I was looking at a friend’s incredibly well organized family albums recently and I’ve seen other people’s albums. These are the shots that were in most or all of them and are in mine as well:
-A first birthday party that ends with a messy baby and destroyed cake.
-A faded old picture of an ancient woman nobody now living seems to recognize sitting in a chair surrounded by family.
-Posing with a suited Disney (or other recognizable theme park) character.
-The most distinguished patriarch in the family wearing a silly hat and not very pleased expression (in my album’s it’s my Orson Wellesian father with a cigar clamped in his teeth and a suit wearing a gaudy sombrero and a ‘have you got sufficient jollies now?’ look).
-A middle aged matronly woman (in my albums my mother) striking a (deliberately) cartoonish ‘sex kitten’ pose.
-Adults (usually young-dating age) sitting together on the lap of a Dept. Store Santa/Easter Bunny.
“Silly hat/patriarch” is probably too specific: it can be changed to silly attire of any kind on a mirthless “we are not amused” wearer. One of my favorites is of my grandmother in one of those rubber band conical birthday party hats and she looks constipated.
Another that I’ve seen in practically every photo album: somebody standing at a landmark that is freaking impossible to miss (e.g. Mt. Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, the White House)… and pointing as if otherwise you might miss it.
Ah, and the classic '70s photo studio shot: black background, young person [boy or girl either one] with the razor part and feathered hair looking at the camera, and then the profile shot in the background of the same pic.
It may just be my family and my extended family, but in every album there’s a picture of a young baby lying on a blanket, usually with a copy of the day’s newspaper beside him or her, and also usually a sheet of paper with a handwritten note on it that says “[today’s date] I Am Months Old Today.”
We call them Ransom Baby pictures. We have dozens. I like to tell my parents that they beat the kidnappers to the punch.
The snapshot of people in your grandparents’ generation (or possibly actually your grandparents) doing something recreational and outdoorsy, like having a picnic in the woods, and wearing suits and ties (men), dresses (ladies), and hats (all).
Pregnant mom at bridge club, smoking a cigarette and having a cocktail. Gosh, for some of you young’uns, this is probably a picture of your grandma.
Kids in a row, lined up in order of height or age. Same shot with the same background, in different years. Bonus: one kid is crying for some reason or another, different kid each year.
School play, choir, or dance recital, taken from the audience so they mostly feature the backs of the heads of the people in the row ahead, and the kids on stage are tiny dots that you can’t distinguish from one another.
And don’t forget “the day we brought Fluffy home”.
Oh! In the South, we have “House with actual snow on it”. It used to be that if you found a roll of film in your camera with some pictures taken and you didn’t know what they were, they were almost certain to be a birthday party or that time it snowed and you took pictures of your house.
I posted some that I took Sunday on my Facebook just this week! I think people from Iowa or Colorado or even Virginia are probably going “o-kay”, but I’m in the “you don’t understand, this is Alabama! It only lasted 20 minutes!”
I have examples (over multiple generations) of most of these as well as many heritage pics scrapbooked and will add the proud pose with the first bicycle, all of the kids around the Christmas tree and from the heritage ones, folks posing with farm animals.