In the vibrant field of optogenetics, optics and genetic targeting are combined to commandeer cellular functions, such as the neuronal action potential, by optically stimulating light-sensitive ion channels expressed in the cell membrane. One broadly applicable manifestation of this approach are covalently attached photochromic tethered ligands (PTLs) that allow activating ligand-gated ion channels with outstanding spatial and temporal resolution. Here, we describe all steps towards the successful development and application of PTL-gated ion channels in cell lines and primary cells. The basis for these experiments forms a combination of molecular modeling, genetic engineering, cell culture, and electrophysiology. The light-gated glutamate receptor (LiGluR), which consists of the PTL-functionalized GluK2 receptor, serves as a model.