As a young boy he was captured by Ali Pasha along with his father and 70 other Souliotes at a time when the pasha was besieging Souli. Ali Pasha released his father, holding young Fotos as hostage, trusting that Lambros Tzavelas would talk the Souliotes into surrendering in order to save his son. Lambros Tzavellas, however, returned to Souli and wrote to Ali Pasha that he would never surrender and that if young Fotos was not willing to die for the cause of freedom, he was not worthy of the Tzavellas name. Fotos was eventually released by Ali Pasha and became the leader of the Souliotes following the death of his father.
Fotos proved worthy indeed of the Tzavellas name as he became renown for his bravery. Unfortunately, Souli fell to Ali Pasha in 1803 and Fotos took with him 2,000 warriors and crossed into Kerkyra where he joined the French army as an officer of the Greek legion. He was assassinated by agents of Ali Pasha in 1809. His tomb can be found at the Monastery of Platytera.