The best cinematographers are artists, technicians, diplomats, and accountants.

Choosing the best cinematographers is tough. But we’ve done it. We’ve done the research so you’ll know whose work you need to study, and whose styles you can learn from.

If you want your film to look like it was shot by one of the world’s best cinematographers, read on.

We’ve broken down the key cinematic techniques that the top cinematographers who are working today actively use.

Onto the list!

Best Cinematography = Best Cinematographers

The key to the best cinematography

We know it's hard to classify anything under "best cinematography."  It's subjective.  However there are certain works that draw universal acclaim. So what leads to some of the best cinematography we see on screen?

First, we have to acknowledge that without a great cinematographer at the helm you can not have great cinematography.

So then...

What makes a great cinematographer? 

The combination of cinematography techniques, communication skills, and willingness to push limits with experimentation all make for a great director of photography.

But a good DP must also have business savvy and diplomatic skills, two areas that will never show on screen.

Cinematographers must employ a unique blend of collaboration and leadership. They head the camera department and work closely with the director.

Each filmmaker on this list uses film as a true artistic medium, with mise en scene, light, tone, movement, and texture working together to create masterful work. They’ve no doubt memorized our ultimate guide to camera shots.

CINEMATOGRAPHER VS. DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY

What's the difference between a cinematographer and director of photography?

The terms cinematographer and director of photography are often used interchangeably. Same job, different title. So why have both terms?  The historical reason is that many countries' film industries evolved independently and so different terms developed for similar roles. The title Cinematographer vs DP is mostly just a personal preference at this point.

The responsibility is the same in either case: execute on the visual style (or look) of a project, and run the camera departments which include the gaffers and the grips (who then manage their own respective departments).

BEST FAMOUS CINEMATOGRAPHERS

1. Roger Deakins

There is no denying that Roger Deakins is one of the best cinematographers of all time. He’s at the top of his game, and has been for the last 25 years. Respect for the story drives his style in every film. A style notable for use of natural light, a subtle camera, and innovative color palettes.

Cinematographers Best Cinematography Roger Deakins Director of Photography Blade Runner

Blade Runner 2049 - Roger Deakins

Deakins rarely shoots with an anamorphic lens, which he thinks are too slow when processing light.

The composition of his shots are visually stunning in every one of the films in a body of work that transcends genre, style and theme. He remains at the top of any list of the best cinematographers.

Roger Deakins has said “...on a film like A Serious Man without a huge budget, you're on a tight schedule and shoot when you have to, even if the light isn't exactly what you want. If you do a digital intermediate (DI) you can change the lighting, the saturation and the contrast. You can do a lot without spending the money to go to an effects house.”

You can learn more about Roger Deakins' cinematography style from the video below:

Cinematography tips from Roger Deakins

Summary

Roger Deakins

Visual Style: Natural light, subtle camerawork, fearless color palettes

Films: Blade Runner 2049, Skyfall, Hail, Caesar!, Sicario, Unbroken, Prisoners, The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, Dead Man Walking, O Brother Where Art Thou, The Big Lebowski, A Beautiful Mind, No Country for Old Men.

Awards: Won 1 Oscar. Another 118 wins & 149 nominations.

Best Film Cinematographers

2. Caleb Deschanel

Caleb Deschanel one of the best cinematographers working in Hollywood today. What defines Deschanel’s visual style?

Camera movement.

Whether he is filming horses, ducks, or trains, this master film cinematographer knows how to use the camera to capture movement on film in the most dynamic way.

Though he has nothing left to prove as a craftsman, Deschanel continues to up the ante in his cinematography.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter may not have been his highest-grossing film, but it showcases the work of master director of photography. By using his skills of movement, Deschanel turns the Honest Abe Lincoln we know from textbooks into speedy “Action Abe.”

Deschanel has been nominated for an Academy Award five times. The live action Lion King might be the film that brings him the Oscar.

Caleb Deschanel’s circle of life in The Lion King (2019)

Summary

Caleb DeschaneL

Visual Style:  Sense of movement (camera and subject)

Films: The Black Stallion, The Natural, Fly Away Home,The Right Stuff, Jack Reacher, The Passion of the Christ, The Lion King (2019)

Awards: Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 9 wins & 8 nominations.

BEST FILM CINEMATOGRAPHERS

3. Rodrigo Prieto

Rodrigo Prieto is a cinematographer who burst onto the international radar with the film Amores Perros. Every subsequent film has shown growing mastery. 21 Grams and Babel round out a trilogy that highlight an ambitious and fearless artist.

21 Grams utilizes high-speed film with a handheld camera and steadicam rigs. The soft and grainy look is achieved using a bleach bypass process.

In Babel, Prieto uses a variety cameras, film stocks, lenses, and cinematographic processes to achieve a unique visual language for three stories occurring continents apart.
Cinematographers Best Cinematography Director of Photography Rodrigo Prieto 21 grams

“We've been a fraud for a long time, Mary.” 21 Grams

Frida, Alexander, Biutiful, Brokeback Mountain and The Wolf of Wall Street are testaments to a director of photography in touch with his craft.  

Prieto’s technical adaptability from project-to-project, and strong communication with directors defines his work.

His cinematography styles are diverse, and the looks he achieves are as varied as the directors he collaborates with so well.

Cinematographer - Rodrigo Prieto -  Best Cinematography

“The visuals change to correspond to the emotional arc of each story and its characters – and they help you see where you are in the overall story. We divided the three stories color-wise because of the structure of the movie.”

— Rodrigo Prieto

The cinematography of Rodrigo Prieto

Summary

Rodrigo Prieto

Visual Style: Naturalistic look, likes to shoot with intentional lens flares, prefers handheld shots, mixes film formats, uses color gels for increased contrast

Films: Brokeback Mountain, Lust, Caution, Alexander, Amores Perros, Friday, 21 Grams, Babel, Biutiful, Argo, The Wolf of Wall Street, Silence, Passengers

Awards: Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 16 wins & 45 nominations.

BEST FILM CINEMATOGRAPHERS

4. Robert Richardson

Known as “the silver fox,” Robert Richardson has worked with Hollywood’s greatest directors. He has graced a variety of films with his bold, stark high-back-light signature.

He molds the light for the entire frame and often doesn't look for lighting motivation, but instead he relies on his instincts when it comes to the story. Oliver Stone, Quentin Tarantino, and Martin Scorsese are three top directors who have worked with Richardson.

One of Richardson’s techniques is to control scene lighting with dimmers that actively lower or fill the light during shooting.

In Kill Bill, Richardson created a high angle shot worth studying.

Cinematographers Best Cinematography Director of Photography Robert Richardson KillBill

High angle shot from Kill Bill

Cinematographer - Robert Richardson -  Best Cinematography

“I feel comfortable with either digital or film - the director and the project should determine the course of choice.”

— Robert Richardson

Take note of Richardon's lighting and cinematography techniques in this roundtable interview:

Robert Richardson speaks about cinematography

Summary

Robert Richardson

Visual Style: Hard lighting from the top (large light sources), blown out rim lighting, prefers manual cranes for smooth motion

Films: Inglourious Basterds, Kill Bill: Vol. 1, Hugo, The Aviator, The Hateful Eight, Shutter Island, Casino, A Few Good Men

Awards: Won 3 Oscars. Another 15 wins & 98 nominations.

Best Film Cinematographers

5. Emmanuel Lubezki

Emmanuel Lubezki is another modern master sure to turn up on every best cinematographer’s list. He's the only person to win back-to-back Oscars for cinematography three years in a row.

Cinematographers Best Cinematography Director of Photography Emmanuel Lubezki

“You have to learn to let go.” (Gravity)

His further five nominations in the Best Cinematography category leave no doubt that his artistry is appreciated by the best cinematographers and audiences alike.

He has become known for long, seemingly unedited “extended takes,” with shots that last up to 12 minutes.

The multiple shots that seam together fluidly in Birdman sneak cuts during pans, blackouts, and white-outs. He uses these techniques to make it look as though the film is shot in one continuous take.

Lubezki proves himself a superhero of cinematography with Birdman (2014).

His work with Alfonso Cuaron has been exemplary.

With The Revenant's nightmare shooting schedule, Lubezki proves that a wild production and unforgiving weather can’t stifle his brilliant visual style.

However...

Y Tu Mama Tambien, A Little Princess, Children of Men and Tree of Life couldn’t be more different in visual styles and themes. But, all four have the hallmarks of visionary storytelling.

Cinematographer - Emmanuel Lubezki -  Best Cinematography

“The most important thing in imaging for me is the dynamic range. The dynamic range means the tones that you can capture from highlights to dark and the bits, the depth of color that you can capture.”

— Emmanuel Lubezki

The cinematography behind Emmanuel Lubezki

Summary

Emmanuel Lubezki

Visual Style: Natural and diffused lighting, prefers wide angle lenses and long takes.

Films: Children of Men, Gravity, The Revenant, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Awards: Won 3 Oscars. Another 144 wins & 75 nominations.

Best Famous cinematographers

6. Hoyte van Hoytema

Swedish-Dutch cinematographer Hoyt van Hoytema has taken us from deep space to D-Day. His work on Interstellar and Dunkirk has made him an in-demand cinematographer in relatively short time.    

Van Hoytema is the “boy wonder” of the cinematography world, with 15 films to his credit.

Her, The Fighter, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and Spectre, are all masterclasses in modern visual storytelling.
Cinematographers Best Cinematography Director of Photography Hoyte Van Hoytema

“It would be hard to explain, but if you ever get there, come find me. (Her)

Van Hoytema is known for placing light sources outside the primary setting and downplaying the light’s importance. He practices subtlety.  

Characters in his films don’t get overexposed, one of the cinematography techniques often employed to highlight actors.

Cinematographers Best Cinematography Director of Photography Hoyte Van Hoytema StudioBinder

“Well it was that or the Priesthood…” (Spectre)

Van Hoytema is a director of photography who loves shooting on film, and it shows. Every shot is precise.

Take a look at this video essay breaking down Hoyte Van Hoyte's cinematography style:

The cinematography of Hoyte Van Hoytema

Summary

Hoyte Van Hoytema

Visual Style: Placing light sources off-camera and de-emphasizing light’s importance; never overexposing characters.

Films: Interstellar, Dunkirk, Let The Right One In, Her

Awards: Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 15 wins & 70 nominations.

Did You Know?

Van Hoytema convinced David O. Russell to use film rather than digital on The Fighter by convincing him to settle on the still economical Aaton Penelope 2 Perf 35mm camera. It allowed for the extended takes that Russell wanted from the digital medium and gave the film a grainy image akin to documentary style filmmaking.

BEST FAMOUS CINEMATOGRAPHERS

7. Christopher Doyle

The most un-Hollywood of any Hollywood player, Australian-born cinematographer Christopher Doyle brings Eastern flair to his filmmaking.

One of his biggest hits, Hero, with director Zhang Zhimou and starring Jet Li, is a tremendous achievement. It utilizes many tools in the cinematographer’s trade.

But it is 2046 that proves his ambition equals his knowledge. Doyle uses both long and wide angle lenses. He combines these with a shallow depth of field, odd angles, and shocking color palettes.

The results are electrifying.

Cinematographers Best Cinematography Director of Photography Christopher Doyle StudioBinder

“If I lived in another time or place, my story might have a different ending.” (2046)

Cinematographer - Christopher Doyle -  Best Cinematography

“The visual aspect of film is expanding, we're evolving a new relationship with filmmaking over here [Asia]. I really think we've moved beyond all that auteur theory.”

— Christopher Doyle

Christopher Doyle breaks down his thought-process on camera movement and story-driven cinematography:

Christopher Doyle in his own words.

To analyze Christopher Doyle's cinematography style, take a look at the video below:

The cinematography techniques of Christopher Doyle

Summary

Christopher Doyle

Visual Style: Long and wide angle lenses used in conjunction with varied depth of field, angles, and color palettes for visuals that teem with energy.

Films: Paranoid Park, Hero, 2046, In the Mood for Love

Awards: 57 wins & 45 nominations.

BEST FILM CINEMATOGRAPHERS

8. Matthew Libatique

The pairing of director Darren Aronofsky and his go-to cinematographer, Matthew Libatique, is a match made in cinematic heaven. The auspicious debut of Pi announced the arrival of two brash filmmakers.

They would make it a one-two punch with follow up Requiem For A Dream.
Cinematographers Best Cinematography Director of Photography Matthew Libatique

Requiem for a Dream

His work with other director’s did not disappoint. Gothika, Inside Man, Tigerland and Iron Man stand out with directors including Spike Lee, Jon Favreau, and Joel Schumacher.

But it is Libatique’s cinematography for Aronofsky’s Black Swan that earned him a much-deserved Academy Award nomination.
Cinematographers Best Cinematography Director of Photography Matthew Libatique StudioBinder

"Perfect. It was perfect.” (Black Swan) 2010

He is loathe to use visuals where the lighting is overly manicured or artificial. He also loves to use handheld camera and 16mm film.

Cinematographer - Matthew Libatique -  Best Cinematography

“I don’t think about the DI when I’m shooting a film. I know it’s looming, but I try to be as specific with colors and exposure as I can while we are shooting. I think of the DI as a colour timing session and not a fix-it session.”

— Matthew Libatique

Learn more about Matthew Libatique's cinematography style from the video essay below:

The cinematography techniques of Matthew Libatique

Summary

Matthew Libatique

Visual Style: Specificity in use of color, preference for natural lighting, and frequent collaboration with director Darren Aronofsky.

Films: Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream, Pi, A Star Is Born

Awards: Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 13 wins & 40 nominations.

BEST FAMOUS CINEMATOGRAPHERS

9. Dion Beebe

Australian-born director of photography Dion Beebe’s work speaks for itself. Versatility is his trademark: whether dystopian future, science-fiction, or Japanese period romance, Beebe crafts pictures with distinction and novelty.

Beebe’s use of lighting and composition to reflect his character’s thought processes and/or turmoil is of particular note throughout his body of work.

The textures and layers he creates with the camera make him a master filmmaker.

Cinematographers Best Cinematography Director of Photography Dion Beebe

Memoirs of a Geisha

Cinematographer - Dion Beebe -  Best Cinematography

“There’s a huge advantage in watching how different people handle lighting and cameras and how they interact on the set. There is no one right look or way to do it. Everyone does it differently. That’s what makes filmmaking an art.”

— Dion Beebe

Learn more about Dion Beebe's cinematography style right here:

Cinematography roundtable with Dion Beebe

Summary

Dion beebe

Visual Style: Versatility, and use of lighting and scene composition to emphasize emotion and visual impact of characters in turmoil.

Films: Memoirs of a Geisha, Collateral, Nine, Chicago

Awards: Won 1 Oscar. Another 18 wins & 35 nominations.

BEST FILM CINEMATOGRAPHERS

10. Bradford Young  

Cinematographer Bradford Young is the first African American to be nominated for an Oscar for cinematography for Arrival, where he filled in for an overbooked Roger Deakins.
Best Cinematography Best Cinematographers Director of Photography Bradford Young Arrival

“This is where your story begins.” (Arrival)

The films Pariah, A Most Violent Year, Selma and Solo show a meteoric rise for this director of photography.

Best Cinematography Best Cinematographers  Bradford Young Selma

Best Cinematographers Bradford Young Selma

Young is prone to underexpose his shots even when there is talent with darker skin. He prefers shooting with available light, but he also uses bounce light, usually soft, rather than direct lighting for faces.  

A sign of a cinematographer’s cinematographer: he operates his own camera most of the time.   

Cinematographers - Bradford Young - Best Cinematography

"What’s really intriguing about the filmmaking process is that I try to approach it from that perspective where I don’t want to be as rigid or dogmatic about knowing exactly what I want to do."

— Bradford Young

Learn more about Bradford Young's cinematography techniques from the video essay below:

The visual style of Bradford Young

Summary

Bradford Young

Visual Style: Underexposed shots, use of available light, soft bounce for faces, and operating his own camera.

Films: Arrival, A Most Violent Year, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Selma

Awards: Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 6 wins & 32 nominations.

BEST FAMOUS CINEMATOGRAPHERS

11. Rachel Morrison 

Rachel Morrison is the first female to be nominated for an Academy Award for cinematography, for Mudbound.
Cinematographers Best Cinematography Director of Photography Rachel Morrison

“But I must start at the beginning, if I can find it.” (Mudbound) 2017

She is also having a stretch of success with Black Panther. 

Cinematographers Best Cinematography Director of Photography Rachel Morrison Upcoming Cinematographer 2018 StudioBinder

“I’ve waited my whole life for this.” (Black Panther)

The accolades and successes have been hard-earned, as Morrison also has the distinction of being director of photography for seven films in six years that were screened in competition at the Sundance Film Festival.  

Morrison started with documentary films, where she says she “developed the ability to read emotions in the characters she is shooting.”

The promise of her work on the films Fruitvale Station, Some Girls, Cake and Dope was fully realized in the last year.

This cinematography roundtable gives you further insight into Rachel Morrison's visual style:

Rachel Morrison's cinematography style

Summary

Rachel Morrison

Visual Style: Being the first female nominated for a Cinematography Oscar. Also for her rich, often naturalistic, lighting, and empathy for characters forged during her documentary filmmaking days.

Films: Black Panther, Mudbound, Dope, Fruitvale Station

Awards: Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 3 wins & 24 nominations.

BEST FILM CINEMATOGRAPHERS

12. Reed Morano 

Reed Morano is both a director and cinematographer who has broken down the door to the traditional boy’s club that is cinematography.  

Kill Your Darlings, Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold, Meadowland, And So It Goes and Skeleton Twins are worth a repeat viewing.
Cinematographers Best Cinematography Director of Photography Reed Morano Upcoming Cinematographer 2018 StudioBinder

“Some things, once you love them, become yours forever.” (Kill Your Darlings)

Time will tell whether she will DP or direct more, as her Emmy for Outstanding Direction for The Handmaid’s Tale show’s she is adept at both.

Take a look at Reed's advice for cinematographers looking to break in:

Reed Morano's cinematography advice

Summary

Reed Morano

Visual Style: Composing and lighting shots so that characters focus on what is not on camera, opening up the worlds of her projects by suggesting what is not being shown. 

Films: The Handmaid's Tale, I Think We're Alone Now, Meadowland, Autumn Blood, The Skeleton Twins

Awards: Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 6 wins & 5 nominations.

BEST FILM CINEMATOGRAPHERS

13. Ben Richardson  

Ben Richardson’s first full length feature film was a captivating cinematographic achievement. 

That film, Beast of the Southern Wild, became a calling card for a very promising career that is unfolding in the medium of television and film.

The Cinematography Behind Beasts of the Southern Wild

Summary

Ben Richardson

Visual Style: Heavily contrasted lighting

Films: Beasts of the Southern Wild, Wind River, 1922, The Fault in Our Stars

Awards: 3 wins & 10 nominations.

BEST FILM CINEMATOGRAPHERS

14. Mandy Walker 

Another Australian-born cinematography who has broken into the ranks of great cinematographers is Mandy Walker. Lantana, Shattered Glass, Australia, Jane Got a Gun, Hidden Figures and The Mountain Between Us show audiences that Mandy Walker is ready to test her filmmaking mettle on complex and large scale films.

Cinematographers Best Cinematography Director of Photography Mandy Walker Upcoming Cinematographer 2018 StudioBinder

“Loving somebody gets better the more you do it.” (The Mountain Between Us)

The live action update of the Disney classic Mulan is her largest project to date. We are sure it will deliver on the skills she has already shown.

Mandy talks about her cinematography process to help tell a better story:

Mandy Walker's cinematography advice

Summary

Mandy Walker

Visual Style: Warm tones, bringing out the color and texture of locations to make them feel truly inhabited by the characters.

Films: Hidden Figures, Australia, Shattered Glass, Tracks

Awards: 11 wins & 12 nominations.

BEST FILM CINEMATOGRAPHERS

15. Chung-hoon Chung 

Korean Cinematographer Chung-Hoon Chung shot the film Old Boy in 2003 and one year later, the film received the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival. The accolade was due in no small part to Chung-Hoon’s cinematogrophy, which received many award nominations and earns the DP a place on this list.

Since then, while still working predominantly in Asia, Chung-Hoon has directed photography for US films including Hotel Artemis and the smash hit horror IT.

Cinematographers Best Cinematography Director of Photography Chung Hoon Chung Upcoming Cinematographer 2018 StudioBinder

“Don’t you want it?” (It, 2018)

The following video breaks down Chung's cinematography style in a nutshell:

Breaking down the cinematography of Chung-hoon Chung

Summary

Chung-hoon Chung

Visual Style: Varied techniques and styles from project-to-project that tend to favor supernatural-flavored and slightly off-kilter colors and textures.

Films: The Handmaiden, Oldboy, Stoker, It

Awards: 3 wins & 17 nominations.

BEST FILM CINEMATOGRAPHERS

16. Charlotte Bruus Christensen

Danish Cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen has amassed an impressive body of work in the last five years.  

Cinematographers Best Cinematography Director of Photography Charlotte Bruus Christensen Upcoming Cinematographer 2018 StudioBinder

“Yoo noisy.” (A Quiet Place) 2018

Life, Far From The Madding Crowd, The Girl On The Train, Fences, Molly’s Game and A Quiet Place shows that she is in demand from some of the most accomplished Hollywood players.

Charlotte shares with us exactly how she built tension and fear with the camera in A Quiet Place:

Insightful cinematography advice from Charlotte Bruus Christensen

Summary

Charlotte Bruus Christensen

Visual Style: Close-up emotional shots, both using wide lenses, and also physically placing the camera as close as possible to the characters.

Films: The Hunt, A Quiet Place, Fences, Molly's Game, Far from the Madding Crowd

Awards: 5 wins & 4 nominations.

BEST FILM CINEMATOGRAPHERS

17. Janusz Kamiński

Polish-born Janusz Kaminski has a preternatural talent for visualizing historical moments and key events. He does this in a timeless, gut-punch emotional style.

His energy can be seen in frequent work with director Steven Spielberg, in films including Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, Amistad, War Horse, Lincoln, and Munich. Janusz Kamiński

Analyzing the cinematography of Janusz Kaminski

Summary

Janusz Kamiński

Visual Style: Backlighting subjects against the sun, and using diffusion filters to create a blooming light effect with low contrast.

Films: Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, Minority Report, War Horse

Awards: Won 2 Oscars. Another 36 wins & 70 nominations.

BEST FILM CINEMATOGRAPHERS

18. Maryse Alberti

Hailing from a small town in the south of France, cinematographer Maryse Alberti is a versatile, collaborative DP known for technical expertise and artistic adaptability.

This video essay breaks down how Maryse uses camera movement to build connection (and detachment) with the characters:

Maryse Alberti's cinematography style

Summary

Maryse Alberti

Visual Style: Collaborating with the director to hammer out palette, locations, and lighting to tailor the right approach and style. 

Films: The Wrestler, Velvet Goldmine, The Visit, Collateral Beauty

Awards: Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 4 wins & 1 nomination.

BEST FILM CINEMATOGRAPHERS

19. Vittorio Storaro

Italian master cinematographer Vittorio Storaro has a long list of DP credits including Apocalypse Now, The Last Emperor, Last Tango in Paris, and Dick Tracy.

His deep education in art lends his visuals a timeless, vibrant quality.

The cinematography of Vittorio Storaro

Summary

Vittorio Storaro

Visual Style: Approaching every shot with the forethought and detail of a Renaissance painting. 

Films: Apocalypse Now, Dick Tracy, The Last Emperor, The Sheltering Sky

Awards: Won 3 Oscars. Another 46 wins & 36 nominations.

BEST FAMOUS CINEMATOGRAPHERS

20. Wally Pfister

Wally Pfister prefers to shoot on film, rather than digital, although his skills translate to any method of capturing a story.

He emphasizes that story leads style, and lighting adjustments, filters, and technical considerations always work best when they serve story and emotion.

Wally Pfister’s cinematography on Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy define his versatility and his ability to use wide angles to tell the story.

Wally Pfister's wide angle shots

For an even deeper dive on Wally's cinematography style, take a look at the following video essay:

The cinematography behind Wally Pfister

Summary

Wally Pfister

Visual Style: Prominent use of wide angles for sweeping landscape shots, and preference for shooting on film. 

Films: Inception, The Dark Knight, The Prestige, Batman Begins, memento, Moneyball, Insomnia

Awards: Won 1 Oscar. Another 26 wins & 40 nominations.

BEST FILM CINEMATOGRAPHERS

21. Darius Khondji

Cinematographer Darius Khondji emphasizes listening to your collaborators and tailoring a technical artistic approach to every project. 

While this is a common theme among top film cinematographers, Khondji is a firm believer in picking your direction and then throwing yourself at it all-in.​​Darius Khondji

Caption goes here...

Even though he adapts to serve the story of each project, as Khondji has shown in such films as Delicatessen, Se7en, Panic Room, and Midnight in Paris, he always goes in bold directions.

His work serves as proof that variety of styles doesn’t have to equate to a middle-of-the-road, one-size-fits-all approach.

It’s about staying alert, using your knowledge to approach each project with a fresh pair of eyes, and not being afraid to go to new places.

Darius Khondji cinematography style

Summary

Darius Khondji

Visual Style: Soft lighting that’s almost completely free of shadows, and lighting subjects from the front.

Films: Amour, Se7en, Delicatessen, Midnight in Paris

Awards: Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 7 wins & 32 nominations.

BEST FILM CINEMATOGRAPHERS

22. Sayombhu Mukdeeprom

Thai film cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom has been amassing impressive international credits for 20 years.

Mukdeeprom’s status shot through the roof with his work on the 2017 drama film Call Me By Your Name, followed by the thriller Suspiria, both with director Luca Guadagnino.

Call me By Your Name film

Summary

Sayombhu Mukdeeprom

Visual Style: A neutral visual aesthetic, including shooting entire films with only one lens

Films: Call Me by Your Name, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Suspiria, Happy Birthday

Awards: 2 wins & 21 nominations.

BEST FILM CINEMATOGRAPHERS

23. Edward Lachman

Director of photography Ed Lachman’s credits include such films as Less Than Zero, The Virgin Suicides, The Limey, and Erin Brockovich.

He has also worked as director Todd Haynes’ go-to film cinematographer, with credits on Wonderstruck, Far From Heaven, I’m Not There, and Carol.

Lachman won the 2017 American Society of Cinematographers Lifetime Achievement Award.

Cinematography techniques convey different time periods, as Lachman does in the film Carol

Summary

Edward Lachman

Visual Style: Preference for shooting on film, using locations, film stock, and finishing processes to evoke different time periods.

Films: Carol, Far from Heaven, Ken Park, The Virgin Suicides

Awards: Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 40 wins & 40 nominations.

BEST FILM CINEMATOGRAPHERS

24. Robert Elswit

Adept at shooting action scenes with films including The Bourne Legacy and Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation, along with expertise working on dramas, DP Robert Elswit is a razor-sharp, flexible collaborator.

He frequently works with director Paul Thomas Anderson, having shot the films Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and There Will Be Blood.

Elswit’s resilience and knowledge of film history make him one of the best film cinematographers today.

Robert Elswit's cinematography techniques

Summary

Robert Elswit

Visual Style: Being Paul Thomas Anderson’s go-to cinematographer, as well as preferring to shoot on film and using “Hollywood” lighting, with the light source placed above the subject.

Films: There Will be Blood, Nightcrawler, Good Night, and Good Luck, Punch-Drunk Love

Awards: Won 1 Oscar. Another 16 wins & 39 nominations.

BEST FILM CINEMATOGRAPHERS

25. Bill Pope

Cinematographer Bill Pope is one of genre filmmaking’s superstars. His DP credits include Army of Darkness, The Matrix and its sequels, Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3, as well as Men in Black 3 and The Jungle Book.

How to work with Directors from cinematography Bill Pope

Summary

Bill Pope

Visual Style: Aggressively adjusting lighting to fit the mood, and for using the camera as a bobbing-and-weaving “stuntman” during fight scenes.

Films: The Matrix, The Jungle Book, Spider-Man 2, Bound

Awards: Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 3 wins & 8 nominations.

BEST FILM CINEMATOGRAPHERS

26. Linus Sandgren

Cinematographer Linus Sandgren has shot David O. Russell’s period crime drama American Hustle, the feel-good comedy The Hundred-Foot Journey, and the musical La La Land, for which he won the Best Cinematography Oscar.

Linus Sandgren provides cinematography advice

Summary

Linus Sandgren

Visual Style: Rich colors and textures that visualize emotion and optimism.

Films: First Man, La La Land, American Hustle, Battle of the Sexes

Awards: Won 1 Oscar. Another 27 wins & 26 nominations.

BEST FILM CINEMATOGRAPHERS

27. Claudio Miranda

Academy Award-winning Chilean cinematographer Claudio Miranda shot the first all-digital film to be nominated for a Best Cinematography Oscar, with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Miranda won the Oscar for shooting Life of Pi.

Unlike many of the best cinematographers on this list, Miranda has embraced and pushed digital filmmaking to the limit.

Claudio Miranda's cinematography techniques

He has become the foremost director of photography working in CG-heavy and digital film.

Summary

Claudio Miranda

Visual Style: Technical expertise and experimentation in digital filmmaking techniques. Carefully breaking down and arranging the frame.

Films: Life of Pi, Oblivion, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Enemy of the State

Awards: Won 1 Oscar. Another 24 wins & 27 nominations.

Up Next:

Cinematography techniques

What did you think of our list of the best working cinematographers? Is there anyone we missed?

We hope that by watching their work and understanding the techniques they use are helpful in crafting your next project. As a next step, take a look at some effective cinematography techniques that will actually improve your storytelling.

READ MORE: Cinematography Techniques→ 
Solution Icon - Shot List and Storyboard

Showcase your vision with elegant shot lists and storyboards.

Create robust and customizable shot lists. Upload images to make storyboards and slideshows. 

Learn More ➜

  •  
    2K
    Shares
  • 1.9K
  •  
  • 10
  •  
  •  
  •