I'm going to let you in on a little secret...we don't pay for family photos. There are some incredibly talented photographers out there and I'm in no way saying I can compare to them in style or creativity or skill. I use my point-and-shoot camera, a tripod, and Photoshop for light editing after taking the photos. I've been reading blogs on light-source placement and looking at family photo poses on Pinterst. I've also been practicing with the light and color editing features in Photoshop Elements so I can work with our photos more quickly.
Another factor that helps tremendously is that my daughters are getting old enough they will sit still for a timer on our camera. There is no way this could have worked when they were little! We took about an hour and I snapped LOTS of bad shots. But I have learned the more I take, the more options I have and there will probably be something I can use.
I've been taking the girls' photos for the last couple of years and asking others to do the family shots. This is our first try with a tripod for the family pictures and I'm so happy with them! We used the timer feature on my camera a few other times with success at home so I figured it was worth a try. I had to re-position us a few times, but since the girl are older they were a little more patient.
We may not do this every year, but for now it is working and saving us quite a bit of money while still providing yearly location portraits which I wouldn't trade for anything!