When it comes to shaping the light sources photographers use, there are a lot of modifiers available. Each lighting modifier has it's own characteristics which can make it difficult to determine the best light for your project. Karl Taylor has produced one of the best videos I've ever seen showing exactly how the light fall off, contrast, and specularity differs between the parabolic reflectors, beauty dish, and large octabox softbox.
Most photographers are pretty well versed in the softbox and even the large octabox. If you have ever shot beauty or fashion you have probably used the beauty dish modifier. The one light modifier that you might not be as familiar with is the parabolic reflector (and we need to note that this is not quite the same thing as the PLM made by Paul C Buff). The specific system Karl is using here is the Broncolor Para 88, Para 133, and the mighty large Broncolor Para 222. What makes these light modifiers so unique is the contrast and softness of the light changes greatly when you vary the distance of the flash head to the back of the reflector.
Karl's video shows these differences better than I ever could explain with words. Of course, no one light is necessarily better than another but it is pretty clear that the parabolic light modifier does look considerably different than either the octabox or beauty dish. As we found out for ourselves with the most expensive photobooth ever created, the ridiculously large Broncolor Para 330 produces gorgeous light that has both harsh and soft qualities at the same time.
So after watching Karl Taylor's super helpful video, which light source do you prefer and why? For more training material from Karl, head over to his website at http://www.karltaylorphotography.com/ where you can find all sorts of tutorials on different photography topics.