A Little Bit of Soap and the Secret to a Good Headshot

A Big Life: Encouragement for People in the Arts –

Laurel Canyon Fryman Hike

A recent candid of me at Fryman Canyon by my friend Todd Breaugh

When I first arrived in New York as a young actress, I was in an acting class with Taylor Miller, an actress who had a contract role on the popular daytime show All My Children.

She told me there was a new casting director on the show and that I should call ABC.  I shook in my shoes at the idea, but because I did so, I was called in to meet a dynamic newcomer who would later turn producer and win an Emmy.

Stacey Raider was her name and she liked me but she was appalled at my headshot, which she explained did not capture me or reflect the extent of my prettiness.

She hired me anyway. After all, it’s getting in the room that matters, right?

Late Father Sam with Toy

My late father Sam with a favorite toy

But of course, we all want to get into lots of rooms. Through the years with Stacey’s voice in my ear, I kept trying to get the right headshot. Most professional photographers of that era tended to take their photos in stylized ways so that agents and directors would know they took them. As a result, nothing ever really looked like me.  At least not me at my best.

In addition, Black & White was the standard at the time. That might work for a raven haired porcelain-skinned beauty, but there was no way B&W could capture my peachy cheeks and freckles, strawberry-colored hair or the glints of green in my brown eyes.  So I decided to defy the formal convention of the time: I blasted the industry with a candid color shot by an amateur.

Everybody called me in.

Dad shot with Brent Little by Lake

Me in a shot Dad did for an early composite

My bold choice in the B&W era got me noticed but it wasn’t the only thing that got that informal photo a second glance.  I looked adorable because the photographer liked me and took his time with me. Since then I have learned that it helps if the photographer knows you or at least gets you out of the studio and talks to you a lot between shots so he or she can see the real you.

My family, friends and boyfriends always have taken my best photos.  Don’t get me wrong, these were photographers who were very good with faces.  My father’s favorite hobby was capturing people all over the world at their most authentic. He constantly talked with famed landscape photographer Christopher Burkett, who mentored him in using Cibachrome.

If you have a photographer in your life who knows you reasonably well–or best of all is in love with you–you have a better chance to get a photo which makes people give you a call. There will be something about it that people like. And once you get a good shot (I’ve had three in my life) for heaven’s sake use it for as long you reasonably can–and by that I mean a few years. A nice little side perk to all of this is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money.

B & W Cropped

This backyard shot by Richard Skoonberg got me calls

Katie Bennett - Usual Headshot with name

My current shot by Chaz Gentry captures my coloring

The inglorious photo I took to All My Children that day didn’t stop Stacey from hiring me over and over again.

I did lots of little speaking parts on the show and worked several times a month as background.

I  also worked as a reader for actors who came in to audition.

Katie 20s on boat

The infamous color postcard which got me in so many doors

Eventually I auditioned for a contract role and ultimately, nailed a small recurring U5 part in several episodes.

Guess what part I played?

A photographer named Sally!

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4 Responses to A Little Bit of Soap and the Secret to a Good Headshot

  1. David Loftus says:

    So how come you didn’t show us any of the head shots you discussed here?

    I have an autographed copy of Burkett’s gorgeous collection _Intimations of Paradise_. Saw him speak in person at that photographic gallery that used to be down at SW First and Oak or Pine.

    • Katie Bennett says:

      Ha ha, so true. You are right…so I’ve switched out the photos. 1) One is my current one (see the header), 2) Two is by my friend Richard Skoonberg and is also posted in the article called “You Are Memorable 2″ at http://katiebennettstoryteller.com/?p=532 and 3) the infamous color shot which got me in so many doors in my 20s is locked away in my storage unit back in Ontario, Oregon. When I dig it up I’ll post it.

      Burkett also has a gallery in Cannon Beach. My dad and he cronied about a bit. I have tons of Dad’s photos, many just as good as Burkett’s. Dad deserved a show of his own but he did it all for love.

  2. Katie Bennett says:

    And…the header is no longer any kind of current shot. Need to update it!

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