He was born in Bushnell, Illinois, on December 28, 1880, and went to work for the Chicago-based Selig Polyscope Company in 1901, at a time when Selig was turning out 50' and 100' actualities and trick films. Foster left Selig in May 1911 to join Carl Laemmle’s Independent Moving Pictures Company (IMP). In 1915, he signed with the Equitable Motion Picture Corporation, working in New York and Florida. Foster was lead cinematographer on the first five two-reelers Charlie Chaplin made for Mutual Film Corporation in 1916: The Floorwalker, The Fireman, One A.M., The Count and The Vagabond. He later shot a number of pictures for director Frank Lloyd, including A Tale of Two Cities (Fox, 1917) and The Silver Horde (Goldwyn, 1920), and also worked with director Lois Weber.
Foster died on January 18, 1923, from complications related to syphilis, a disease euphemistically described as the “general paralysis of the insane.”