The early detection of many human diseases is crucial if they are to be treated successfully. Therefore, the development of imaging techniques that can facilitate early detection of disease is of high importance. Changes in the levels of enzyme expression are known to occur in many diseases, making their accurate detection at low concentrations an area of considerable active research. Activatable fluorescent probes show immense promise in this area. If properly designed they should exhibit no signal until they interact with their target enzyme, reducing the level of background fluorescence and potentially endowing them with greater sensitivity. The mechanisms of fluorescence changes in activatable probes vary. This review aims to survey the field of activatable probes, focusing on their mechanisms of action as well as illustrating some of the in vitro and in vivo settings in which they have been employed.