Arvanitis was born in the village of Dilofo, Phthiotis, Greece. Having received an education as an electrician in the construction sector, he started working in the movies business in his early 20s, advancing from 2nd camera assistant to finally become a director of photography.
Arvanitis has been an important figure in the Greek film industry, having worked on many films produced by Finos Films. In 1968, he worked on Theo Angelopoulos's first short film Εκπομπή (Broadcast). Since then, he has worked in every single one of Angelopoulos' movies, including award-winning Eternity and a Day (Palme d'or, Cannes 1998), except for the very last trilogy he was shooting (Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow, The Dust of Time, The Other Sea).
During his career, his has worked with some of the greatest Greek directors such as Dinos Katsouridis, Pantelis Voulgaris, Michael Cacoyannis (Iphigenia (1977) with Irene Papas), Jules Dassin (Cri de femmes (1978) with Melina Mercouri). In 1989, he moved to France with his wife and three sons looking for a brighter future at a time when the total number of Greek movies was in decline. The same year, he received the Osella for Best Cinematography at the Venice International Film Festival for the movie Australia directed by Jean-Jacques Adrien. Since then he has worked with directors such as Volker Schlöndorff (Homo Faber (1991)), Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Marco Bellochio (Il sogno della farfalla for which he received the Best Photography prize at the Gramado in 1994), Goran Paskaljevic (Someone Else’s America (1994)), Marco Ferreri, Bruno Podalydès, Agnieszka Holland (Total Eclipse with Leonardo DiCaprio), Amos Gitai, Nikos Panayiotopoulos  and the very controversial Catherine Breillat. He is a member of the Association Française des directeurs de la photographie Cinématographique.
International awards and honours
He has received numerous prizes for his work including (non-exhaustive list):
- Thessaloniki Film Festival, Greek cinema awards, Best photography for Nyfes (2004), Doxombous (1988), Mia toso makrini apousia (1985), O Thiassos (1974), Meres tou 36 (1972), Anaparastassi (1970)
- Golden Bayard at the Namur International Festival of French-Speaking Film for Faraw! (1997)
- Nomination for the Camerimage Golden Grog for 'Ulysses' Gaze' (1995) and for Eternity and a Day together with Andreas Sinanos (1998)
- Golden Kikito at the Gramado Film Festival for Il Sogno della farfalla (1994)
- Osella for Best Cinematography at the Venice Film Festival (Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica) for Australia (1989)
- Best Photography award, Chicago Film Festival for Topio stin omichli (1988)