One of the most rapidly growing areas of physics and nanotechnology is concerned with plasmonic effects on the nanometer scale; these have applications in sensing and imaging technologies. Nanoplasmonic colloids such as Ag and Au have been attracting active interest, and there has been a recent explosion in the use of these metallic nanostructures to modify the spectral properties of fluorophores favorably and to enhance the fluorescence emission intensity. In this feature article, we summarize our work over a range of nanoplasmonics- assisted biological applications such as flow cytometry, immunoassays, cell imaging and bioassays where we use custom-designed plasmonic nanostructures (Ag and Au) to enhance fluorescence signatures. This fluorophore-metal effect offers unique advantages in providing improved photostability and enhanced fluorescence signals. We discuss the plasmonic enhancement of lanthanide fluorophores whose long and microsecond lifetimes offer the advantage of background-free fluorescence detection, but low photon cycling rates lead to poor brightness. We also show that plasmonic colloids are capable of enhancing the emission of fluorescent nanoparticles, including upconverting nanocrystals and lanthanide nanocomposites.