With so many lighting modifiers, understanding how each one works and in what situation you ought to use them can be a little daunting. In this video, Karl Taylor discusses two of the most common and demonstrates their differences.
When I got my first external light for my very first camera, I swiftly learned that the bare flashgun was not going to create the sort of images I was looking for. The sum of all my accidentally acquired knowledge over the years told me that I ought to be using one of those umbrellas, so I bought several and the results were... better. They still weren't good, but they were moving in the right direction.
Fast forward some months and I got my first set of cheap studio lights. This is where I added softboxes to my repertoire as well as a small silver beauty dish and I started to get a feel for what can be achieved with modifiers. Over the years, my uses of different modifiers has evolved and grown, but the staples are still there. Instead of a normal umbrella I use a very large parabolic umbrella with or without a diffuser on the front. As for beauty dishes, I still bring them out on occasion, but for very specific looks.
Which lighting modifier do you gravitate towards and why?