Machine learning (ML) refers to a set of automatic pattern recognition methods that have been successfully applied across various problem domains, including biomedical image analysis. This review focuses on ML applications for image analysis in light microscopy experiments with typical tasks of segmenting and tracking individual cells, and modelling of reconstructed lineage trees. After describing a typical image analysis pipeline and highlighting challenges of automatic analysis (for example, variability in cell morphology, tracking in presence of clutters) this review gives a brief historical outlook of ML, followed by basic concepts and definitions required for understanding examples. This article then presents several example applications at various image processing stages, including the use of supervised learning methods for improving cell segmentation, and the application of active learning for tracking. The review concludes with remarks on parameter setting and future directions.