After study of science in Berlin, Rittau started his career in 1919 at the documentary-film department of Decla, later at Universum Film AG. He learned the job of camera operator "on the side". From 1924, he was active as a feature cameraman. His experiences with the documentary film production and the production of trick photographs let to the development of his style. Metropolis (1927, as camera operator) and a propaganda movie U-Boote westwärts! (en:U-boats westwards!) (1941, as director) are considered to be among his best artistic achievements. His film Der ewige Klang (i.e. The Eternal Sound) about two brothers (a violinist and a violin maker) was considered "artistically valuable" by the Reichsfilmkammer.
After WWII, he returned to filmmaking only in 1954. He was active into the 1960s. In 1967, he was awarded Filmband in Gold. Günther Rittau is buried at the Waldfriedhof cemetery in Munich.