New imaging techniques have enabled major advances in understanding how immune reactions are initiated, coordinated and controlled. Imaging methods, which were previously mostly descriptive and supplementary to more quantitative approaches, have now reached sufficient precision and throughput that they are becoming integral to almost all aspects of immunology research. Imaging methodologies that increase the resolution and sensitivity of detection, alongside an ever-expanding range of fluorescent reporters of molecular and cellular activity, and vastly improved analysis methods, have all facilitated this transformation. In this review, we will discuss how advances in imaging are changing the way we view immune activation and control using T cells as the model immune system. We will describe how imaging has transformed our knowledge of molecular and signalling events in T-cell activation, and the impact of these molecular events on the behaviour of T cells.