Zhao Fei graduated from Beijing Film Academy in 1982 and started collaboration with directors including Tian Zhuangzhuang, Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige, Feng Xiaogang and Jiang Wen. In 2016, he became member of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
In 1985, Zhao acted as the director of photography for Tian Zhuangzhuang’s The Horse Thief. He won the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Cinematography and 1992 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Cinematography for the film Raise the Red Lantern (dir. Zhang Yimou, 1992). In 1999, Zhao filmed Chen Kaige’s The Emperor and the Assassin and won Best Cinematography at Golden Rooster Award. He also collaborated with Woody Allen on Small Time Crooks and The Curse of the Jade Scorpion. In 2010, he won Golden Horse Award for Let the Bullets Fly (dir. Jiang Wen, 2010). Zhao’s work on The Crossing (dir. John Woo, 2014) won him the Hong Kong Film Award for Best Cinematography and The Left Ear (dir. Alec Su, 2015) won Best Cinematography at the 18th Taipei Film Festival. Zhao is also know for his work on Samsara (dir. Huang Jianxin, 1988), Be there or Be Square (dir. Feng Xiaogang, 1998), Cell Phone (dir. Feng Xiaogang, 2003), and Guns and Roses (dir. Ning Hao, 2012).