If aliens were to study human evolution through the progression of family portraits, they might notice a few subtle and some not-so-subtle changes in the way we pose for photographs and even in our relationships with our own family members. Let’s take a brief journey through time to take a look at how the typical family photo has changed!

Whatever You Do, Don’t Smile! 

These days, a lack of smile is widely deemed suspicious. We’re always told that smiling is physically easier than frowning, and that we can trick ourselves into being happy when we force ourselves to smile. Yes, smiling has become the only evidence we need to assess someone’s well-being. But up until the 40s and 50s, smiling in photographs was extremely rare. Just as it’s custom to smile for the camera now, it was traditional to keep a straight face then.

There are a couple of reasons for this. It’s suggested that people weren’t so prone to smiling during the time when dental health was at an all-time low and exposing one’s blackened teeth (if any) did not exactly make an ideal picture. Another reason many historians think can explain the lack of smiling is that photographs could take up to a minute to capture. Getting the exposure just right was not a process that could be accomplished at the click of a button. Asking people to hold their smiles for that long was difficult. Another, simpler, reason? It was simply the custom.

A Place for Everyone and Everyone in Their Place

If you look back at old and often famous photographs of families, you might notice one thing in common about the seating arrangement: the husband and/or father is always sitting down on the only chair in the photograph, while the wife and children are circling around him. The reasons for this are deeply buried in the institutionalized gender roles at the time. Because the father was the head of the household, he occupied the most coveted and loftiest location in the portrait.

Dressed to the Nines

Before photography was even invented, family portraits always featured men, women, and children wearing their Sunday best. Whether you were a duke, a middleclass businessman, or a farmer, you always made sure to bathe, scrub your nails, and wear your finest clothing. A family portrait (and the fact that you could even afford one) was a symbol of your family’s status, which meant a lot more then than it does now.

Family Portraits Now

To put it quite simply, family portraits these days are a lot more fun. They are also a lot less restrictive. You can wear whatever you want, position yourself however you want, choose your backdrop, and slap on the goofiest smile if you so choose. Family portraits are often about expressing everyone’s individuality while simultaneously showcasing the family’s unity. Often the latter is symbolized through wearing matching clothes.

No matter what you or your family decide to do for your family photoshoot, Cindy June Photography will be there to happily capture that moment in your family’s history. Contact Cindy June to book your appointment.