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Blame their "Professional Photographer"
As a semi-professional photographer, if somebody is noticing the background instead of the model; I've failed somehow.
Daniel, never heard of this. I'm a playwright in NYC and, when the director auditions, I get to view all the headshots. I've seen hundreds. The actors in NYC are always photographed in front of a simple BLANK screen.
Welll...sometimes it provides a good neutral but interesting background with natural lighting. Guilty as charged.
also remember; dark backgrounds for lighter haired people, light backgrounds for darker hair. Unless you want to try back light for definition; but that can get tricky.
Hi Daniel, a great question and my actor response to it is that on both occasions when I've had the brick wall headshot, it has been the photographer's choice - I think the idea being that it's natural light etc. Now that I have my brick wall shots (!!!) I will be insisting on studio, as I do think the brick wall thing has had its day and is possibly a distraction from the main event i.e. ME!
When I've photographed people (actors, musicians, models) on the west coast, a lot of them want a shot that includes some out of focus background. Why people want this, I have no idea. My guess is, they walk around the side of the building where they live and get a "natural light" portrait. I feel like on the east coast, people are more likely to want seamless/studio backdrops. My subjective experience.