring future actions don’t replicate the racial and gender dynamics at issue in that protest.

Many of you saw the news of a Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) organizer disrupting Senator Kamala Harris at the MoveOn Big Ideas Forum on June 1. The interruption of Sen. Harris inside the forum, which unfolded as a 1000+ person march for animal rights was occurring outside, was not approved by DxE’s steering committee. And there is no doubt that it was well-intentioned. But the disruption was a mistake -- and one that could have been prevented by ensuring better training, deliberation, and vetting of our actions. Those are mistakes that I as DxE’s co-founder and lead organizer take responsibility for, and that I hope to correct. And correcting them starts with apologizing today.

First, some basic facts. We live in a society where racial inequity and gender inequity continue to be urgent problems. From the devastating impacts of mass incarceration on Black communities to the glaring social and individual harm of the gender pay gap (which Kamala was addressing when she was interrupted), there is increasing awareness of and action against the racial and gender inequities that afflict our nation and society. From its inception, DxE has tried to stand up against these injustices. The network was founded by people of color, women, and immigrants who have been victims of these injustices ourselves.

And yet we can also replicate exactly the dynamics we’ve sought to challenge. That’s what the disruption of Sen. Harris did. It caused fear in a community that has too often been targeted by racial violence. And it took space away from a conversation -- about racial and gender equity -- that needs to be heard.

I know for a fact that our activist’s intention was not to do that. Far from it, their intention was to elevate the atrocities committed against all living creatures (including communities of color and women) by the animal abusing industries that hold far too much power in our political system. And yet the decision to take the mic from Sen. Harris did not achieve that; rather, it reinforced to the public the notion that white, male-presenting people in our society are entitled to more space, resources, and power than those with less privilege. That is something we, as advocates for a safe and equal society for all sentient beings, should not be doing. And I bear personal responsibility for that, as our internal training and deliberation structures failed to adequately elevate those values in the decision to protest Sen. Harris -- and in the DxE network’s communications afterwards.

Beyond apologizing to Sen. Harris and the others on the MoveOn panel, here’s what I’m proposing we do to correct the mistake.

  • Update our anti-oppression training to ensure there’s a more explicit understanding of racial and gender dynamics in our demonstrations and protests;

  • Ensure that any high stakes disruption has an extensive vetting process -- including consideration by women and people of color; and

  • Continue our efforts to fund and support diverse candidates to DxE leadership positions.

I know this is not enough, and I want to hear more from critics about what we can do better. (Feel free to sit-in on our leadership meetings, which are open to anyone to attend.)  But I hope this is a good start -- and that, by starting this conversation, we can turn a mistake into an important learning experience.


Thanks,

Wayne Hsiung
DxE Co-Founder

Below is the note we are sending directly to Senator Harris’s office.

Dear Sen. Harris,

On June 1, an activist in the Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) network disrupted a crucial discussion of racial and gender equity at the MoveOn Big Ideas forum. As co-founder of DxE, I apologize for the interruption of that conversation and for any distress caused by it to the participants on the panel.

We are redoubling our efforts to ensure the actions of activists in the DxE network never replicate the racial and gender dynamics of that protest — and to continue elevating voices that have historically been marginalized in our society (including in the animal rights movement).

Please feel free to have any member of your staff reach out to me if you have any other concerns.

Best,
Wayne Hsiung
DxE Co-Founder


French Rapper Takes Part in a DxE Open Rescue

French Rapper Takes Part in a DxE Open Rescue

Last month, DxE France published a new Open Rescue video in which special guest Stomy Bugsy took part. The French rapper joined DxE organizers inside a battery egg farm to investigate and openly rescue distressed hens. Seeing thousands of hens crammed in small cages, stacked in rows one on top of another, with small dark alleys in-between for people to walk in, Bugsy told the camera:

“Open your eyes. This is a hell [...] I wasn’t expecting this. I was expecting something pretty bad, but this is hell.” He described the birds, “They live in their own excrement, they’re deceased.”

The video was published on DxE France’s Facebook page and has been viewed over 5 million times. The story was covered by multiple social media platforms and news outlets.

DxE members worldwide are getting national and sometimes international media attention, and the movement is gaining momentum. To learn more about DxE France, please visit their website

Is the San Francisco Fur Ban Working?

Is the San Francisco Fur Ban Working?

San Francisco’s fur ban went into effect on January 1 this year, but as the new year started, Saks Fifth Avenue did not put away the fur. They are claiming to have taken advantage of a loophole in the law. They claim that the fur they have for sale was purchased prior to March 20, 2018 when the fur ban was passed, which would allow them to sell the fur until the end of 2019.

However, when Almira Tanner, who is a member of the Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) Steering Committee and DxE’s sister group Compassionate Bay, and other activists went into the store to see if it is compliant with the law, the managers of Saks Fifth Avenue failed to produce invoices that would prove that their fur was compliant.

Almira Tanner and dozens of others protest inside Saks Fifth Avenue’s “Fur Salon.”

Almira Tanner and dozens of others protest inside Saks Fifth Avenue’s “Fur Salon.”

Almira Tanner said, “When we went into Nordstrom, they had already cleared out most of their items with fur and only had a few pieces left on the racks. When we entered Bloomingdales, a manager there did show us a stack of invoices showing that their fur was purchased prior to March 20. But when we went into Saks Fifth Avenue, the staff there was rude to us, didn’t show us any papers, and they literally started to wheel away racks with fur into their storage room after we got there. It looked like the only reason they started to put away the fur was because we were there asking if the fur is compliant.”

The next day, on January 2, a DxE activist went again to Saks Fifth Avenue to check on the fur. He saw fewer items out this time. But there were still around 90 pieces out.

Amira Tanner says, “Saks Fifth Avenue blatantly disregarded the spirit of the law. The city of San Francisco clearly said that they don’t want fur to be sold anymore in the city.” Almira Tanner contacted the San Francisco Department of Health so that they can enforce the fur ban. The Department of Health took action and requested the stores provide invoices for their inventories of fur. On January 10, the department granted extensions for providing records to several of the stores, including Saks.

Nonetheless, Almira Tanner contends that the SF fur ban is still a huge success. She says, “We set a precedent of banning fur.” Now California legislature is considering banning fur statewide.

Almira Tanner says that another reason she’s excited about the fur ban is because it happened for ethical reasons. She says, “If you look at the way the law is written, it says that San Francisco is a city that does not support cruelty towards animals. So the fur ban is based on ethics.” Almira believes that this law also paves the way for San Francisco to pass other measures that help animals.

Almira Tanner believes that next San Francisco may be open to passing a ban on leather as well as a transparency bill known as the Right to Know. This bill would require retailers to disclose factual information about the animal products they sell. For example, it would include information such as whether the animals were mutilated and their age at slaughter.

Almira believes that ultimately, San Francisco will ban the sale of meat as well. She says, “There are ample alternatives already available.” She says that overall the fur ban is a huge success because it moves us closer to the DxE vision for animals to be treated with compassion and respect all over the world.

Are YOU Banned from Whole Foods?

Are YOU Banned from Whole Foods?

Whole Foods has legally required us to post this restraining order on our website, Facebook and Twitter to let you all know that your questions aren't welcome at Whole Foods. If you ask about their factory farms, you are apparently “putting the safety of both customers and team members at risk."

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When DxE co-founder Wayne Hsiung and teenage activist Ateret Goldman were arrested for asking a question at a Colorado Whole Foods, the video of the incident went viral. It has been viewed more than 3 million times, and hundreds of people around the world were inspired to take the #WholeFoodsChallenge, returning to Whole Foods to ask their own questions about the animal products being sold there.

Although Whole Foods dropped the charges against Wayne after this outpouring of support, they have since retaliated with injunctions seeking to prevent any future questions from people associated with DxE.. Whole Foods is terrified of the truth, but they can’t stop it from coming out, try as they might.

Animal Rights Activists Wash Windows at SF Chipotle to Demand Transparency

Animal Rights Activists Wash Windows at SF Chipotle to Demand Transparency

Investigation of “Food with Integrity” chain reveals factory farm cruelty

Photos by Direct Action Everywhere (DxE)

Photos by Direct Action Everywhere (DxE)

December 12, 2018, SAN FRANCISCO, CA – As seen on Facebook livestream, dozens of activists with the grassroots animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) -- including Rachel Ziegler, a former Chipotle manager who investigated a company chicken supplier after growing suspicions about company animal welfare claims -- participated in a theatrical window-washing demonstration to call for increased transparency regarding how the animals Chipotle uses for meat are raised and treated.

The activists held signs with photos of  sick and injured chickens taken inside farms which supply to Chipotle.

Ziegler says despite Chipotle’s reputation as an animal welfare leader, the company sources from many of the same conventional factory farms as other restaurants; farms where chickens have been found starving and suffering from injury and illness, farms with thousands of chickens crammed in filthy industrial sheds. The activists say Chipotle conceals its supply chain from its customers.

Ziegler is also one of 58 activists arrested on multiple felony charges for attempting to provide care to sick and injured hens at a Petaluma factory farm on September 29. The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office has since filed seven felony charges against Ziegler, among others.

Activists including Ziegler say the charges are an abuse of the legal system intended to conceal systematic animal abuse at Chipotle and beyond, and will only embolden their continued demonstrations and investigatory work.

DxE’s work has been featured in The New York Times, ABC’s Nightline, and a viral Glenn Greenwald exposé, and DxE activists led the effort to ban fur products in San Francisco earlier this year. Activists have been subjected to FBI raids and felony prosecutions for investigatory work. Visit Direct Action Everywhere on Facebook and at directactioneverywhere.com. Follow us on Twitter @DxEverywhere.

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Wayne Hsiung and DxE Vision and Tactics

Wayne Hsiung and DxE Vision and Tactics

Wayne Hsiung at a Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) protest

Wayne Hsiung at a Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) protest

Wayne Hsiung, the co-founder and lead organizer of Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), has studied social movements and what made them successful.  He and the other co-founders decided to apply the methods that worked to create social change in the past to the animal rights movement today. More specifically, Wayne Hsiung believes that animal rights activists should use the same type of tactics that were used by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.

Some of the tactics at first appear controversial.  Nonetheless, Wayne Hsiung believes that they’re effective for the same reasons they are so controversial.  In a blog titled “Why DxE brings the message inside,” Wayne Hsiung explains, “There has been an unusual sight over the past few months in fast food chains around the country and (increasingly) around the world. Animal rights activists, with DxE and otherwise, are taking their message inside the places that serve animals' mutilated bodies.  Why?

“Speaking out while others are eating, while not illegal, is a violation of one of our most important social traditions: breaking bread. When we sit down to eat, we seek nourishment, and comfort, and peace. We bond with those who are around us, and set aside our differences. Michael Pollan, among others, has written about the importance of “table fellowship” and how socially uncomfortable and alienated he felt in his brief spell of vegetarianism.  Pollan’s solution? Don’t just give up on saying anything about the ethical problems with eating animals; give up the vegetarianism, too!”

Unlike Michael Pollan, Wayne Hsiung suggests embracing the discomfort of challenging a social norm, though he admits the movement so far hasn’t quite agreed with this approach. He continues:

“The mainstream animal rights movement has, until this point, mostly accepted Pollan’s framing of the issue by admonishing us for speaking honestly about eating animals… while animals are being eaten.”

In response to this opinion, Wayne Hsiung lays out several reasons for the powerful and rising trend of disrupting business as usual:

“The first reason is that dissent is vital to achieving social change, and that dissent is only effective if it is powerful, confident, and yes, even (morally) disruptive… Passersby, customers, and even multinational corporations can easily dismiss and write us off, if we do not push our message in the places where it is most unwelcome. But when we transform a space where violence has been normalized into a space of dissent, we can jolt, not just individual people, but our entire society into change.”

The next reason Wayne Hsiung gives to support disruption focuses on storytelling:
“Going inside a restaurant, and breaking the rules of Pollan’s table fellowship, does not just convey a stronger and more confident message, however. It also feeds a cycle of viral storytelling that has been vital to every movement’s growth… a seemingly ordinary Tunisian fruit vendor, in defiance of social norms, doused himself with gasoline in front of the governor’s mansion and burned himself alive. People said he was “crazy.” But his small act of defiance, triggered a movement, the Arab Spring, that changed the face of the world.”

The final reason Wayne Hsiung outllines in this blog on disruption relates to the empowered networks that are created in the process:

“As social animals, we humans are heavily influenced by the behavior of our peers. And this as true of activists as it is of other people. So when we see a movement comprised entirely of passive action, we become passive ourselves. When we have a movement that socializes its adherents to “not make too much of a fuss about this,” then we will be inclined towards complying with the social norms of the day… Going into stores, rather than merely standing outside, is a way for us to send a jolt of electricity through our own movement. So many individual activists have shared with me the empowering effects of demonstrating in places where they had previously been scared to demonstrate, of speaking in places where they had been previously been scared to speak. And there have been powerful empirical demonstrations of this effect, even for viewpoints and movements that have little substance behind them, e.g. the Tea Party.  Speaking loudly and proudly in defiance of social convention, it turns out, inspires others to do the same. And that, perhaps more than anything else, is why we encourage our activists to step outside of their comfort zones,  past the boundaries of tradition and the table fellowship, and into the stores that our selling the dead bodies of our friends.”

In the blog entry I have summarized above, Wayne Hsiung explains that while bringing the message inside places of violence is indeed disruptive to the business and the individuals breaking bread inside, it is through this “morally disruptive” act that changed is sparked. More than a restuarant, what’s being disrupted in a social conception and deeply-held values. Wayne Hsiung argues that disrupting people’s routines gets them to think in a new way about animals, and from picking up the social cues of outrage from others, to even join the movement themselves.

The Secret to Dramatic Photo Editing

The Secret to Dramatic Photo Editing

The Secret to Dramatic Photo Editing

Carson Au, Official Photographer, Animal Liberation Conference

This is a guide for photo editing. If you are looking for tips on how to take better photos during an event, check out “TOP 5 TIPS FOR BETTER EVENT PHOTOGRAPHY.”

Prerequisite: This guide assumes you already have basic working knowledge with Adobe lightroom.  If this is not the case, I recommend watching a youtube tutorial such as this one.

Editing alone will not turn a bad photo into a good photo, but it could turn a good photo into a great photo.  I get a lot of complements and questions about the colours, “look” or ”filter” on my photos. I am writing this short guide to show how anyone can achieve those looks easily using Adobe Lightroom.  Some of these techniques can be transferable to Capture One or other photo management apps.

1a. An unedited RAW file shot during the Official Animal Right March in SLC.

1a. An unedited RAW file shot during the Official Animal Right March in SLC.

1b. By increasing the shadow setting, it brought out a lot of details in the shadows without losing the details in the highlights

1b. By increasing the shadow setting, it brought out a lot of details in the shadows without losing the details in the highlights

1c.

1c.

2a. An unedited RAW file shot during the Animal Liberation Western Convergence 2018 in SLC.

2a. An unedited RAW file shot during the Animal Liberation Western Convergence 2018 in SLC.

2b. I was able to correct the colour temperature easily without losing quality because I was shooting RAW.

2b. I was able to correct the colour temperature easily without losing quality because I was shooting RAW.

2c.

2c.

3a. An unedited RAW file shot during the Animal Liberation Western Convergence 2018 in SLC.

3a. An unedited RAW file shot during the Animal Liberation Western Convergence 2018 in SLC.

3b. Our eyes tend to focus first on the brightest part of a photograph. By applying negative vignetting, it focuses attention on the subject.

3b. Our eyes tend to focus first on the brightest part of a photograph. By applying negative vignetting, it focuses attention on the subject.

3c.

3c.

4a. An unedited RAW file shot during the Animal Liberation Western Convergence 2018 in SLC.

4a. An unedited RAW file shot during the Animal Liberation Western Convergence 2018 in SLC.

4b. Where they are a lot of images in front of us, the ones with strong contrast tend to grab our attention first. By increasing overall brightness and lowering Blacks give an image a more dramatic look.

4b. Where they are a lot of images in front of us, the ones with strong contrast tend to grab our attention first. By increasing overall brightness and lowering Blacks give an image a more dramatic look.

4c.

4c.

In order for these settings to be effective, you need to be shooting in RAW format, and then using Adobe Lightroom to edit.

What is Adobe Lightroom?

“Lightroom is photo management and photo editing, combined into a single tool. Unlike Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom is a non-destructive photo editor, meaning that you don't have to worry about that pesky ‘save as’ button.”

Timing is critical with activism photography.  The press team often requires photos right after an action to get them out to the media, so it is important to have a workflow where you can get your photos out quickly.

I tend to take a lot of photos at events, and with my limited computing power and storage, I only import the best photos.  My import ratio is roughly 1:8.

Having said that, do not only show your best 5 or so photos. You should aim to have a decent number of useable photos with variety, such as wide shots of large groups, small groups, and close ups of the speakers, organizers or other key people to tell the full story.

Once the photos have been selected, it’s time to import.  It is a good idea to apply your baseline settings to all the photos during import.  Baseline settings are settings you do to all your photos. This is my own baseline preset.  Feel free to try it out and adjust accordingly. Here is a helpful link on how to import a preset.

Basic

  • Highlights: -100 (this maximizes details in highlights)

  • Shadows: +100 (this maximizes details in shadows)

  • White: +52 (this sets the amount of highlights you want)

  • Black: -62 (this sets the amount of dark shadows you want)

*You should aim to have absolute white and black in all your photos, and maximum details in between

Detail

  • Sharpening Amount: 70 (this increases sharpness in the expense of noise)

  • Noise Reduction Luminance: 40 (this reduces grains for images shot with high ISO)

Lens Corrections

  • Remove Chromatic Aberration: Checked

  • Enable Profile Correction: Checked

Effects

  • Post-Crop Vignetting Amount: -17 (this darkens the corners and highlights the subject in the middle)

Once imported, quickly individually adjust as needed:

  • Temp

  • Tint

  • Exposure

  • Black

Bonus Tip: Select similar photos that require the same settings, and use the Sync Settings button to save time.

Once they are all adjusted, you can export them and have them shared to the press team to choose their favourites.  I don’t recommend doing too much cropping at this stage, because the media often needs to do their own cropping to fit the format they need, so it is best to leave the cropping untouched.

Creative Edits

Now that the first pass edits are done, it is time to take another look at your work. We will cover the following in detail in part 2 of this article.  Until then, feel free to play around with these settings on your own.

  • Review settings from initial adjustments (Temp, Tint, Exposure, Black)

  • Cropping

  • Vignetting (Effects > Post-Crop Vignetting)

  • Clarity (Basic)

  • Vibrance/Saturation (Basic)

  • Skin touch up (Brush and Mask)

  • Burning and Dodging (Mask)