This article addresses recent advances in the application of microscopy techniques to characterize crystallization processes as they relate to biomineralization and bioinspired materials synthesis. In particular, we focus on studies aimed at revealing the role organic macromolecules and functionalized surfaces play in modulating the mechanisms of nucleation and growth. In nucleation studies, we explore the use of methods such as in situ transmission electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy, and cryogenic electron microscopy to delineate formation pathways, phase stabilization, and the competing effects of free energy and kinetic barriers. In growth studies, we emphasize understanding the interactions of macromolecular constituents with growing crystals and characterization of the internal structures of the resulting composite crystals using techniques such as electron tomography, atom probe tomography, and vibrational spectromicroscopy. Examples are drawn from both biological and bioinspired synthetic systems.