Photo-responsive multifunctional nanomaterials are receiving considerable attention for biological applications because of their unique properties. The functionalization of the surface of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and graphene, among other carbon based nanomaterials, with molecular switches that exhibit reversible transformations between two or more isomers in response to different kind of external stimuli, such as electromagnetic radiation, temperature and pH, has allowed the control of the optical and electrical properties of the nanomaterial. Light-controlled molecular switches, such as azobenzene and spiropyran, have attracted a lot of attention for nanomaterial’s functionalization because of the remote modulation of their physicochemical properties using light stimulus. The enhanced properties of the hybrid materials obtained from the coupling of carbon based nanomaterials with light-responsive switches has enabled the fabrication of smart devices for various biological applications, including drug delivery, bioimaging and nanobiosensors. In this review, we highlight the properties of photo-responsive carbon nanomaterials obtained by the conjugation of CNTs and graphene with azobenzenes and spiropyrans molecules to investigate biological systems, devising possible future directions in the field.