Home Is Where the Heart Is

Father’s Day was very hard for me this year. The first one without my dad. I had to think hard when the last time I was actually with my dad on Father’s Day. I believe it was June 19, 2005. The San Antonio Spurs were in the playoffs (Go Spurs Go!) versus the Detroit Pistons in game 5 of a best of 7 series that they’d go on to win. It was a great day! 

The years that followed were phone conversations that went something like this:

Dad: “Hello

Me: “Happy Father’s Day daddy-o!”

Dad: “Thank you baby.

Me: “What are your plans for today?”

Dad: “Depends on what time you get here

That was my dad. He wanted our time. Of course, he never hesitated to give us a wish list but time with his family was more important. 

So that brings me to this blog. Father’s Day was hard, yes. But I did have my husband and father-in-law to celebrate. I knew what I had to do. Picking up my camera and taking pictures of my father-in-law with his adult kids would be therapeutic. And I was right. My heart needed to do this. It was a way for me to thank my husband for being so supportive when my father passed away. I don’t know if I would’ve been able to get through the services without him holding me up. Sometimes literally. 

Fathers day session with adult children at home

When he saw this picture, my father-in-law gasped and jokingly asked, “Where did all those gray hairs come from?!”


This session was the perfect example of choosing the right location for your family. I thought there was no better place than my father-in-law’s home since he values the importance of home and family just as much as my dad did. 

Father and sons pose for fathers day portraits

The Figueroa Men. My husband is the oldest of four siblings.

This home is where the family birthday celebrations happen. There have been a couple of Easter egg hunts here too. It is the Friday night place to be to unwind, to talk and joke about the work week, and sometimes dance a little. 

Father and two sons pose for Father's Day portraits

The wood sign at the top is the family name and was made by my brother-in-law.

There’s a small room behind the house with so much history that it was a no-brainer to have the guys stand in front of it. 

Father and son posing for Father's Day portraits at home

It is rare to have my brother-in-law in any picture, much less one with a smile, so this makes the memory even more special.


My father-in-law welcomed me into the family with loving arms since the day we met! I like to say I’m his favorite daughter-in-law haha! He is kind, will drop what he’s doing to help someone in need, loves his kids and grandkids a ton and that’s probably why he is loved by so many people. 

This session is not quite complete but sharing it was a must for me. Portrait sessions can be anywhere. Why not your home? After all, Home is where the heart is. 

Until next time! 

Love, 

Vanessa Figueroa 


The Pictures I Didn’t Take

As I scrambled to find the last picture I took (with my DSLR camera) of my dad I couldn’t stop kicking myself for not having one that was more recent. Oh of course I have plenty of cell phone pics. But I was desperate to find one taken with my camera. I didn’t even know why at the time. It is clear to me now though. 

“The best thing about a picture is that it never changes, even when the people in it do.” – Andy Warhol

As a photographer I felt I had failed somehow. All this ‘preaching’ I do about the importance of printing your pictures and capturing your history was what? Just words? Nope. Not at all! I realize now I was just being hard on myself to avoid what I was really feeling. Heartbroken. You see, my dad passed away very suddenly on May 27th. And I threw myself into the funeral planning to ‘be strong’ for my mom and my siblings. Having a slideshow of my dad’s history was so important that it launched me into my frantic search. The image you see above is one of those pictures. 

“What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.”  -Karl Lagerfield

This is the last picture taken of my dad with my cell phone.

My father was a great man! He taught my siblings and I what it looked like to work for what we wanted. His love for my mother gave us hope for the kind of marriage and relationships we would later seek. They held hands often, danced whenever they had the chance, laughed probably every day, and always showed affection to each other. He always said he was proud of us and said, “I love you” often. 

My dad was a domino king. He could tell which dominoes you had sometimes by the 3rd round. It’s a game I’ve taught my own kids how to play. 

Every year he tried to be the first to wish me a happy birthday. And if that meant calling me a week before then that’s what he did. Ha! 

He loved his kids, his grandkids, and his great-grandkids. He even loved our childhood friends growing up. 


My dad also appreciated the value of a photograph. The day we took this photo we had taken pictures of him with all his grandkids, him and his daughter’s only, him and his sons. Every time we came together for family gatherings we’d do the same poses to compare with past and future pictures. Thinking back now I remember he was only ever grumpy about taking pics a handful of times. 

I have since found tons of pictures of my dad that I will treasure now more than ever. 

Joe Henry Ramirez September 8, 1956 – May 27, 2017


So this brings me to why I wrote this blog. With Father’s Day around the corner I’d love to give someone memories they can treasure forever. I’m having a Father’s Day giveaway! To win a one hour session, please email me at hello@figleafphotos.com and tell me why you’re dad is number one. And if you’re dad is no longer here on earth and you want to gush on your husband or significant other let me know too! Winner will be selected and announced Sunday, June 18th. 

Rules: Emails must be received by Friday, June 16th (2017). Facebook messages will not be accepted as a form of entry (only because I don’t always get messages so I don’t want anyone to miss out). Session will be limited to father and kids only. You must live in Houston or San Antonio and you will receive an email with more details after you enter. 

“We are making photographs to understand what our lives mean to us.” – Ralph Hattersley

Thank you for reading this to the very end! And remember, I’m available to capture your history! 

Love, 

Vanessa Figueroa


Maria & Abel: Maternity Session

Now that this gallery has been delivered I wanted to share my favorite images from it. This last minute maternity session turned out beautiful! From the beautiful park to Maria’s stunning dress, I was so happy with the memories I captured for her and Abel. (Keep scrolling to see what I mean by last minute.)

Maria and Abel are first time parents!

When Maria first contacted me she was racing against the clock. Not only the new baby clock but the all too familiar baby shower clock! She wanted both her digital portraits and prints back in time for her baby shower. With my turn around time about 10 -14 days we both did some tweaking to our schedules and agreed on a date and location just 3 days before the session. 

Ray Miller Park was beautiful!

Ray Miller Park is located on Eldridge Parkway north of Westheimer.  For my first time shooting at this location, the weather could not have been more cooperative. It was the perfect compliment to this type of session. As a natural light portrait photographer the sunlight through the trees is something I always hope for. And the ‘mini forest’ in the rear of the park was a total bonus! 

New Beginnings

I was honored to capture genuine love between these two. Abel was already the protective father and husband. And Maria the eager mom-to-be.

They were so relaxed throughout the session and up for anything which made this session even more beautiful. Several people have asked where Maria found her gorgeous dress which I now know was purchased at Forever 21.

Maria and Abel are expecting a baby boy later this month. I wish their little family all the best! 


Galveston Beach Session: Brandi & Gabe


I am so excited to share these images from Brandi & Gabe’s session. If you are following me on Instagram then you know my first photographer meet up couldn’t have gone any better! A group of awesome ladies from the Houston and surrounding areas, from Rosenberg to as far as Lumberton, Texas met up in Galveston to shoot a maternity session. But when our model momma was too sick to join us Brandi with Brandi M. Photography was the first to volunteer her and her husband Gabe to step in front of the cameras. (We had other volunteers that I’ll be sharing in a separate blog.)

Follow Brandi on Instagram here, and on Facebook here.

 

 

Let me know in the comments which one is your favorite!

To book your beach session please head on over to the contact page!

 

~Vanessa~

Fig Leaf Photography


Dear 2014 Vanessa:


As I think back on when I started this picture taking journey, I say to myself, “if I knew then what I know now…” and wish someone had given me a clue. “Which clues?”, you ask. Heck, any clue!

So what exactly would I tell myself?

Here’s a letter from 2017 me to 2014 me. If you are considering starting a photography business, or any business actually, I hope you find at least one helpful piece of information here.

Hey there Nessa, it’s me, your future you. You, in 2017. I know you’ve decided to start getting serious about this photography thing you love so much. After hearing from relatives, “Hey, you should start charging for pictures” and “Maybe you should do this on the side”, you’ve decided you really want to give this a whirl. You think you’re ready to move on from taking pictures at birthday parties, family gatherings, and holidays. So I’m here to give you a little advice as well as some insight on the possibilities.

It’s okay to be scared. Just don’t let that hold you back. Because fear will stop you and then hold the door open for doubt to come in. Doubt is just as bad as fear and together those are worse than a wrestling tag team duo! Together, those two little words can and will stop you every time. But only…if you let it. Let me repeat that. Only if you let it!

Fear will try to stop you whenever you want to try something new, and doubt will have you believing you’re not worth more. Your mojo will be shaken, your confidence will be rattled, and they’ll make you wanna call mom and cry.

You’re going to be scared that people won’t like your pictures. Or that only your mother will like your pictures. Oh I hear you laughing! You laugh because you know mom will always like your work. She may not always love it but she’ll tell you in a way to help you grow. Like, “Maybe next time you should try this.” You’re also going to be afraid that people that aren’t your relatives or close friends will actually pay you to take pictures.

Meeting new people will definitely intimidate you. But those new people will lead to other new people. See where I’m going with that? Good. And this next little tidbit is golden for us. Your best defense against this fear? Faith in God. You know He can guide you and you know all you have to do is talk to Him. So do it! And do it often.

Be wiser about the camera gear you buy. Come to think of it, be wiser about ANYTHING photography related! Here’s the truth. You are going to wanna buy every single little photography related equipment, online class, or editing software you see. Bigger truth: You won’t need half that crap. (Well not all of it is crap but too much of the same thing can pile up to be crap.) I’ll share a couple of examples. First, filters. There will be some cool macro filters you’ll want. And you’ll get some pretty cool shots using them. But you won’t use them much. Save your money!

Second, bundles! Be smart when you see the word “bundle”. Because bundles will make you drool and move your mouse to the “add to cart” button so fast that you’re wallet won’t know what hit it. You’ll end up with hundreds of cleaning cloths, boring camera bags, memory card holders, and editing presets that you will NEVER use. So save your money! (See a pattern here?) You are going to want to buy a ton of shiny new toys! And even though I’m proud of you for realizing you can’t afford all of those lenses the cool kids are using and for leaving your credit card in your wallet, there will be times when you’ll experience buyers remorse. (Ahem, like those filters I mentioned.) Save your money!

Third, online classes. Now, I’m not saying don’t buy any of them or buy a specific number of classes. I strongly suggest you finish one class before you buy another one. Easy! Waiting 6 months before you buy another one would be a good guide to follow. But the most important thing is to never stop learning. Promise yourself that and we’ll be golden. Oh and don’t worry, you do learn all of this eventually. I’m just helping you realize this sooner rather than later. You’re welcome.

Organization. It’s been two years and we’ve tried to find an organizational tool that works for us and to actually stick with it. We have tried a digital system, paper and pen, but what works for us is using both. Our love of office supplies stops us from completely going digital. We’ll still need to tweak it as we grow but sticking with it will help us succeed.

Surround yourself with a good support group. You’ll come to realize that not all of those people who encouraged you to start this journey will stick around to be supportive the whole time. It’s not anyone’s fault though. People grow. You will grow. And all that means is that you will grow in a different direction, that’s all. You will feel as if those people don’t value your work because it’s not free anymore but that’s simply not the case.  And it doesn’t mean they don’t want to see you succeed. So don’t take it so darn personal girl!

Now when I say a good support group, I want you to know that besides our fabulous sister Denise, the online group we’ve ended up finding is amazing! This after being in many photographers groups where we’ve encountered the pettiness, the competition, and the ugliness that comes with arrogance. You’re even going to come across other photographers that will make you so mad you’ll cry. There will be a lot of people that will test you, and doubt you, and people that won’t take you seriously. But those people are showing you a reflection of themselves. And those big bad wolf photographers will be a reminder for you to never be THAT kind of photographer, or person for that matter. You will say to yourself, “I am going to help anyone that I can in any way that I can.” And you will be a better human for it.

Back to this online support group of ours. It includes a group of “Likeminded Ladies” that you will call friends. It’s funny because this group of ladies includes women from all over the world and the most important thing that makes them ‘likeminded’ is a small but powerful word, respect. (Are you singing Aretha Franklin’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T song in your head? So am I!) They are all ladies that want to see each other succeed. But here’s the kicker…they won’t just be cheering you on in your photography business but in your personal and spiritual journeys as well. I can almost hear you sighing with relief. As you should. Because fear is also conquered when you have people in your corner ready to be tagged in the ring and fight with you.

Finally, positive thoughts breed positive actions. This is so important! As I mentioned before doubt and negativity will creep in. Just remember all that I’ve said. These are the answers to your most burning questions. You can do this. You are stronger than you know. You deserve to be successful. You are showing your kids that it’s never too late to do what you love. Give yourself permission to toot your own horn and pat yourself on the back. There is only one YOU and that makes you unique.You will meet wonderful people and learn so much along the way. Enjoy every second of it!

Go now. Be awesome. Be a boss. Be you!

(If you are looking for a great tribe, I’d love to share mine! Click here to join the Likeminded Mommas lounge on Facebook.)


Coming to Fig Leaf Photography in 2017

Did January fly by or what? It sure seems like it to me! But that’s okay because that means I can share a few exciting things coming to Fig Leaf Photography this year! Keep scrolling to get the 411!

 

Studio Type Sessions

That’s right! Fig Leaf Photography will begin to schedule studio sessions. These will take place indoors at my home so most details will be shared on my Facebook page here or on Instagram here and specific details will be given at the time you book your session. Studio sessions are great for head shots, cake smashes, senior portraits, and a few themed sessions that I have planned.

 

Hair & Make Up for Senior Sessions

I am so excited to announce that this year I will be teaming up with a local Hair & Make Up Artist and offering hair & make up packages for all Senior sessions. Details are being finalized so stay tuned!

 

More Print Packages

If you follow me on Facebook and Instagram then you know I often use the hashtag #printyourpictures or #printyourmemories. I believe it is SO important to print the images from your session with me. I have about 25 photo albums filled with my personal memories and it always fills my heart with love being able to walk down memory lane as I turn the pages. I promise you, it will do the same for you! I will be offering more print options for you to do exactly that, #printyourmemories. I work with a professional photo lab and the quality is outstanding!

 

Newsletter

And where can you read about all the details of what I’ve shared above? That’s right! Coming VERY SOON, yours truly will be sending out a newsletter! This is where I’ll send out schedules, limited editions sessions, and flash sales! Oh and I promise I won’t be a bug-a-boo. I plan to share whatever I can, and not just about photography, no more than once a month. You definitely want to get in on that information train!

 

I am so excited for 2017! Which news are you most curious about? Let me know in the comments! I am now booking 2017 Seniors! Click on the Contact tab to book your session!

 

Love,

Vanessa


Celebrate Valentine’s Day a Little Differently This Year

Being the hopeless romantic that I am, of course I had to do a Valentine’s Day blog! “I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” SWOON! That was a line from one of my favorite rom-com’s Notting Hill.  But let’s continue before I really get sidetracked! So Cupid’s Day falls on Tuesday this year and most couples plan to still go out to celebrate even on a weeknight. I’ve come up with a few ideas that are just a little different from the dinner and a movie tradition. 

 

 

CATERED DINNER FOR TWO AT HOME

Have a catered dinner at home! Enjoy the deliciousness of a fancy dinner in the comfort of your home. This could mean ordering take out from your favorite romantic restaurant or hiring a chef to come to your home and cook for you and yours truly. It just so happens I came across Succulent Cuisine and they do offer private in home services!

 

MODERN DAY BACKYARD CAMPING

Still enjoying the idea of staying home? Take dinner outside! Fire up the pit and cook your own dinner OR still order from your favorite restaurant and enjoy it by the fire. Plus, it’s easy to add dessert to the menu. What’s a backyard campfire without s’mores?

 

AT HOME SPA NIGHT

 

We’re sticking with the stay at home theme with this one. Hire a masseuse for partner massages before your romantic dinner or plan to give each other a massage! Oh don’t forget to pick up dinner.

 

STAY AT A LOCAL HOTEL

If you have littles and can’t find a sitter on a weeknight this idea is perfect for the weekend. Book a one night stay at a local hotel. Find one that also has a restaurant in it for the perfect dinner (and breakfast). My husband and I have stayed at the Hilton Houston Westchase and the breakfast was fantastic! If you are in the Houston area we highly recommend it!

 

SURPRISE! IT’S A GIVEAWAY!

As I mentioned above, I am seriously a hopeless romantic. And one type of photo session that I haven’t done, and I would sooooo love to do, is a surprise engagement! If you or someone you know plans to propose soon please shoot me an email at hello@figleafphotos.com and you’ll be registered to win a FREE surprise engagement session! Just include the following details in your email:

  1. Introduce yourself and your ‘future fiance’. Include a picture please.
  2. Share your love story. Where’d you two meet? Why him/her? What’s the best part about forever with this person? Tell me everything!
  3. Ideas of where, how, and when you’d like to propose.

Easy right?! I’m so excited! Winners will be notified on February 1st via email first and then on social media.

 

I hope you enjoyed this blog! Feel free to share your most romantic Valentine’s Day in the comments! And don’t forget I am booking for March sessions. Family, Milestones (Birthdays), Seniors, Maternity, Couples (wink wink)!


3 Small Ways I Like to Save Money

 

 

 

 

If saving money was one of your 2017 resolutions I applaud you and wish you the best of luck! I have to put this little disclaimer though. I am not a financial expert nor do I claim to be one. I have worked hard not to have lousy credit (anymore) and have found a few simple ways to save money. I’m sharing them below and if you have your own little money-saving tip by all means, share your knowledge! Let’s get this started shall we!

Save your bills!

Now this tip I actually got from a former co-worker. JoAnn and her husband would save $5 bills whenever they received change. I never had cash on me so I thought this was absolutely genius! You can always start with $1 bills. I have been saving both actually. The $1 bills get put away for street people. And by that I mean someone standing on a corner asking for money, a little league football team trying to raise money for their team, or even the local fire department during their “Fill the Boot” campaign. I know I can help if even with just a little bit. The $5 bills I save get put in a special (easy to open) piggy bank. I wanted to be able to have money whenever the kids wanted to flag down the ice cream man or when they wanted extra snack money for school.

 

Good Ole Fashion Piggy Bank

You can actually use any old jar or container for this one. All of my loose change goes into two separate piggy banks. One is a jar and the other is a 5 gallon water bottle. The jar is mostly quarters that I plan on depositing into my bank when it gets full. The water bottle is pretty big and still needs a while to fill up so I haven’t decided what we’re saving that for. I shouldn’t but I get really excited thinking how much it will total up to!

 

Bank Transfers


I know a lot of people do online banking so this tip is for you. It has saved me money and headaches! If you don’t have a savings account, get one! Then schedule an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings every time you get paid. Now these are just suggestions. You know your financial situation better than I do so you do what’s right for you. If you get paid weekly I suggest starting with at least $20. It’s the fastest way to see your savings account grow to $100 in just a month. If you get paid bi-weekly I recommend starting with $40. You can save until you reach a certain amount or leave it with no ending date.

Now that last tip has several benefits. First, after doing this I realized that I could actually survive if I saved money. It’s funny to me now but that was the main reason I didn’t try to save money. I didn’t think I could survive since we were living paycheck to paycheck. Having that money easily transfer had me disciplined to not count that money in my budget. And second, because I realized that I could survive by saving money this way I was encouraged to increase the transfer amount. By just a little bit but guess what? I’m still surviving!  Have I had to dip into my savings since I started? Of course! Life happens! Which brings me to the third benefit. It’s your money and it’ll be there when you need it.

 

I hope you found at least one of these helpful and please share any tips you’ve learned in the comments. Oh and if you’ve saved money for a session with me, wink wink, click on the contact tab above!  You can check out my last session here and on the portfolio tab.
Best of luck to you!

Sincerely,

Vanessa 


My Last Session of 2016

For my last family session of 2016 I could not have asked for a more fun family to photograph! I’ll start by giving a huge THANK YOU to Christina and her family! Her and her family made it a great one! They came ready to smile and ready for fun!

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Christina and I go way back! I won’t spill how many years but I will say that we went to high school together. Her and her family were in front of my camera in March of 2015 so when they came to me for Christmas card photos I was thrilled! Not only because I was going to see them again but because I was going to photograph her parents and her sister’s family! They are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet!

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A tree can only grow tall and strong with good roots. You could tell from the start of our session that this family tree is strong because of these two. I have to mention that they were up for anything, which you will see in a bit.


We met at Brackenridge Park in San Antonio, Texas and started out near the San Antonio River.

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It was THE perfect spot for family photos!

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The weather was a little concerning but as luck would have it Mother Nature was on our side! It sprinkled just for a bit and not until after our session had ended. It really was so much fun to do this session!

Here are more images from this session. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

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To book your family session please visit my contact page at the top or simply fill out the form below. I look forward to working with you!