The best cinematographers are artists, technicians, diplomats, and accountants. Choosing the best cinematographers is tough and extremely subjective but this list is full of talented people. 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!

 

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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've 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.

CINEMATOGRAPHER VS. DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY

What's the difference?

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).

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

Before we jump into the list, make sure to download our FREE Ebook on The Ultimate Guide to Camera Lenses.

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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 and practical lighting, 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. You can learn more about Roger Deakins' cinematography style from the video below, or head over to another post where he breaks down the insane ways they shot 1917:

How Roger Deakins Learned to Light  •  Subscribe on YouTube

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.

Summary

Roger Deakins

  • Visual Style: Natural light, subtle camerawork, fearless color palettes
  • Selected Films: 1917, Blade Runner 2049, Skyfall, Hail, Caesar!, Sicario, Unbroken, Prisoners, The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, Dead Man Walking, The Big Lebowski, A Beautiful Mind, No Country for Old Men.
  • Awards: Won 2 Oscars. Another 118 wins & 149 nominations.
Cinematographer - Roger Deakins - Best Cinematography

"...[O]n 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."

— Roger Deakins

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.

Summary

Caleb DeschaneL

  • Visual Style:  Sense of movement (camera and subject)
  • Selected FilmsThe 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.

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.”

A highlight reel for one of the best cinematographers, Caleb Deschanel

Deschanel has been nominated for an Academy Award six times without a win. Even the jaw-dropping work he did on the live action Lion King failed to land him any love from the Academy.

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 his growing mastery and ability to work in any genre.

The cinematography of Rodrigo Prieto

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 textured with film grain is achieved using a bleach bypass process.

In Babel, Prieto uses a variety cameras, film stocks, camera lenses, and cinematographic processes to achieve a unique visual language for three stories occurring continents apart.

Summary

Rodrigo Prieto

  • Visual Style: Naturalistic look, likes to shoot with intentional lens flares, handheld shots, mixes film formats, uses color gels for increased contrast
  • Selected FilmsBrokeback Mountain, Lust, Caution, Alexander, Amores Perros, Frida, 21 Grams, Babel, Biutiful, The Wolf of Wall Street, Silence
  • Awards: Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 16 wins & 45 nominations.

Frida, Alexander, BiutifulBrokeback 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.

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

His cinematography styles are diverse, and the looks he achieves are as varied as the directors he collaborates with so well. One of his most recent films, Passengers, confirms that Prieto is one of the best cinematographers.

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.

Richardson speaks about his cinematography below:

Robert Richardson speaks about cinematography

He molds the light for the entire frame and often doesn't look for lighting motivation, but instead he relies on his instincts. 

Summary

Robert Richardson

  • Visual Style: Hard lighting from the top (large light sources), blown out rim lighting, prefers manual cranes for smooth motion
  • Selected FilmsInglourious Basterds, Kill Bill, The Aviator, The Hateful Eight, Shutter Island, Casino, A Few Good Men, JFK, Natural Born Killers
  • Awards: Won 3 Oscars. Another 15 wins & 98 nominations.

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 - Kill Bill

High angle shot from Kill Bill

Oliver Stone, Quentin Tarantino, and Martin Scorsese are three top directors who have worked with Richardson.

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.

Summary

Emmanuel Lubezki

  • Visual Style: Natural and diffused lighting, prefers wide angle lenses and long takes.
  • Selected FilmsChildren of Men, Gravity, The Revenant, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Awards: Won 3 Oscars. Another 144 wins & 75 nominations.

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 are stitched 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

His work with Alfonso Cuarón has been exemplary.

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

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.

Summary

Hoyte Van Hoytema

  • Visual Style: Placing light sources off-camera and de-emphasizing light’s importance; never overexposing characters.
  • Selected FilmsInterstellar, Dunkirk, Let The Right One In, Her
  • Awards: Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 15 wins & 70 nominations.

Van Hoytema is the “boy wonder” of the cinematography world, with 15 films to his credit. Her, The FighterTinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and Spectre, are all masterclasses in modern visual storytelling.

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

Her  •  One of the best cinematography films in recent memory

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

The cinematography of Hoyte Van Hoytema

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

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.

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.
  • Selected FilmsParanoid Park, Hero, 2046, In the Mood for Love
  • Awards: 57 wins & 45 nominations.

One of his biggest hits, Hero, with director Zhang Yimou 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

Every list of the best cinematography movies should include Doyle's 2046

“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

To get an appreciation for Christopher Doyle's cinematography style, take a look at the video below:

Some of the best cinematography, courtesy of Christopher Doyle

For more techniques on color, check out our free masterclass on the psychology of color in film.

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.

Summary

Matthew Libatique

  • Visual Style: Specificity in use of color, preference for natural lighting, and frequent collaboration with director Darren Aronofsky.
  • Selected FilmsBlack Swan, Requiem for a Dream, Pi, A Star Is Born
  • Awards: Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 13 wins & 40 nominations.

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 Black Swan, one of Darren Aronofsky's best movies, that earned him a much-deserved Oscar nomination.

Cinematographers Best Cinematography Director of Photography Matthew Libatique StudioBinder

Black Swan  •  Gritty and Gorgeous Cinematography

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

Learn more about Matthew Libatique's cinematography style below:

The cinematography techniques of Matthew Libatique

“I don’t think about the DI [digital intermediate] 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

Best famous cinematographers

9. Dion Beebe

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

Summary

Dion beebe

  • Visual Style: Versatility, and use of lighting and scene composition to emphasize emotion and visual impact of characters in turmoil.
  • Selected FilmsMemoirs of a Geisha, Collateral, Nine, Chicago
  • Awards: Won 1 Oscar. Another 18 wins & 35 nominations.

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. 

Cinematographers Best Cinematography Director of Photography Dion Beebe

Memoirs of a Geisha

Here's a quick highlight of Dion Beebe's cinematography — the Cell Block Tango from his Oscar-winning Chicago.

Cinematography roundtable with Dion Beebe

The textures and layers he creates with the camera make him a master filmmaker and one of the best cinematographers working today.

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.

Summary

Bradford Young

  • Visual Style: Underexposed shots, use of available light, soft bounce for faces, and operating his own camera.
  • Selected FilmsAin't Them Bodies Saints, Arrival, A Most Violent Year, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Selma
  • Awards: Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 6 wins & 32 nominations.

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

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 and personal approach to the craft of cinematography below:

Versatility is a common trait with the best cinematographers like Bradford Young

BEST FAMOUS CINEMATOGRAPHERS

11. Rachel Morrison 

Rachel Morrison was the first female to be nominated for an Academy Award for cinematography, for her work on Mudbound.

She followed that up with another huge success on Black Panther.

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.
  • Selected FilmsBlack Panther, Mudbound, Dope, Fruitvale Station
  • Awards: Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 3 wins & 24 nominations.

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.  

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

Morrison has definitely earned a spot at the table with the best cinematographers

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 and has since followed through on that promise.

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 The Skeleton Twins are worth a repeat viewing.

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. 
  • Selected FilmsThe 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.

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

Reed Morano's cinematography advice

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.

BEST FILM CINEMATOGRAPHERS

13. Ben Richardson  

Ben Richardson’s first full length feature film was a captivating cinematographic achievement. The naturalism of the camerawork mixed with the fantastical elements of Beasts of the Southern Wild turned a small indie project into something that got everyone's attention.

Take a look at some BTS footage below:

That film became a calling card for a very promising career that is unfolding in the medium of television and film. This included comedies like Drinking Buddies and Happy Christmas for director Joe Swanberg, and a Neo-Western that went sadly ignored during awards season — Wind River.

Summary

Ben Richardson

  • Visual Style: Heavily contrasted lighting
  • Selected FilmsBeasts 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 cinematographer 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

Walker has crafted some of the best cinematography

The live action update of the Disney classic Mulan is her largest project to date. Here's Walker herself talking at length about the production and how she treated the storytelling from a cinematography standpoint.

An in-depth discussion on her work in Mulan

Summary

Mandy Walker

  • Visual Style: Warm tones, bringing out the color and texture of locations to make them feel truly inhabited by the characters.
  • Selected FilmsHidden 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 Oldboy in 2003 and a year later, the film received the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival. That was just the beginning of Chung's international acclaim, and he shows no signs of slowing.

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.
  • Selected FilmsThe Handmaiden, Oldboy, Stoker, It
  • Awards: 3 wins & 17 nominations.

The accolades for Old Boy was due in no small part to Chung-Hoon’s cinematography, which received many award nominations and earns the DP a place on this list. 

Here's a breathtaking highlight reel of Chung's cinematography style:

Breaking down the cinematography of Chung-hoon Chung

Since receiving his award, while still working predominantly in Asia, Chung-Hoon has directed photography for US films including Hotel Artemis, the smash hit horror IT, Edgar Wright's Last Night in Soho and the Obi-Wan Kenobi series for Disney+.

BEST FILM CINEMATOGRAPHERS

16. Charlotte Bruus Christensen

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

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.
  • Selected FilmsThe Hunt, A Quiet Place, Fences, Molly's Game, Far from the Madding Crowd
  • Awards: 5 wins & 4 nominations.

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

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

BEST FILM CINEMATOGRAPHERS

17. Janusz Kamiński

Polish-born Janusz Kaminski has a preternatural talent for visualizing historical moments and key events.

Summary

Janusz Kamiński

  • Visual Style: Backlighting subjects against the sun, and using diffusion filters to create a blooming light effect with low contrast.
  • Selected FilmsSchindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, Minority Report, War Horse, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Jerry Maguire
  • Awards: Won 2 Oscars. Another 36 wins & 70 nominations.

He does this in a timeless, gut-punch emotional style.

Watch more on his style below along with his thoughts on the work and how he approaches each project as a blank slate:

Analyzing the cinematography of Janusz Kaminski

His energy can be seen in frequent work with director Steven Spielberg, in films including Schindler's ListSaving Private RyanAmistadWar HorseLincoln, and Munich

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.

Summary

Maryse Alberti

  • Visual Style: Collaborating with the director to hammer out palette, locations, and lighting to tailor the right approach and style. 
  • Selected FilmsThe Wrestler, Velvet Goldmine, The Visit, Collateral Beauty
  • Awards: Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 4 wins & 1 nomination.

She splits her time between documentary and fiction films, giving each her signature naturalistic look and feel. Even we just look at her feature work, Alberti's range is quite impressive — from the lo-fi grit of The Wrestler and The Visit to the poignant and dreaming qualities of Collateral Beauty and Chappaquiddick.

Here's the long take match from Creed and a masterclass in Steadicam work, blocking and staging, and how pacing is controlled in a fight scene.

Creed  •  Just one example of Alberti's best cinematography

We're not done yet, keep reading for more dynamic DPs.

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. Color is one of Storaro's strong points and here he explains the language of color in filmmaking.

The cinematography of Vittorio Storaro

His deep education in art lends his visuals a timeless, vibrant quality. Storaro is one of the great cinematographers who takes his art very seriously, almost philosophically. It was his original idea that lead to one of today's up-and-coming formats — the 2:1 aspect ratio.

What is 2:1 Aspect Ratio  •  Subscribe on YouTube

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.

Summary

Wally Pfister

  • Visual Style: Prominent use of wide angles for sweeping landscape shots, and preference for shooting on film. 
  • Selected FilmsInception, The Dark Knight, The Prestige, Batman Begins, Memento, Moneyball, Insomnia
  • Awards: Won 1 Oscar. Another 26 wins & 40 nominations.

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 & Christopher Nolan

For an even deeper dive on Wally's cinematography style and his working relationship with Christopher Nolan, take a look at the following video:

The cinematography behind Wally Pfister

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

best film cinematographers

21. Darius Khondji

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

Summary

Darius Khondji

  • Visual Style: Soft lighting that’s almost completely free of shadows, and lighting subjects from the front.
  • Selected FilmsAmour, Se7en, Delicatessen, Midnight in Paris
  • Awards: Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 7 wins & 32 nominations.

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.

Haunting and beautiful cinematography from Darius Khondji

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.

Darius Khondji cinematography style

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.

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.

Summary

Sayombhu Mukdeeprom

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

Summary

Edward Lachman

  • Visual Style: Preference for shooting on film, using locations, film stock, and finishing processes to evoke different time periods.
  • Selected FilmsCarol, Far from Heaven, Ken Park, The Virgin Suicides
  • Awards: Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 40 wins & 40 nominations.

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.

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

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

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.

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.
  • Selected FilmsThere Will be Blood, Nightcrawler, Good Night, and Good Luck, Punch-Drunk Love
  • Awards: Won 1 Oscar. Another 16 wins & 39 nominations.

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

Robert Elswit's cinematography techniques

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

best film cinematographers

25. Bill Pope

Cinematographer Bill Pope is one of genre filmmaking’s superstars.

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.
  • Selected FilmsThe Matrix, The Jungle Book, Spider-Man 2, Bound
  • Awards: Nominated for 1 Emmy. Another 3 wins & 8 nominations.

Watch the video below for his experience on working in the industry:

How to work with Directors from cinematography Bill Pope

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.

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.

Check out some stats below:

Summary

Linus Sandgren

  • Visual Style: Rich colors and textures that visualize emotion and optimism.
  • Selected FilmsFirst Man, La La Land, American Hustle, Battle of the Sexes, No Time to Die
  • Awards: Won 1 Oscar. Another 27 wins & 26 nominations.

If you want to learn more, watch The Hollywood Reporter's Roundtable:

Linus Sandgren provides cinematography advice

Still with us? Check out this free filmmaking techniques masterclass.

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 also won the Oscar for shooting Life of Pi, which is a visual feast.

Summary

Claudio Miranda

  • Visual Style: Technical expertise and experimentation in digital filmmaking techniques. Carefully breaking down and arranging the frame.
  • Selected FilmsLife of Pi, Oblivion, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Enemy of the State, TRON: Legacy
  • Awards: Won 1 Oscar. Another 24 wins & 27 nominations.

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.

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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.

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