In appreciation for 5 great female DPs working today

I’d been wanting to do this post for a while, but somehow haven’t got around to it. Well, thanks to last week’s Thursday Movie Picks on favorite cinematography, which I had actually missed, I thought I should make up for it this week.

The awesome topic came from Brittani who went with films highlighting female cinematographers on her post, so for this list I’m picking five female DPs whose work I admire, and it’s safe to say they’re some of the best DPs working today.

Before I get to that, I must say that perhaps more so than other key players in filmmaking like directors/writers/producers, DPs are still very much a man’s world. Based on WomenAndHollywood.com, of the top 300 films from 2016 to 2018, 97% were male and 3% were female were credited as the director of photography (DP) across the top live action films, which translates into 33 male lensers for every 1 female lenser. Well, let’s hope this grim stats will continue to improve, I mean, there’s only one way but up!

So let’s get to the list, shall we? Here they are in random order:

1. Charlotte Bruus Christensen

Though the Danish cinematographer had been working since 2004 in a bunch of short films, I first noticed her work in Thomas Vinterberg’s 2012 Danish thriller The Hunt. It’s such a beautiful, atmospheric film, shot in her native Denmark.

A few years later she collaborated again with Vinterberg in Far from the Madding Crowd. I distinctly remember being in awe of the lush visuals of that movie, shot mostly in the UK. The forest scene is simply breathtaking. Behold:

She also did impressive work in the underrated music-themed drama Hunky Dory, The Girl on the Train, and A Quiet Place.

2. Rachel Morrison

You can’t have a list of female DPs and not mention Rachel Morrison. Though her most famous work is no doubt The Black Panther, she actually earned an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography for Mudbound, the film she shot before the huge Marvel film. She had the distinction of being the first woman ever recognized by the Academy in the cinematography category.

I actually still need to see MUDBOUND, which also made history for DeeRees for being the first Black woman nominated for an Oscar in the Best Adapted Screenplay category.

Black Panther is one of the most stunning films I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to pick which scene is the most beautiful, but I LOVE the visuals of the night car chase scene in Busan. It’s probably one of the most beautifully-shot car chases ever!

3. Maryse Alberti

The French-born DP has quite a career spanning 3+ decades, starting in the mid 80s with shorts, TV work and documentaries. Some of her films I remember well are Velvet Goldmine in the late 90s set in the world of 1970s glam-rock, The Wrestler, and Creed. The last two consist of plenty intense action scenes, given the nature of such contact sport, which I’d imagine are tough to shoot.

I love the realism in Alberti’s visual style… the scenes are dramatic and beautiful to look at, but not glamorized. There’s a realness and grit to it that also helps you as the audience to really get in on the action and also relate more to the characters.

4. Mandy Walker

The Victoria, Australia native had her start as a DP in Australian movies. The first movie I saw that she shot was Shattered Glass, about American journalist Stephen Glass. But the one movie that made me take notice of her work was in Baz Luhrmann’s AUSTRALIA, which of course was shot on location. The movie is practically a promo video for Australia, and for one of its hunkiest export Hugh Jackman in one of his most glorious form.

She also shot the stunning Chanel No. 5 perfume advert, collaborating again with Luhrmann and Nicole Kidman. She also worked on Hollywood films Red Riding Hood, Tracks, Truth and one of my favorites, Hidden Figures. I have yet to see MULAN yet, but she’s also the DP for that Disney live-action movie, so I hope to see that during the holidays!

5. Ellen Kuras

The New Jersey is known not just for her cinematography work, but also for directing documentaries. In fact, she nominated for an Oscar for her first directorial debut documentary The Betrayal in 2009. She continues to juggle both narratives and documentaries as a DP, such as JANE about Jane Goodall, Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese, and David Byrne’s American Utopia directed by Spike Lee.

One of her most well-known narrative work includes Blow, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Ballad of Jack and Rose and the period drama A Little Chaos which was all shot in the UK despite being set at Versailles, France. I quite enjoyed the romantic period drama, starring some of my all time favorite actors, especially Kate Winslet + Alan Rickman (reunited after Sense & Sensibility!) and there are plenty of beautiful shots to admire in it.


Surely there are more female DPs working today who do excellent work, so this is by no means a comprehensive list. So, with that in mind, 

Who are some of your favorite female DPs? Feel free to include links to photos or videos.

FIVE best cinematographers in Hollywood (not named Roger Deakins)

The process of making films is very difficult, whether it’s a short or full-length feature, one needs to put together a team of talented people in order to produce something that one can be proud of. One key component to make any film work is the person who does the actual shooting. The director tends to get all the credit when it comes to making a film but in a big or small production, a cinematographer is the real star behind the scenes. The director is in charge of the entire production crew, so he/she can’t oversee each and every shot during the shoot. That’s where the cinematographer comes in, this person must know the ins and outs of the cameras, which lens to use for each scene, set up lightings for each location and most importantly this person needs to be on the same page as the director. Basically, the cinematographer is the second most powerful person during the shoot.

I do feel that cinematographers tend to get over look when people are talking about certain films. One of the most well-known cinematographers in Hollywood is Roger Deakins and I won’t put him on my list here since his work deserves a list of its own. Here, I’m listing some of the best but not that well-known cinematographers working in Hollywood today.

In no particular order, here’s my list:

1. Robert Richardson

I was hesitant to put Richardson on the list since he’s won 3 Oscars for his work on JFK, The Aviator and Hugo. But I don’t think most film fans know much about him. Known to be a hot head in Hollywood, there were reports that he actually took over the directing tasks when Marc Forster lost control of the troubled shoot of World War Z. He then asked him name to be taken off the credits for that film because he wasn’t happy that the studio decided to convert the film to 3D and changed the color lutz of the footage that he shot. Richardson sounds like a man who don’t have much patience for inexperience directors in large productions, which explains why he mostly work with famous director like Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and Oliver Stone.

Here are some clips of his work that I think are great:

2. Oliver Wood

Wood has been working as a cinematographer since the late 60s. He shot several episodes of the TV show Miami Vice in the 80s and got his first big Hollywood production gig by shooting Die Hard 2. He’s been busy shooting big blockbusters ever since. But I don’t think many people knows much about him at all. You’d be surprised that some of the well-known films were shot by him, Rudy, The Bourne Trilogy and Face/Off are some of the films he shot. Now some might say that he started the whole fast editing and shaky cam action shots that plagued many action films of the 2000s, but I think that blame should go to Paul Greengrass.

Here are some shots of his work that I think are great:

The snowmobile chase/shootout in Die Hard 2. I’m pretty sure this scene was a very difficult shot to set up, it contains snow and set at night time.

The opening intro of Castor Troy in Face/Off. John Woo apparently fired his original cinematographer for this film because that person couldn’t keep up with his demands. Wood took over the gig and this scene is one of the many great shots in the film.

The epic car chase through the streets of Moscow in The Bourne Supremacy. One of the best car chases ever filmed and I assume wasn’t easy to film:

3. Ellen Kuras

Sadly, this is the only female cinematographer on my list here. As most of everyone knows, this is still a male dominated field and many female cinematographers are having a hard time breaking in. Kuras is one of the few that have been working in this field for a long time. She started out doing mostly short films and documentaries in the 90s. Her big break came when Spike Lee hired her to lens He Got Game starring Denzel Washington for him. Apparently, she worked well with Lee and they shot two more films together, Summer of Sam and Bamboozled. Some of her best-known films are Blow, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Ballad of Jack and Rose. In the late 2000s, Kuras decided to go back and direct mostly documentaries and short films. I hope she comes back and shoot more feature films because I think she’s very talented.

Here some samples of her great work:

Summer of Sam trailer, I couldn’t find any clips on YouTube but you can see her work on this trailer. An underrated gritty drama that should’ve been seen by more people:

Train ride sequence in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. A simple sequence but probably very difficult to set up, shooting scenes in a tight spot is never easy. There were many great shots in this film, but I’ve always enjoy watching this scene.

4. Steven H. Burum

Probably the oldest cinematographers on this list, in fact Burum hasn’t been working much since the early 2000s. But I’m sure you’ve seen many of his great work. He’s a constant collaborator of Brian De Palma and some of his famous work were Mission: Impossible, The Untouchables, Carlito’s Way, The Outsiders, St. Elmo’s Fire and The War of the Roses.

Here are some of my favorite shots of his work:

The mission gone wrong scene in the first Mission: Impossible. By killing off each of the team members early in the film, fans of the TV show were pretty shocked by it. The way this sequence was shot was quite spectacular. I think this whole film was full of great shots, most people tend to forget that the first Mission film was more of a suspense thriller and didn’t have a lot of action like its sequels. Most of the scenes were shot in tight spaces but Burum was able to make them look cinematic and big in scope.

The climatic foot chase/shoot out in Carlito’s Way. One of the most underrated films of the 90s and this sequence alone is worth the price of admission. Just watch and be awed by it.

PART I:

PART 2:

5. Matthew Libatique

Out of the people listed on here, Libatique might be the most well-known cinematographer working today. He’s been working with Darren Aronofsky since the early 90s and has shot all of Aronofsky’s films ever since. Probably his most famous work are his shots in Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Inside Man and the recent remake of A Star is Born. I think Libatique is maybe the most generic of all these cinematographers that I’ve listed. It doesn’t mean that he’s done average work, it’s the opposite. I think he really catered to the style of the directors he’s worked with. Some of the clips from his work will show you what I mean. One is a film from Aronofsky and other is a Spike Lee’s film.

Here’s a clip of Aronofsky’s The Fountain:

Here’s Spike Lee’s Inside Man:

If you’re a fan of either Aronofsky or Lee then you can see how Libatique really catered to both of the director’s style.


These cinematographers didn’t quite make the list, but I think they will have have long career in front of them:

  • Rob Hardy
    He’s a constant collaborator with Alex Garland and has shot all of Garland’s directing projects including Ex Machina, Annihilation and the current TV show DEVS. But Hardy’s biggest success was 2018’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout.
  • Zoe White
    She’s young and most of her work were short movies. But I think her work will get more recognition in the upcoming years. She’s already shot several episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale and the recent episode of Westworld. Let’s hope some directors will hire her to shoot their upcoming films soon.

  • Hoyte Van Hoytema
    He’s young and has shot some of the biggest event films in the last few years. He’s also working with the most popular director right now, Chris Nolan. Pretty sure you’ve seen his work in Interstellar, Dunkirk, Spectre, Her and Ad Astra. His next film is Nolan’s Tenet.

– Post by Ted Saydalavong


So, those are some of the best cinematographers working in Hollywood today. Did I miss any of your favorites? If so, please name them in the comment section.