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Where did family portraits come from?

Oct 4

Family portraits date back as far as the early 19th Century. In the late 1820s, Joseph Nicephore Niepce, a French inventor, took the first photograph. Around 1840, photographic techniques and skills had advanced enough to allow commercial studios to create unique pictures called daguerreotypes. These were high-end products with folding gilt frames and out of reach for most people at the time.

Photography evolved and became more accessible throughout the 19th Century. Families began to take advantage of the opportunity to create family portraits in various formats, including ambrotypes (glass-plated images) or ferrotypes(iron-plated photos), to card-mounted images.

Family portraits were trendy by the 1860s. Everyone wanted one. But why?


It's always fascinating to see the evolution of a trend and how it gained momentum. Four key factors are responsible for the exploding interest in family portraits since the middle of the 19th Century.


Before photography was invented, the only way you could have a family portrait of your loved ones was to have it painted. This was time-consuming and very costly. The evolution of photography has made it much more affordable, but still quite expensive, so many families can now have a family portrait taken.

Queen Victoria

The example of Queen Victoria was another critical factor in the development of the family portrait. Queen Victoria became passionate about photography and started using it to capture daily details of her royal life. She was a role model to the middle class, who wanted to follow the trend and have their families and lives immortalized in a photo.

Family history

A family portrait can help you create special memories that will be cherished forever. Life expectancy in Victorian times was lower than it is today. Unfortunately, this was also true for children. Some of them did not live to adulthood. Family portraits were a way to capture the extended family in the short time they had together. It was worth the financial sacrifices required to preserve that memory.


The status factor also played a role in the desire to have a family portrait. This could be compared to the rise in popularity of social media and the desire to live a whole life. These could be seen as Victorian family portraits. A family portrait is a powerful way to tell your success story, whether you are a newly arrived immigrant or a family looking to climb the social climb.


This is an interesting question because we previously referred to the 21st Century as the era for the photograph. Many people use social media, and their photo feeds will likely contain many examples of family portraits taken in informal settings. Sadly, these photos are often viewed once and then forgotten. It would be much more enjoyable to have beautiful family photos displayed in your home.

Wouldn't it be great to be able to give a family portrait to other members of your family? The past year has shown us a lot about the importance of family and how much we miss our families when we cannot meet. When separated from the ones we love, a beautiful family portrait can make all the difference.

Alyssa Orrego Photography is available to help you get your family together for a family portrait. We are happy to meet with you and create family portraits you love that will be cherished for many years. Book online to arrange your vancouver family photography, or call us.