Sreeram was born on 26 January 1956 in Madras, (now Chennai, Tamil Nadu). He was the third child in the family and has two sisters. Sreeram's aspiration towards films grew much during his childhood days. He was educated at the Vidya Mandir Senior Secondary School, Mylapore, Chennai. As a student he was not interested in studies and only managed to pass the exams. He developed an early interest in photography and years after struggle he joined the Madras Film Institute to do a course in cinematography. PC Sreeram in his teens when he was a student in the film institute had a long association with the budding creators of his generation. Together with his friends Kamal Hassan, C. Rudhraiya, Santhana Bharathi, Radharavi, R. C. Sakthi and few others they were called sanmac group where they used to join together at a hotel in Chennai and share their learnings about cinema and Future dreams of making a perfect cinema.
After receiving a diploma from the Madras Film Institute in 1979, Sreeram made his cinematic debut in the early 1980s. One of his earlier works Meendum Oru Kaathal Kathai won the Indira Gandhi Award for Best First Film of a Director in 1984. After a few unsuccessful films he worked with Mani Ratnam for the first time in Mouna Ragam (1986). The film gave a much needed breakthrough for both Ratnam and Sreeram. Following the success of Mouna Ragam, the pair went on to work in Nayagan. The film went on to win three National Film Awards at the 35th National Film Awards with Sreeram securing his first National Film Award. He used new techniques in the camera for their next film Agni Natchathiram and was praised very much for his work. The pair went on to work in a Telugu film titled Geethanjali in 1989. The film met with critical acclaim and commercial success as it won the National Film Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment and seven Nandi Awards including the Best Story and Best Cinematography awards for Ratnam and Sreeram respectively.
During the early 1990s, Sreeram worked in a number of films such as Gopura Vasalile (1991), Thevar Magan (1992) and Mani Ratnam's Thiruda Thiruda. Sreeram made his directional debut in 1992, with the film Meera starring Vikram and Aishwarya in the lead roles. The film was a poor grosser at the box-office due to its delay in release.
Sreeram directed his second film Kuruthipunal (1995), a police story based on the Hindi film Drohkaal. The film had Kamal Haasan and Arjun playing the lead roles was an official entry made by India to the Oscars in 1996. The film was showcased at the Rotterdam International Film Festival under the category "Director in Focus" eight years after its release.
Sreeram's third directional venture titled Vaanam Vasappadum, was the first film in India to use high-definition digital Technology. The film was shown at the Mumbai International Film Festival besides a screening at the ninth International Film Festival of Kerala. In 2007 Sreeram made his Bollywood debut with R. Balki's Cheeni Kum that starred Amitabh Bachchan in the lead. He worked again with Balki in Paa (2009). The film won four National Film Awards in 2010. As of January 2016, Sreeram is working in the Tamil film Remo.
Sreeram is well known for his longtime association with celebrated filmmakers and actors like Mani Ratnam, Moulee and Kamal Haasan. His work was well appreciated in films like Mouna Ragam, Nayakan, Geetaanjali, Thiruda Thiruda and Alaipayuthey. He has mentored some of the prominent cinematographers in the Indian film industry including Jeeva, M. S. Prabhu, Ramji, Chezhiyan, K. V. Anand, Tirru, Balasubramaniem and Nirav Shah. In January 2016, Sreeram was elected as the President of South Indian Film Cinematographers Association.