What is my favorite light modifier? I really don't have any favorite light modifiers because it just depends on the job. What is the light modifier I use most often? The light modifier I use most often is a medium sized silver parabolic with a diffuser. Generally speaking I stay away from any sort of umbrella when it comes to photographing people. I love umbrellas for what they do best, throw light everywhere.
Visually, for the most part , a diffused parabolic umbrella isn't much different from a soft box. As with soft boxes when I shoot with one I generally like to put the modifier as close to the subject as possible, just out of frame, or even put the modifier in frame then take two shots and composite. In this case I just got the umbrellas as close to the subject as possible. One of the reasons I use this parabolic a lot has more to do with practicality. I often take public transportation and then end up walking all over with the person I am photographing. The parabolic is light and portable which is the reason I like it. Also I like it because it is sort of a 2 in 1 deal. If I remove the diffuser I get another quality of light somewhat more like a spotlight depending on how I position the umbrella relative to the strobe.
However, when I am in a studio and I am taking portraits I generally don't use the parabolic umbrella, rather I prefer the quality of light that a big soft box or octabox provides. Again this depends on who I am shooting, and what kind of mood I am going after. When I am deciding upon which modifier to use I of course have to consider my client and how they are going to use this image, I then choose a modifier that will compliment their skin tone, skin texture and shape of face/body. Sometimes I will use a modifier which doesn't compliment but rather contrasts a subjects persona or physicality. In the case here I wanted to create a light that complimented the subjects youthful and clear skin, as well as complimented her very quiet, polite, warm, introspective, and demure personality. Outside I photographed her with the diffused parabolic because it produced this really soft yet somewhat intense light. In studio however, I switched to a medium sized gridded octabox with a white reflector opposite to her.
Of course the look of these images also has a lot to do with how I retouch and tone the image. Additionally the images have a lot to do with how I expose them in camera. Generally I will drop the ambient light at least 1 to 2 stops so that when I take my first test exposure the sky looks moody and the surroundings are fairly dark. Anyhow I hope this talk about the light modifiers I use sheds some light on the images you see here. Honestly what I am doing isn't so special and for the most part very basic lighting, but if you have any questions don't hesitate to ask me.