Best Cinematography awards the art of lighting and lensing a film and is one of the original AMPAS categories. In the first year the category was different in that individual films were not nominated for their cinematography, but cinematographers were nominated for their entire professional output during the year. Over the course of the next couple of years the nominating system was tweaked until in 1931 the current system was introduced in which an individual cinematographer is nominated for one film. In 1939 the category was split in two, separating color and black and white films into different categories until merging back into one in 1967. Since the merger only 1 film shot in black and white has won Best Cinematography (Schindler's List) and only three (not counting White Ribbon) have been nominated.
This year's nominees:
Maurio Fiore, Avatar: This is the first Oscar nomination for Fiore. He won the Broadcast Film Critics, Florida Film Critics and Phoenix Film Critics awards for his work on Avatar and is nominated for the BAFTA and ASC award.
Bruno Delbonnel, Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince: Delbonnel's credits include Amelie and A Very Long Engagement, both of which garnered him Oscar nominations. He has not been nominated for or won the awards of any other awarding body for his work on Harry Potter.
Barry Ackroyd, The Hurt Locker: Ackroyd is nominated for the ASC, the BAFTA and Critics Choice Awards. He's won awards from the Los Vegas Film Critics, European Film Awards, Austin Film Critics, Chicago Film Critics, and the Boston Film Critics. This is his first Oscar nomination.
Robert Richardson, Inglorious Basterds: Richardson's credits list is nothing if not impressive: the Kill Bill films, The Aviator, JFK, and Platoon, just to name a few. He's received nominations for the ASC, the BAFTA, and Critics Choice Awards. This is his sixth nomination and he already has two wins under his belt (for The Aviator and JFK).
Christian Berger, The White Ribbon: Berger previously worked with director Michael Haneke on Cache and The Piano Teacher. For his work on The White Ribbon he's been nominated for the ASC and the European Film Award, and has won the New York Film Critics Circle, National Society of Film Critics and Los Angeles Film Critics awards. This is his first Oscar nomination.