“Live in Southern California, and can’t afford a decent headshot? Maybe you should get yourself booked by the Santa Barbara Police Dept. Because their mugshots are actually … pretty decent.”

That’s how Strobist’s Thursday blog post begins before diving into an educational and amusing look at the SBPD’s booking photo setup, prompted by the recent release of Cat Cora’s mugshot and speculation about how she pulled off looking so darn good.

Cat Cora booking photo (June 28, 2012)

The celebrity chef and Santa Barbara resident pleaded no contest to DUI last week. Strobist, with over 100,000 daily readers, was started in 2006 by former newspaper photographer David Hobby and offers DIY lighting and flash tips to professional and amateur shooters.

Though Cora had a week between her arrest and her photo shoot with cops to freshen up, what must be one of the most flattering celebrity mugshots of all time had significant assist from a fairly plum lighting arrangement. Police Department employee and Strobist reader Martin Alexander gave Hobby the lowdown on the department’s two-ganged, fluorescent strip lights enclosed in wooden diffuser boxes, and he commented on Cora’s demeanor when she stepped in front of the lens.

“So kudos to the SBPD, whose officers have the enviable assignment to occasionally photograph a celebrity in their most real, unguarded moments,” Hobby’s blog post ends, “and with a pretty decent lighting setup to back them up.”

Check out variations on Cora’s mug created by members of a Strobist/Flickr group. Many of them admit they have too much time on their hands.


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