Hatami began his career as a writer for a major newspaper in Tehran, Iran, switching to photography in 1950. He then worked briefly as the Tehran correspondent for the Black Star Agency. Life magazine published his coverage of the overthrow of prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh and the restoration to power of the Shah in 1953. Decades later, in 1978 to 1979, Hatami shot images of street fighting in the Iranian Revolution which overthrew the Shah. This coverage was acquired by the Library of Congress.
Beginning in the late 1950s, Hatami was a freelance photographer in Europe and the Middle East, with many of his pictures appearing in Paris Match and other leading magazines. He befriended fashion designer Coco Chanel and took many behind-the-scenes images of her; he also shot fashion magazine covers and celebrity portraits. His subjects included Elizabeth Taylor, Ursula Andress, Julie Christie, Sophia Loren, Ingrid Bergman, Marlon Brando, Steve McQueen, and other American and European personalities.
Hatami later branched out into motion pictures, working as a special magazine photographer on the sets of What’s New Pussycat, Casino Royal, Rosemary’s Baby, Doctor Zhivago, and others. He is known for his rare color photos of the Beatles from 1963, when he was sent by Paris Match to the Cavern Club in Liverpool, England, to cover Beatlemania. He also took photos of the Israel/Egypt peace talks in 1977 and 1978, and rode an airplane with the Ayatollah Khomeini upon his return to Iran in February 1979.