Visualizing bacterial cells and describing their responses to the environment are difficult tasks. Their small size is the chief reason for the difficulty, which means that we must often use many millions of cells in a sample in order to determine what the average response of the bacteria is. However, an average response can sometimes mask important events in bacterial physiology, which means that our understanding of these organisms will suffer. We have used a variety of instruments to visualize bacterial cells, all of which tell us something different about the sample. We use a fluorescence activated cell sorter to sort cells based on the fluorescence provided by bioreporter genes, and these can be used to select for particular genetic mutations. Cells can be visualized by epifluorescent microscopy, and sensitive photodetectors can be added that allow us to find a single bacterial cell that is fluorescent or bioluminescent. We have also used standard photomultipliers to examine cell aggregates as field bioreporter microorganisms. Examples of each of these instruments show how our understanding of bacterial physiology has changed with the technology.