Fluctuations in fluorescence spectroscopy and microscopy have traditionally been regarded as noise—they lower the resolution and contrast and do not permit high acquisition rates. However, fluctuations can also be used to gain additional information about a system. This fact has been exploited in single-point microscopic techniques, such as fluorescence correlation spectroscopy and analysis of single molecule trajectories, and also in the imaging field, e.g. in spatio-temporal image correlation spectroscopy. Here, we discuss how fluctuations are used to obtain more quantitative information from the data than that given by average values, while minimizing the effects of noise due to stochastic photon detection.