In this work we demonstrate that time domain techniques can be used successfully to monitor realtively weak modulations of the fluorescence in sensing applications. The metal sensing complex Newport Green DCF™ can detect selected transition metals in vivo as well as in vitro. Incremental addition of Ni and/or Zn (in vitro) lead to a substantial reduction in the yield of the fast component in a bi-exponential fluorescence decay (τ1 = 150–250 ps) from 60% to 30–35%. This is rationalised as an inhibition of intra-molecular electron transfer in the NPG sensing complex due to metal complexation. In order to explore this effect in cellulo, NIH 3 T3 mouse skin fibroplast cells were pre-incubated with set levels of Ni and Zn, at a constant concentration of NPG. The fluorescence modulation in cellullo was subsequently studied employing both time-resolved fluorescence microscopy and confocal fluorescence microscopy. In correlation with the in vitro observations, similar effects were observed on the fluorescence decay in cellulo.