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Melinda Capawana came to photography later in life. What started as a hobby to distract her from her empty nest turned into a passion for photographing friends and family - and eventually, a business. But in the years since she went professional, Capawana has never lost the familiarity that brought her portrait and wedding photography to life. She specializes in working with busy moms and brides, and is based in St. Pete.

Years in Tampa Bay


Hustle (job)


What do you do?  

I photograph weddings, and families who live in the Tampa Bay area, as well as families who are vacationing here or having a destination wedding.

Why do you do it?

With my camera, I get to capture an incredible range of love and emotion between people. That’s what I love the most about what I do.

I love that I’m creating something that will have special meaning for my clients, and their children when they’re older. Photographs become more and more valuable with each passing day because each day brings us further from that moment. When our kids are grown, those photographs will become incredibly important, not only to us but to them. I love being a part of that. It’s kind of like magic.

What was your Catalyst? (How did you get started?)

I was a single mom, and when my oldest son moved out, I had feelings like I’d never had before. I missed him terribly and realized that the very special chapter in my life of raising my children was coming to an end. It had been too short. My kids would be out on their own, living their own lives. I wondered if I had appreciated it enough, if I had done enough to prepare them for life. If I’d been so wrapped up in every-day life and making ends meet that I didn’t stop and enjoy it enough. I had this overwhelming realization that nothing would ever be the same again. Well, I cried for weeks.

I was talking to my sister on the phone about it when she suggested that I do something for myself – a hobby. I had always wanted to take photography classes, so I signed up at a small local art school. I took a few classes and fell in love with photography. After taking photos of family members and friends for a few years, I started my business.

What’s a common misconception or unknown aspect of what you do?

Many people believe that the photographer just shows up, photographs the wedding for eight hours, and makes a lot of money. In reality, there is a lot of time spent before, during and after the wedding. It can easily be 40 hours of work, including consultations, the engagement session, travel, assisting with the timeline, culling, backing up files and editing the photographs. The pricing also reflects the photographer’s years of experience, education and expenses. Then there are other, more subtle aspects of wedding photography, like the ability to put people at ease in front of the camera, be a calming influence during what can be a stressful day, dealing with changing weather, lighting and timelines on the fly – not to mention handling family dynamics in a sensitive way. Wedding photography is high-pressure and high-stakes (there are no do-overs!) so you don’t want to trust that to just anyone.

What’s the most challenging part of your Hustle?

I’m a creative, so don’t enjoy the business side of things – marketing, accounting, etc. I really just want to interact with people and create beautiful photographs. I’m more comfortable with the business side than I used to be, because I’ve forced myself to learn that aspect, but it’s definitely the most challenging part for me.

What’s the most valuable piece of business advice/insight that’s helped you?

To focus on the client experience and to serve my clients well. To treat others in my personal life and in my business the way I would like to be treated.

What is the most important thing to keep in mind when choosing a photographer?

The obvious answer is that you must love their work and, of course, they need to have a handle on the technical aspects of photography, but I feel that the most important thing to consider is their personality. You should feel comfortable with your photographer because if you’re not, it will show in the photographs – in your facial expressions or body language, even subconsciously. For family portraits, your photographer should be able to make your children (or significant other who doesn’t like having his or her picture taken) have fun and feel comfortable in order to get beautiful, natural-looking images. For wedding photography, it’s even more important that your personalities mesh. Your relationship with your photographer will likely span 12 months or more from beginning to end. You’ll spend more time with your photographer on your wedding day than with your spouse. If you don’t feel at ease with your photographer, it’s not going to be a good experience. On the other hand, if you feel comfortable, you’re going to trust him or her, which will allow your true emotions to flow. In turn, those wonderful, happy feelings will be highlighted in your photographs.

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