The Elip (early light-inducible protein) family in pro- and eukaryotic photosynthetic organisms consists of more than 100 different stress proteins. These proteins accumulate in photosynthetic membranes in response to light stress and have photoprotective functions. At the amino acid level, members of the Elip family are closely related to light-harvesting chlorophyll a/b-binding (Cab) antenna proteins of photosystem I and II, present in higher plants and some algae. Based on their predicted secondary structure, members of the Elip family are divided into three groups: (a) one-helix Hlips (high light-induced proteins), also called Scps (small Cab-like proteins) or Ohps (one-helix proteins); (b) two-helix Seps (stress-enhanced proteins); and (c) three-helix Elips and related proteins. Despite having different physiological functions it is believed that eukaryotic three-helix Cab proteins evolved from the prokaryotic Hlips through a series of duplications and fusions. In this review we analyse the occurrence of Elip family members in various photosynthetic prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms and discuss their evolutionary relationship with Cab proteins.