Kolja Brandt was born in Berlin in 1969. He worked as a lighting technician and camera assistant for student film projects at the German Film and Television Academy Berlin and as a cinematographer for television. In 2000, Brandt worked on several music videos and commercials with Detlev Buck, Philipp Stölzl and other directors. His first feature film was Detlev Buck's Tough Enough (2005). The big city drama won the German Film Award.
Brandt worked on Philipp Stölzl's spectacular mountaineering drama North Face (2005) and won the German Film Award for Best Cinematography. He teamed up with Philipp Stölzl twice, filming Young Goethe In Love (2010) and the independent US production The Expatriate (2012), starring Aaron Eckhart. Increasingly, Brandt worked on documentaries. He filmed Joschka And Herr Fischer (2011), a documentary about former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer, for director and Academy Award®-winner Pepe Danquart. He also accompanied mountaineer Reinhold Messner to Pakistan for Andreas Nickel's Himalaya (2012) trilogy and filmed US president Barack Obama's half-sister for The Education of Auma Obama (2011).